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1659 - Influential Books on Ghosts, inspired Shakespeare

1659 - Influential Books on Ghosts, inspired Shakespeare


1659. Ludovico Lavatero. De Spectris. Liber Unus. In tres partes distributus. Lugd[uno] Batav[orum]: Apud Henricum Verbiest.  12mo. 5 1/8 x 2 7/8 inches (130 x 73 mm). [2, blank], [1, engraved title], [1, title], *8, A-L6 (L3-6, blank]. Thick vellum reinforced with paper, blue coloring to ends, faded author on spine and autograph notes inside end cover, contemporary hand. Yapp edges with signatures inside front cover and on title. Minimal foxing and browning - an exemplary copy. References: Caillet II 6237; USTC 450850; Thorndike VI 530; Rosenthal 1885; Adams L301 (1580 Latin edition). 


Known in English as “Of Ghostes and Spirites Walking by Nyght, and of Strange Noyses, Crackes, and Sundry Forewarnings, Whiche Commonly Happen Before the Death of Menne, Great Slaughters, & Alterations of Kyngdomes,” from the 1572 English translation, this book is one of the most important demonological works of the Reformation era and was profoundly influential in Elizabethan literature.  The author, Ludwig Lavater (1527-1886), was a Swiss Zwinglian minister and theologian based in Zurich. In the 16th and 17th-century Protestant world, new questions surfaced regarding the nature of ghostly apparitions—particularly their origins. In the Catholic understanding, ghosts were generally thought to be spirits of the dead on leave from Purgatory. With their rejection of the doctrine of Purgatory, Protestant philosophers and theologians were compelled to search for new answers. One (fairly unpopular) position was taken by Reginald Scot in his DISCOURSE UPON DEVILS AND SPIRITS, appended to his 1584 work, DISCOVERIE OF WITCHCRAFT, in which he argued that because the age of miracles had ceased long ago apparitions must be no more than the products of human imagination or trickery. The dominant view in Protestant theology (if still not quite the popular mind), however, came to be what Lavater expressed here in DE SPECTRIS. Lavater argued that, while many apparitions may indeed be products of false perception, ample evidence of real supernatural visitations had existed from biblical and classical antiquity to the present day. He concluded, however, that these phenomena are not the spirits of the dead but in fact agents of Hell (and perhaps occasionally Heaven) that will sometimes take human spiritual form. He relates examples of these phenomena throughout the work, together with a taxonomy of less-human specters such as Lamiae, Larvae, and Lemures and a variety of mythical creatures. Featured in Esoterica episode - 

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