I have been haunted by the thought of this book ever since I first heard about it. In English, the title is translated as The Hammer of Witches and is a guide book on how to root out, torture, and kill witches or people suspected of witchcraft. As a practicing Wiccan, this book has fueled many a nightmare for myself. While I understand that witch hunts from this time period had nothing really to do with actual witches, it was more a political and sexist power trip, it still scares me to think of all the pain and suffering this book has caused people.
I wanted to find the earliest publication of this book, and I wasn’t too disappointed. This particular book was published only 10 years after the Malleus Meleficarum was first published in 1486.
Since it is still such an early example of this text, it is still in the original German. While I did study German back in High School, this book is far out of my ability to translate. I did look to find an early English translation, but the only one on archive.org was from 2009. A search on EEBO also did not yield anything fruitful. Plenty of other examples of torture and killing presumed withes, but not the actual Hammer of Witches.
What I was surprised to find was the hand written bit here in the beginning of the book. I don’t know when it is from, but I assume it is from some more modern time while cataloging old books. It says “This is a beautiful specimen of Black Letter printing,” which it indeed is. I have added an example of the beautiful printing. However, it’s weird to me that the person who wrote that description seems so interested in the printing, but cares not for the actual message of the text. This book is an example of how horrible and evil humanity can be to itself based on ignorance and fear. It is a reminder to us how easy it is to persecute those we see as different. To forget about the message and just focus on the beauty of the printing insults the memory of those people hurt by this hatred.
This intolerance is something we are still dealing with today, sadly. Growing up, I had to face verbal insults, death threats, and my property being stolen and burned. But through it all, at least I had the law on my side and could go for help if I needed it. But during the time of this book, this was the law. As bad as it can be now, at least it’s not as bad as this book.