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Compendium Maleficarum
"The Compendium of Witchcraft"
Francesco Maria Guazzo
1608

The publishing of this book coincided with the witch hunts of the Renaissance, wherein such works as King James' Daemonologie, the anonymous Newes from Scotland, as well as Ludovico Maria Sinistrari's Demoniality, and countless other texts were flooding the market with grotesque details of high improbability. Guazzo's book is no exception (unlike, say, Reginald Scot's Discovery of Witchcraft).

The book is as it says--a compendium of information about witchcraft1 and how to deal with it. Guazzo borrows not only from other witch manuals (such as the more famous Malleus Maleficarum or Nicholas Remy's Demonolatry), but also from works like Pliny's Natural History. It contains a number of annecdotes collected from other sources, such as the story of a girl who continuously vomits up strange items (hair, wood, gallons of blood...).

There is some question as to whether this book helped spark a witch hunt in the author's native Milan; however, details are inconclusive. Guazzo himself was a local monk, and the book was popular in the area, but outside of Milan, it was not as famous as the earlier Malleus.

The book was published only three times, in 1608 and again in 1624, after Guazzo's death, and finally when it was translated by Montague Summers in 1929. The real, lasting influence of the book is not the information it contains--again, that can be found in any number of books--but in the woodcuts it contains, which show various details of so-called sabbats.

NOTES
1. Or, to be more accurate, what was commonly believed about witchcraft, which in this context is best described as a sort of gothic, phantastic Satanism. It is obviously neither Paganism nor Wicca.

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