(Verona: Agostino Carattoni, 1750). 259 x 186 mm. (10 1/8 x 7 3/8"). 55,  pp. Second Edition.
Contemporary white paper wrappers, ink titling to spine. With woodcut headpiece and historiated initial. Wrapper a bit soiled, endleaves faintly browned from binder's glue, one leaf with short marginal tear, a couple of trivial spots to margins, but A VERY FINE UNSOPHISTICATED COPY, clean and crisp internally with ample margins, and the fragile binding surprisingly well preserved.
In remarkable condition in its original, insubstantial paper wrappers, this treatise against the existence of witchcraft was written just after the conclusion of one of the last witch trials and executions in Western Europe. Francesco Scipione Maffei (1675-1755) is perhaps best known for his contributions to the revival of Italian theater, but he also founded an influential literary magazine, travelled widely, and wrote on subjects as diverse as Etruscan antiquities and the practice of duelling. The present work, written in the form of a letter, was sparked by the infamous execution of Maria Renata Saenger, an elderly Bavarian nun accused of Satanism in 1749. The incident provoked a number of treatises on the topic and a renewed debate on the existence of supernatural magic and witchcraft. The present work falls squarely in the skeptics' camp, urging logic and rationality in the face of superstition and unfounded beliefs. For special censure, Maffei targets abbot Girolamo Tartarotti, a proponent for the existence of supernatural magic whose "Congresso Notturno delle Lammie Libre Tre" ("Three Books on the Nocturnal Congress of the Lamia"), contains (in our author's words) "some ridiculous opinions about witches." In the last half of 18th century, partly as a result of these debates as well as changing attitudes and better governance, such trials became increasingly infrequent, and eventually witchcraft ceased to be treated as a criminal matter altogether. (ST15423)
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PJP Catalog: 75.176