- The Spanish Inquisition 1478–1614: An Anthology of Sources
This publication is a welcome one. Despite the prolific publication of books and articles on the Spanish Inquisition in English, sources are rarely published in English translations. The twenty-six documents presented in this volume have been well selected and translated by Lu Ann Homza to give a better understanding of the activities of the Spanish Inquisition in the first [End Page 95] 136 years of its existence. No coverage is given here to the period 1615–1834, when the Holy Office continued to try hundreds of defendants for superstitions, including witchcraft and pacts with the devil.
The sources selected and excerpted are useful both for teaching and for the nonspecialist to get a better understanding of how the Inquisition operated. One caveat is that many of the trials presented here have been shortened to such an extent that the reader is left with the impression of trials that were much quicker and less bureaucratic than the original documents reveal. This is a challenge for any anthology. On one hand, many Inquisition trial transcripts are longer than this book, and are very repetitious as the same information is repeated time after time during the course of the trial. This was part of the reality of an inquisitorial proceeding, and is familiar to anyone working with these sources. On the other hand, a collection of documents such as this will aim to shed light on as many aspects of the Inquisition and its activities in as few pages as possible. Homza has succeeded in this, but at the expense of hiding how slowly the inquisitors usually plodded along.
The sources in this collection show the breadth of the Holy Office’s activities, including the prosecution of witchcraft. Of particular interest to the readers of this journal will be document 13, from the famous junta convened in 1526 to decide whether witches were real or not. Also of interest are documents 7 and 20, excerpts from Gaspar Isidro de Argüello’s Instructions of the Holy Office of the Inquisition. Unfortunately, the parts dealing with superstitions and with witchcraft have been omitted, but these documents give a good insight into the general procedures of the Holy Office.
The number of trials for superstition heard by the Spanish Inquisition far outnumber those for satanic witchcraft, and in the southern half of Spain there were no trials involving the witches’ sabbat at all. Instead, there were hundreds of trials for different forms of magic, often involving the conjuration of demons. Unfortunately, no such trial has been included here. Thus, while this is a competently assembled collection of documents, which are well translated and excellently commented, it does not offer much material of direct relevance to students of magic, ritual, and witchcraft.