Monday, October 23, 2006

On the Inconstancy of Witches

virtually whole page with witches image

whole witches image without the text

witches and demons flying - detail

detail of witch on broomstick

throne scene detail

demon on flying ram detail

witches at cauldron detail

demon banquet detail

children fishing for frogs detail

[click images to enlarge]

The full text title -

"Tableau de l'Inconstance des Mauvais Anges et Demons ( Tableau de l'Inconstance des Mauvais Anges et Demons. Ou il est amplement traicté des Sorciers, & de la Sorcellerie. Livre tres-utile et necessaire non seulement aux Iuges, mais à tous ceux qui viuent sous les loix Chrestiennes. Auec un Discours contenant la Procedure faite par les Inquisiteurs d'Espagne & de Nauarre, à 53. Magiciens, Apostats, Iuifs & Sorciers, en la ville de Logrogne en Castille, le 9. Novembre 1610. En laquelle on voit combien l'exercice de la Iustice en France, est plus iuridiquement traicté, & avec de plus belles formes qu'en tous autres Empires, Royaumes, Republiques & Estats. Par Pierre de Lancre, Conseiller du Roy au Parlement de Bordeaux. Maleficos non patieris viuere. Exod. 22. Reueu, corrigé, & ) Published: 1613; 642 Pages."

It is far, far beyond the scope of this humble establishment to venture any distance into the complex and convoluted world of witches, witchcraft and the abominations of the Inquisition in the middle ages. I have perused a considerable amount of online material relating to both the factual and folkloric elements and feel more than my usual level of inadequacy when it comes to distilling out some salient information.

Suffice it to say that I came across this intriguing engraving when I was raiding the Rare Books Image Archive at Cornell University last week and went back to grapple again with their LunarInsight browser architecture. Some of the above images are therefore constructed from 6 or 8 screencap splices. And as usual I found a more easily accessible version afterwards - at Glasgow University (note there is a key explaining each scene in the illustration, albeit in french). The above images are superior in quality and of higher resolution however.

"In 1612, Pierre de Lancre, counsellor in the Parliament of Bordeaux and prosecutor under King Henry I's commission, published his Tableau de l'inconstance des mauvais anges at démons. His book catalogues the classic sexual perversions of witches. "The powerfully sexual nature of the dominant imagery begins with the broomstick ride, continues with exciting whippings, the fascinative close-up look at devilishly huge sexual organs, the baby-eating (possibly sublimated incest or infanticide?), and, finally, the frenzied orgy itself""
As the book title indicates, the 'perversions' reported come from the Spanish Inquisition interrogations of 53 people in 1610. Cornell University also have 'On the Inconstancy of Witches' in its entirety in transcription and (photocopy) page images. There are no other illustrations.

I wonder if there are earlier depictions of a witch riding a broomstick??
[Macbeth quote redacted]


I'm not an historian but of course the wonderful illustrations in prints and books we are priviliged to have access to online continually immerse me - us - in weird and amazing events and stories from history. The images obviously act as enticements (often) for me to go on discovery missions into worlds I didn't study at school.

But there are real historians out there with weblogs on a huge variety of subjects and sometimes they regale their readerships with 'carnivals' or 'roundups', reviewing posts the author has found interesting in their online wanderings. Despite the inclusion of the 'oDd biB', you might discover something of interest in these posts at Archaeoastronomy and Recent Finds.


kg said...

Some fine pictures

gl. said...

"archaeoastronomy" sounds great. and i do so love those books with the long names....

gl. from scarlet star studios

peacay said...

Thanks for that kg. There's one witch on a broomstick picture there from 1451.

Aeron said...

Great pics, I've been on the hunt for old witch etchings/engravings/woodcuts after watching Haxan. If you ever have the chance to see that pay attention to the prints shown in the film, really amazing works.

Michael said...

PK, a quick question for you...
Are you now happily making several screengrabs from those terrible "Zoomify" image viewers and then stitching them together using Autostitch?

I had a little rant about them on my blog the other day in a post called The Joy of Research, and I'd love to know if Autostitch gets round the problem.

Articlesandtexticles dot co dot uk

peacay said...

Michael, d/load Autostitch and try it. You are best taking a bunch of screencaps which need to be spliced and putting it together yourself AND getting autostitch to do the same thing. So you can compare.

But to answer your intrinsic question, no, Autostitch does nothing save for joining up the screencaps I take from the cumbersome and often annoying architecture you outline in your post.

I have some sympathy with the repositories -- only some -- it saves their bandwidth for one and I prefer to be able to get up close, even with a tradeoff being the image field size doesn't increase and a requirement on behalf of this site that I have to take screencaps. Better that than low res. shots.

I like your 'lightbox' arrangement. If I had half an inclination I'd steal the idea. But in my case, the less technology or lights and trickery I employ, the better off we all are, I assure you. Cheers.

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