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Cautio Criminalis, or a Book on Witch Trials

Friedrich Spee. Translated by Marcus Hellyer. Introduction by Marcus Hellyer

Publication Year: 2012

In 1631, at the epicenter of the worst excesses of the European witch-hunts, Friedrich Spee, a Jesuit priest, published the Cautio Criminalis, a book speaking out against the trials that were sending thousands of innocent people to gruesome deaths. Spee, who had himself ministered to women accused of witchcraft in Germany, had witnessed firsthand the twisted logic and brutal torture used by judges and inquisitors. Combined, these harsh prosecutorial measures led inevitably not only to a confession but to denunciations of supposed accomplices, spreading the circle of torture and execution ever wider.

Driven by his priestly charge of enacting Christian charity, or love, Spee sought to expose the flawed arguments and methods used by the witch-hunters. His logic is relentless as he reveals the contradictions inherent in their arguments, showing there is no way for an innocent person to prove her innocence. And, he questions, if the condemned witches truly are guilty, how could the testimony of these servants and allies of Satan be reliable? Spee’s insistence that suspects, no matter how heinous the crimes of which they are accused, possess certain inalienable rights is a timeless reminder for the present day.

The Cautio Criminalis is one of the most important and moving works in the history of witch trials and a revealing documentation of one man’s unexpected humanity in a brutal age. Marcus Hellyer’s accessible translation from the Latin makes it available to English-speaking audiences for the first time.

Studies in Early Modern German History

Published by: University of Virginia Press

Cover

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pp. 1-3

Title Page

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p. 4-4

Copyright Page

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p. 5-5

Table of Contents

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pp. v-6

Translator’s Acknowledgements

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pp. vi-7

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Translator’s Introduction

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pp. vii-xxxvi

In the late 1620s a wave of witch-hunts swept across large areas of Germany. Their ferocity rivaled anything that Germany, which had already endured the very worst excesses of the European witchhunts, had ever seen. Although Protestant areas were also affected, the regions that suffered the most trials and executions were the...

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Notes on the Translation

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pp. xxxvii-xxxviii

This translation is based on the second edition of the Cautio Criminalis, which corrected many of the errors of the first. I have tried to keep notes to the minimum necessary for the general reader’s comprehension. For full notes identifying all of Spee’s sources, the reader...

Cautio Criminalis, or a Book on Witch Trials

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pp. 1-228

Index

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pp. 229-233

Studies in Early Modern German History

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p. 273-273


E-ISBN-13: 9780813934174
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813921815

Page Count: 233
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Studies in Early Modern German History