Look Out! They’re Lurking About: Books That Go Bump In The Library

By Emma Doran, Special Collections & Archives Library Assistant.

Image taken from the Book Irish Wonders by D. R. McAnally Jr. Published by Houghton Mifflin in 1888.


It’s that time of year again when the days wane toward the impending colder weather and the campus is alight with leaves of red, orange and gold and that can only mean one thing…Halloween is fast approaching. Having scoured our special collections treasures in anticipation of writing this blog, I have selected a few devilishly delightful rare books for you to sink your teeth into. My selections ranging from the 15th to the 20th century, hail from both the Special Collections Reading Room and the Russell Library and they explore all elements of the dark arts, judgement of witches and even exorcising demons and promise to send a chill down your spine. 

Alphonso, de Espina, 15th cent. Fortalicium Fidei . 
Nuremberg, Johann Mentelin, 1485 
(Russell Library: RB9) alphonso

The Fortalicium Fidei  is estimated to have been written between 1458-1460 and is  known as the first printed work to contain a description of witchcraft.  In particular the fifth and final section of the book  is dedicated to classifying demons, one of the particular demons described in the book tempts older women in particular to practice the dark arts.





Brognolo, Candido, 1607-1677. Alexicacon Hoc Est Opus De Maleficiis Ac Morbis Maleficis. Venice, Apud Nicolaum Pezzana,1714 ( Russell Library: TH 5 1665) 

20181009_141719The Alexicacon, hoc est, De maleficiis, ac morbis maleficis cognoscendis is an interesting addition to this collection of terrifying works as it differs slightly to some of the other books I have selected. The topic of this printed work is exorcism. With the rise of belief in demonic possession this text aims to educate  and provide detailed directions and methods for recognizing demonic possession, the cause of possession and most importantly how to exorcise the demon from it’s unwilling host.





Del Rio, Martin Antoine,1551-1608. Disquisitionum Magicarum Libri Sex. 
Apud Ioannem Pillehotte, 1608 (Russell Library: RL 4 40 ) 

del rio.jpg

This book from our collection was originally published in Lyon in 1599, we hold a few editions in our collection, an edition from 1599-[1601], 1604, 1608 and 1617. It can be considered an incredibly distinguished work as by the final printing of this book in 1747, up to twenty editions had been printed. The book is divided into six parts and examines a myriad of topics including magic in general, divination , the dark arts, maleficia, guidelines and precedents for judges, the conception of demonic children and even a section regarding confession, penance and forgiveness for those formerly possessed.




Bodin, Jean, 1530-1596. De La Demonomanie Des Sorciers. 
Anvers, Iehan Keerberghe, 1593
(JPII: CK 1737)

bodinThe Demonomanie Des Sorciers is often considered one of Bodin’s more radical works, he is more often acknowledged for his political and historical works.The function of this particular book however, was to provide information to judges involved with trials of witchcraft in France. In this text he advocates fellow judicial colleagues to suspend the usual rules of justice for those involved with witchcraft and campaigns for harsh trial procedures, reduced rules of evidence and provides an intense support for the torture of suspected practitioners.




Nider, Johannes, c. 1380-1438. Formicarius. 
[Argentine] , Englebertoz Joanne de Marnef, [c. 1516] 
(JPII: CK1506) 

43683386_176734903207673_1569057694755586048_nThe Formicarius, first printed in 1475, is the second book ever printed to examine the topic of witchcraft after the Fortalicium Fidei mentioned above.  Nider’s work proves quite different to the works that would follow as he seems unconvinced of certain claims associated with witchcraft, for example the fact that witches could fly. The fifth section of this work deals expressly with witchcraft. This work is valuable however, as it demonstrates that by the early fifteenth century the torture and trials of witches were already underway.




Webster, John, 1610-1682. The Displaying Of Supposed Witchcraft.
London,  J.M., 1677 (JPII: CK8015)

displaying of witchcraftThe Displaying of Supposed Witchcraft  is an interesting work, written to combat the view that witchcraft is a satanic act as believed by both Joseph Glanvill and Meric Casaubon. This work not only acknowledges the existence of witches but claims that their ability to practice the dark arts is not if fact aided by the devil.






James I, King of England, 1566-1625. The workes of the most high and mightie prince, Iames, by the grace of God King of Great Britaine, France and Ireland, defender of the faith, London, Robert Barker & Iohn Bill, 1616 (JPII: CK318)

denonologieThe Daemonologie  was written before James ascended the throne in 1603 and is thought to have been based of James’ personal involvement with the trials of the North Berwick witches in 1590. This work is considered valuable as it was very influential in shaping public opinion and is thought to have been responsible for the continuance of the persecution of witches.






This selection of items can be viewed by request in the John Paul II Special Collections & Archives, Reading room and The Russell Library. Or alternatively, you can pop up to the exhibition case outside the reading room to view our Halloween-inspired exhibit featuring some of these frightful items from the Special Collections & Archives Department.


Reproduction Note

  • CK318, 1506, 1737 and 8015 reproduced by permission of the Librarian, Maynooth University, from the St. Canice’s Cathedral Library, Kilkenny; on long-term loan from The Representative Body of the Church of Ireland.




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