First Edition. That men and women could transform into lupine humanoids and devour the innocent under cover of night was a superstitious contagion that swept through Central and Western Europe in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. It was a theological issue, a medical issue, and even a legal one—people accused of lycanthropy were often executed, a close and resounding echo of the persecution of so-called witches. The demonologist and Franciscan monk Frère Claude Prieur's Dialogue de la Lycanthropie, a heretical argument against the existence of werewolves, flew in the face of the prevailing beliefs about the nature of lycanthropy, and argued, in the form of a dialogue between three disputants, that werewolves were not possible. One of the disputants in the dialogue, Proteron, argues the author's position; Scipion represents the locus of dissent, challenging the view that werewolves could not be real; Eleion acts as both the moderating force, and the target for persuasion of both Proteron and Scipion. Though Proteron (Prieur) concedes that a sufficiently motivated demoniac (victim of demonic possession) could conceivably convince another person that they were in fact a werewolf, actual werewolfery—the state of lycanthropy—-did not exist, and that a prosecution and conviction for being a werewolf would be a de facto miscarriage of justice. Indeed, Prieur's book was used as an element of defense in a number of werewolf trials in the early 17th century, and likely saved lives, though statistics are elusive. Proteon additionally states that if one believes themselves to be a werewolf, that it then becomes a medical matter, thus presaging Jean de Nynauld's argument two decades years later, in his De la lycanthropie, that werewolfery was an expression of mental illness. The superstition was complicated by actual criminals and serial killers, such as the notorious Peter Stubbe, who embraced and committed werewolf-like crimes, reifying lycanthropy in the eyes of many. Prieur's Lycanthropie was both a record of case studies of werewolves, and the essential nexus of law, medicine, and theology during the height of lycanthropic superstition in early modern Europe. Six copies located in American libraries, none in medical or legal collections.
Full title: Dialogve | de la Lycan- | thropie ov transforma- | tion d'hommes lovps, | vulgairement dits Loups-garous, | & ſi telle ſe peut faire. || Auquel en diſcourant eſt traicté de la manière de | ſe contregarder des enchantements & ſorcel- | leries, enſemble de pluſieurs abus & ſuper- | ſtitions, leſquelles ſe commettent en ce temps. || Par F. Clavde Prievr, | natif de Laual au Mayne, & religieux de l'ordre des freres mineurs de l'obſeruance. | [Maes and Zangre's woodcut device] | A LOVVAIN, chez Iehan Maes, & Philippe | Zangre, Libraires Iurez. L'an 1596.
8vo, 154 x 102 x 14 mm (binding); 152 x 100 x 11 mm (text block) A-I8, 72 ff. Eighteenth-century polished calf, full gilt back, titled on citron morocco lettering-piece DIALO | DE LA | LYCAN. Extremities bumped, caps chipped, leather stained, lower tail joint starting. Interior: first few leaves with pale damp, otherwise good.
Provenance: Engraved ex-libris of Richard Shute to upper pastedown. Shute was a London merchant who flourished in the early 19th-century. His collection passed to his wife upon his death in 1822, and was dispersed to the trade in the years following.
Brunet IV col. 872; Coumont P78.1; STC (Low Countries) p. 173; Belgica typographica No. 4056; Adams P-2087; Wellcome, Vol. I, no. 5249; Cunningham, Carleton, “The Devil and the Religious Controversies of Sixteenth-century France,” Essays in History 35 (1993): pp. 38–9; Vronsky, Peter, Sons of Cain, New York: Penguin, 2018; Prieur, Claude, Dialogue de Lycanthropie (critical edition), Paris: Hachette, 1975.
Louvain: Maes & Zangre, 1596.
Status: On Hold