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Shakespeare & Beyond

A manual for witch-hunters

Worried about encountering witches like Macbeth this All Hallows Eve? Turn to a witch-hunting manual such as the Malleus Maleficarum!

Malleus spine - a manual for hunting witches

This famous book, known as “The Hammer of Witches” in English, was written in the 15th century by a pair of inquisitors for the Catholic Church. The text was originally published in Latin, as many books were at the time, and later translated into English and German.

The first part set out the argument that witchcraft was in fact real and was a way for the Devil to gain power, and emphasized the importance of identifying and arresting practitioners of witchcraft. Part two explained the wrongdoings that witches might commit (such as calling up hailstorms or transforming humans into wild beasts), and part three laid out methods for imprisoning, questioning, and passing sentence upon suspected witches. 


The manuscript Book of Magic is actually two pieces of the same manuscript, acquired 50 years apart and reunited at the Folger. The first 14 pages are still missing, so if anyone reading this happens to have seen them, please let the Folger know!

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