08 May 2012

Introduction to Malleus Maleficarum by Montague Summers, 1928 & 1948 Editions

1948 Edition, Excerpts

It is hardly disputed that in the whole vast literature of witchcraft, the most prominent, the most important, the most authorative volume is the Malleus Maleficarum [The Witch Hammer] of Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger. The date of the first edition of the Malleus cannot be fixed with absolute certainty, but the likeliest year is 1486. There were, at any rate, fourteen editions between 1487 and 1520, and at least sixteen editions between 1574 and 1669. These were issued from the leading German, French and Italian presses.

The Malleus acquired especial weight and dignity from the famous Bull of Pope Innocent VIII of 9 December, 1484, in which the Pontiff, lamenting the power and prevalence of the witch organization, delegates Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger as inquisitors of these depravities throughout Northern Germany. It fastened on European jurisprudence for nearly three centuries the duty of combating the Society of Witches. The Malleus lay on the bench of every magistrate. It was the ultimate, irrefutable, unarguable authority. It was implicitly accepted not only by Catholic but by Protestant legislature. It is not too much to say that the Malleus Maleficarum is among the most important books of the world in the whole vast library of witchcraft.

1928 Edition, Excerpts

Witches were a vast political movement, an organized society which was anti-social and anarchical, a world-wide plot against civilization. Naturally, although the Masters were often individuals of high rank and deep learning, that rank and file of the society, that is to say, those who for the most part fell into the hands of justice, were recruited from the least educated classes, the ignorant and the poor. The aim and objects of their leaders, Tanchelin, Everwacher, the Jew Manasses, Peter Waldo, Pierre Autier, Peter of Bruys, Arnold of Brescia, and the rest, were exactly those of Lenin, Trotsky, Zinoviev, and their fellows. Historians may point out diversities and dissimilarities but they were in reality branches and variants of the same dark fraternity, just as the Third International, the Anarchists, the Nihilists, and the Bolsheviks are in every sense, save the mere label, entirely identical.

"Mr M. Summers", c 1925. Cartoon by Matthew Sandford for the Evening Standard

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