This rare books collector has a 400 year old copy of Malleus Maleficarum - the publication largely credited with starting the classical period of witch-hunting and killing.
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This compendium of demonology declares sorcery to be of criminal status and suggests various forms of torture to gain confessions, as well as advocating the death penalty to all found guilty. The sinister book was first published in 1486 and the latin title translates to “Hammer of the Witches”.
The author was Heinrich Kramer, a German clergyman who made one of the first attempts at running a criminal witchcraft trial. His first trial was such a massive failure the he was expelled from the entire city and dismissed by the bishop for being senile and crazy. This drove him to spend the next two years writing what amounts to a revenge fantasy with imagined justification for his actions and outlines his extreme procedures for finding and convicting women of witchcraft.
This lengthy tome might have slipped by largely unnoticed had its timing not coincided with the widespread use of the printing press. This allowed the book to reproduced in large quantities that would otherwise have been unsustainable for such a huge book containing thousands of pages, and it spread like a viral meme sowing hysteria in the wake.
In modern times the term “witch-hunt” is often used as an expression understood to be a baseless claim pursued relentlessly but that ignores the very real and very literal ongoing religious persecution faced by many throughout the world. Claims of demonic sorcery are still thrown around in religion and politics to create a climate of fear that paves the way for the ulterior motives of those willing to use lies to further their hateful goals.
Many digital translations are available for Hammer of the Witches but if you’d like to see more from one of the original copies the owner will be doing a TikTok series beginning on Halloween 2022.