Treasures of the Rare Books and Special Collections Library: Early printed books
Sprenger, Jakob & Institoris, Heinrich. Malleus maleficarum ....
Cologne : excudebat Iohannes Gymnicus, 1520
Sometimes called the most notorious book ever written. The University of Sydney has copies of three editions of the Malleus Maleficarum, including the one shown here, the seventh Cologne edition of 1520. In the whole of the literature pertaining to witchcraft, it is probably the most prominent and important work, crystallizing into a fiercely stringent code previous folklore about black magic and church dogma on heresy. The date of the first edition was probably around 1486 and the work is still in print today.
The Malleus owed its authority and pride of place over other contemporary works to several features, one of which was the scholastic reputation of its authors. The second was the inclusion of the Papal Bull, Summis desiderantes affectibus, of 1484, which effectively silenced all opposition to the witch hunts, and the third was the sheer amount of detail which it provided.
The influence of the Malleus Maleficarum was widespread outside of the Catholic church as well. The Protestant clergy, who otherwise strongly opposed the Inquisition, accepted the Malleus as their authority and code against witches.