Hans Peter Broedel

title.none: Mackay, Malleus (Hans Peter Broedel)

identifier.other: baj9928.0804.027 08.04.27

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Hans Peter Broedel, University of North Dakota,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2008

identifier.citation: Mackay, Christopher S., ed. and trans. Henricus Institoris, O.P and Jacobus Spreger, O.P.: Malleus Maleficarum, 2 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. Pp. 1344. $285.00 (hb) 978-0-521-85977-6. ISBN: .

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 08.04.27

Mackay, Christopher S., ed. and trans. Henricus Institoris, O.P and Jacobus Spreger, O.P.: Malleus Maleficarum, 2 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. Pp. 1344. $285.00 (hb) 978-0-521-85977-6. ISBN: .

Reviewed by:

Hans Peter Broedel
University of North Dakota

The Malleus Maleficarum is one of those supposedly paradigmatic medieval texts, far more often quoted than actually read. Indeed, given the countless jeering citations of its ridiculous etymology of the Latin femina (from fe and minus, "because she has and keeps less faith"), the Malleus must be one of the most quoted of all medieval texts. [1] Indeed, many assume that the views of the Dominican authors, Henricus Institoris (known commonly as Heinrich Kramer) and Jacobus Sprenger, were typical of late medieval attitudes towards women, witchcraft, the devil, and of scholasticism in general. This is mostly unfair, since the Malleus is, in the first place, an idiosyncratic text, and, in the second, simply bad: its arguments are often logically flawed, its scholarship frequently shoddy, it is poorly edited and organized, and, from our perspective, the vindictive zeal of its authors to punish an imaginary crime is appalling. Yet at the same time the subject matter of the Malleus, the scope of its arguments, and its wealth of personal anecdote are undeniably fascinating. All of which makes the lack of a modern edition of the Latin text or an acceptable English translation more than surprising. Until recently, English speakers had to make do with Montague Summer's justly reviled translation, while the original Latin was available only in rare book rooms, on microfilm, or in facsimile. Christopher Mackay has filled this void with two splendid volumes, the first containing a lengthy introduction and a polished edition of the Latin text, the second, an accurate translation into English.

Mackay's Latin text is a pleasure to work with. As Mackay observes, the ready availability of two recent facsimiles of the first edition of the Malleus eliminates the need for exact correspondence with the original, and so his edition is instead, "an interpretation of the text...that will allow a reasonably competent reader of Latin to follow the text readily" (1:173). [2] To this end, Mackay expands the authors' numerous abbreviations and corrects errors of spelling, typography and grammar--although in many cases the original is retained in footnotes. He also adds modern punctuation and paragraphing consistent with the sense of the Latin, and this alone will provide incalculable assistance to the average reader. The net result is an editorial interpretation of the original text that anyone with even a modicum of Latin can use profitably, particularly in conjunction with the English translation. Cross-referencing is simple, since both English and Latin texts carry the clear but non- traditional Arabic pagination of Schnyder's facsimile. Two series of extensive notes accompany the text, the first dealing with textual and editorial matters, and the second referring mainly to the authors' innumerable borrowings from other writers. When, as was often the case, the authors adapt, modify, or misremember their sources, Mackay's notes provide the relevant original text as well. This painstaking editorial apparatus is not only welcome, but even essential to any proper understanding of the Malleus.

For most readers, Mackay's accurate English translation will be even more appreciated. This is sorely needed and long overdue, not only because of the importance of the text, but also because of the popularity and availability of Montague Summer's defective 1928 translation. Consider, as an example, Institoris' account of the interrogation of Anna of Mindelheim, a suspected witch. Under "very light" torture, Anna maintains her innocence: Institoris comments, "et licet maleficium taciturnitas indubie penes se habuisset, de quo et semper iudicibus timendum est, eo quod in primo aggressu non iam muliebri sed virili animo se innoxiam affirmabat..." (1:480). Summers "translates" this, as "and although she was undoubtedly well provided with that evil gift of silence which is the constant bane of judges, and at the first trial affirmed that she was innocent of any crime against man or woman..." [3] This is worse than misleading, as Mackay's translation illustrates: "Without a doubt, she had on her person the sorcery of silence (which judges must always be aware of), since she asserted her innocence during the first onslaught with the spirit not of a woman but of a man" (2:336).

Mackay strives for literal accuracy in his translations, which results in a text that is wordy, dull, and often confusing, but in this simply reflects the original. To a degree, this sets off Mackay's translation from P. G. Maxwell-Stuart's rather breezier rendition. Again, an example may be useful: here are Maxwell-Stuart's and Mackay's translations of a moderately technical passage from the third and final part of the Malleus, dealing with legal procedures. Institoris recommends that a suspected witch should always be asked what wrong was done to her to prompt her threats, and then explains, in Maxwell-Stuart's words, Note that this question is necessary so that one may get at the basis of the enmity--because when it comes down to it, the accused woman will plead guilty. But when this is not deadly [enmity], but one which has been stirred up the way women do, it is not an impediment [to the progress of legal proceedings]. It is peculiar to witches, you see, to inflame feelings against themselves by the use of either injurious words or actions; for example, she asks to be given something, otherwise she [will do] damage to his garden--things such as that--her intention being to seize the opportunity [to be unpleasant]. They reveal themselves in what they say and what they do, and they are obliged to reveal themselves at the insistence of evil spirits so that in this way the sins of the judges may be made worse as long as [the women] remain unpunished. Note that [witches] do not do such things in the presence of other people, so that if the person bringing evidence against them wanted to produce witnesses, he could not. Note too that they are stirred up by evil spirits... [4] Mackay renders the same lines as follows: Note that this line of questioning is necessary in order to reach the foundation of the enmity, because in the end the denounced woman will allege enmity. But when the enmity is not mortal but merely the kind stirred up in the female fashion, it forms no hindrance, since it is characteristic of sorceresses to stir up such enmity against themselves either by pointless words or by deeds. For instance, she asks to have something given to her as a present or inflicts some harm on the other woman in her garden and similar acts, for the purpose of gaining an opportunity. They manifest themselves in word or work, being obliged to make this manifestation at the insistence of the demons, in order that in this way the sins of the judges will be aggravated when the sorceresses remain unpunished. Note also that they are egged on by demons... (2:472). [5] Maxwell-Stuart's translation is certainly more immediately comprehensible, but this is because he has resolved the ambiguities and complexities inherent in the original Latin, which Mackay largely retains. Thus, Maxwell-Stuart renders verbis inutilibus as "injurious words," while Mackay retains the correct but potentially confusing, "pointless words"; further, where Maxwell-Stuart completes the ambiguous meaning of occasionem with the helpful editorial addition, "to be unpleasant," Mackay leaves the meaning unresolved. [6] Mackay's translation would have to be preferred, then, were it not for an unfortunate and serious editorial lapse: Mackay's translation omits an entire sentence (the Latin text beginning "Nota etiam quod talia faciunt..."). Doubtless, the repeated nota etiam/"note also" confused someone at some point of the editorial process, but mistakes of this sort seriously compromise the value of the volumes as a scholarly resource.

Nonetheless, Mackay's English translation of the Malleus will certainly become the academic standard, but one peculiarity of his practice deserves mention. Throughout, he translates malefica/maleficus/maleficium as sorceress/sorcerer/sorcery, instead of the expected witch/wizard (or warlock)/witchcraft. Mackay explains that he does this mainly because the English word "witch" has no "natural male equivalent," since words such as "warlock" properly refer to learned magicians (2:7). Mackay argues further that "witchcraft" "seems to be a "female-oriented word, and so a gender- neutral term for practicing malevolent magic was called for." Mackay's concern is certainly reasonable, but one wonders if he has not pushed his language a bit too far: in the traditional usage of "sorcerer/sorceress," one would commonly assume that the unmarked masculine "sorcerer" is the normative form. The authors of the Malleus, though, are absolutely clear that witchcraft is a crime of women, and that the malefica is the paradigmatic member of Satan's diabolic sect. For this reason, I would have preferred to retain the more usual "witch/witchcraft," or perhaps to leave these terms in Latin.

The final component of Mackay's treatment of the Malleus is a long (188 page) introduction, divided into six distinct parts. The introduction's goals, Mackay explains, are twofold: first, to familiarize the general reader with the authors, their institutional and intellectual environment, and their unstated assumptions; second, to illuminate some particular problems associated with the Malleus' composition and publication (1:1-2). These goals are not easily compatible, and they give the introduction a noticeably split personality. At times, Mackay delves into abstruse problems of philology and Latinity; at others, he rehearses very basic ground indeed. One wonders, for example, how many of his readers will need to be informed that Cicero was "the most famous orator of ancient Rome," or that St. Jerome was "a dyspeptic Christian ascetic" (1:161, 163)? On the other hand, the introduction is not intended to be read straight through; Mackay has divided his text "outline style" so that the reader can refer rapidly to those sections that are of particular interest, and avoid those that are not.

The first three parts of Mackay's introduction cover the ecclesiastical, intellectual and legal background to the Malleus. Among subjects covered are the nature of heresy and the inquisition, inquisitorial procedure and canon law, medieval universities, scholasticism, medieval cosmology, misogyny, magic, and Satanism. Throughout, Mackay presents the Malleus as in many respects a typical of late medieval academic scholasticism, and he effectively introduces his readers to some of the chief peculiarities of this now very alien worldview. He stresses particularly the extent to which the Malleus is a derivative work, in which the authors create new meaning less through clear original statements than through the juxtaposition and blending of quotations, borrowed phrases, and personal anecdotes. In Mackay's overview, the Malleus emerges as a kind of creative adaptation and synthesis of previous texts, rather than a work of original scholarship in the modern sense (1:25- 27). One of Mackay's most intriguing suggestions is that much of the authors' theoretical groundwork, may possibly be attributed to "some previous (and now unknown) work that argued for the theoretical existence of witchcraft" (1:154, 155 n. 310).

Mackay's treatment of magic and witchcraft is less original, but remains competent and informative. For Mackay, "the fundamental basis of witchcraft as laid out in the Malleus" is "Satanism"--by which he means the imaginary demonolatrous heresy of witches, consisting of the diabolic pact, sex with the devil, night flying, the Sabbat, black magic, and infanticide (1:8, 46-47). This Mackay identifies with the "elaborated concept of witchcraft"--a notion rooted in the work of Hanson, Keickhefer and Cohn--and this in turn guides his discussion of witchcraft's development. [7] In this interpretation, the development of notions of witchcraft require description, rather than explanation, since the concept evolves "naturally" as a function of basic modes of thought. Thus, in Mackay's analysis, as heretics were demonized, "it was natural to view them" as apostates, and, similarly, since Satan lurked behind deviance of any kind, "it was natural to imagine" heretics doing the worst of crimes (1:50-51). Mackay concludes that "since the propensity of orthodox thought to foist the most heinous crimes upon its opponents is manifest and widespread, the elaborated conception of witchcraft is simply an example of this tendency run amok" (1:51). This mode of analysis, though, tends to minimize the originality of the Malleus, which becomes simply one stage in an almost inevitable evolutionary progression. Differences between witchcraft treatises, which in other contexts might seem quite considerable, are reduced instead to mere "regional variation" (1.51). Mackay's tendency to minimize the idiosyncrasy of the Malleus is particularly apparent in his brief, almost dismissive treatment of the authors' misogyny, which he treats in two short paragraphs: the first argues that, in a narrow sense, the Malleus is not misogynist at all, the second, that much that seems misogynist is in any case borrowed from other sources (1:35-36). These observations are reasonable, given that the misogyny of the Malleus has been often overstated, but still, in light of the authors' unique insistence that witchcraft is a feminine crime rooted in feminine sexual depravity, a fuller discussion seems warranted.

In the second half of the introduction, Mackay turns to a series of far more technical problems associated with the Malleus and its authors. Reading these sections, one is struck both by Mackay's considerable erudition, and his efforts to revise earlier scholarship. Mackay raises at least four distinct issues--Institoris' character and career, his witch-hunting in Innsbruck, the authorship of the Malleus, and the authenticity of the approbation of the Cologne faculty--and in each case he finds prevailing academic opinion in error. These arguments are often quite technical, but (at the risk of egregious over-simplification) most hinge upon whether one accepts the evidence of the Malleus itself, or, in view of Institoris' allegedly shady character and a varying quantity of circumstantial evidence, one rejects it. For example, although most scholars today consider Institoris the sole author of the Malleus, the question boils down to whether some near-contemporary but second-hand testimony, combined with Institoris' erratic use of pronouns and a general perception of Sprenger's good character, outweigh the evidence of the text's own attribution of two authors. Mackay convincingly argues to the contrary that the evidence for Institoris' sole authorship has been overstated, and that the burden of proof must rest with those who would deny the claims of the text itself; nonetheless, given the necessarily subjective assessment of the evidence, this will not be the last word (1:103-121). For most readers, though, the answers to these questions will not affect their understanding of the text at all; in the case of the dispute over authorship, regardless of whether Sprenger was involved in the production of text, Institoris was certainly the primary author, and the text is his in a way that it is certainly not Sprenger's. [8]

Mackay has given us a thorough treatment of the Malleus that is also distinctively "his." The introduction, Latin text and translation are all clearly the product of Mackay's personal vision of what a modern edition of the Malleus ought to be, one that would be of equal service to the scholarly community and to general readers. On the whole, he has succeeded brilliantly.


[1] Mackay notes (1:36) that this derision is not entirely justified, since Institoris and Sprenger cribbed the derivation from the Summa of Antoninus of Florence.

[2] The facsimiles in question are Günter Jerouschek, Malleus Maleficarum 1487 von Heinrich Kramer (Institoris)... (Hildesheim: Georg Olms Verlag, 1992), and Andr Schnyder, Malleus Maleficarum von Heinrich Institoris (alias Kramer)... (Göppingen: Kümmerle Verlag, 1991).

[3] Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger, The Malleus Maleficarum, trans. Montague Summers (1928, rp. New York: Dover, 1971), 148.

[4] P. G. Maxwell-Stuart, trans., The Malleus Maleficarum (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2007), 216.

[5] The Latin reads, "Et nota quod hec interrogatio est necessaria vt deueniatur ad fundamentum inimicicie, quia in fine delata allegabit inimiciciam. Sed vbi non est capitalis sed modo muliebri concitata, non impedit. Hoc enim est maleficarum proprium concitare aduersum se vel verbis inutilibus aut factis, puta quia petit sibi prestari aliquid aut infert ei damnum aliquod in orto et similia, ad hoc vt occasionem recipiant, et se manifestant in verbo vel in opere, quam manifestationem habent facere ad instantiam demonum, vt sic peccata aggrauentur iudicum dum manent impunita. Nota etiam quod talia faciunt non in aliorum presentia, vt, si deponens vellet testes producere, non haberet. Nota etiam quod incitantur a demonibus..." (1:595).

[6] At times, too, Maxwell-Stuart's apparent desire for clarity, seems to lead him into outright mistakes; here he translates allegabit inimiciciam, as "will plead guilty," instead of Mackay's perfectly reasonable, "will allege enmity."

[7] For influential examples of the development of the "cumulative" or "elaborated" conception of witchcraft, see Joseph Hanson, Zauberwahn, Inquisition und Hexenprozess im Mittelalter (Munich: R. Oldenbourg, 1900); Norman Cohn, Europe's Inner Demons (New York: Basic Books, 1975); Richard Kieckhefer, European Witch Trials (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976).

[8] Mackay would almost certainly agree, although he proposes (1:119) that Sprenger may have been largely responsible for the theological and theoretical argumentation of Part One of the Malleus.