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A Concise History of Christian Thought: Completely Revised And Expanded Edition
A Concise History of Christian Thought: Completely Revised And Expanded Edition
by Anthony N S Lane
Edition: Paperback
Price: 18.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Does Exactly What It Says On The Tin, 3 Feb 2008
This book is like an encyclopedia of Christian theological thought through the ages and is invaluable as a work of reference, with many a handy fact and anecdote. It is not perfect though - there is a slight undercurrent of partiality running through this work. Use it as a launchpad, a starting off point that can lead you to deeper study, and you'll be fine. Just don't take the editor's opinion as final.

Worthy, but not a masterpiece. Hence, 4 stars.

The Malleus Maleficarum
The Malleus Maleficarum
by P.G. Maxwell-Stuart
Edition: Paperback
Price: 9.99

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterful Maleficarum, 2 Feb 2008
This is the new translation of the (in)famous "Malleus Maleficarum", the witchfinder's manual written during the late middle ages by Heinrich Kramer. This new version corrects errors made by earlier translators and provides a fuller, better and more accurate work which is truer to the latin original. The work is abridged in places to avoid repetition and is none the worse for it, although some may feel this slightly undermines its authenticity - however, this is a minor gripe. The introductory essay is well worth reading as it supplies some background and context for "Malleus" and helps the reader to a better understanding of the book and its impact through the ages as a result. The translator's enthusiasm also shines through and Maxwell-Stuart - an expert in the field - allows the book to flow without heavy handed editing which can, and sadly does, mar many an otherwise good book.

If you've already got Montague Summers' translation, then get this one anyway to bring things up to date. Also think about getting Martin Del Rio's "Investigations Into Magic" and Menghi's "The Devil's Scourge" to fully understand the spirit of the age.

Masterful stuff.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 13, 2010 10:51 PM GMT

Devil's Scourge: Exorcism During the Italian Renaissance
Devil's Scourge: Exorcism During the Italian Renaissance
by Girolamo Menghi
Edition: Paperback
Price: 18.70

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Get Thee Behind Me, Satan, 2 Feb 2008
This book is a new translation of one of two tomes written by Girolamo Menghi, master of the art of exorcism during the renaissance. The other has, so far, yet to be translated into English.

"The Devil's Scourge" is a manual for conducting exorcisms, listing seven different kinds, each useful depending on the circumstances of each individual "encounter". Menghi's manual provided the Catholic Church with some excellent tools in its medieval war against supernatural evil, only to fall out of favour in later generations. It was eventually placed on the index of works prohibited by the Vatican.

This book is invaluable for the glimpse it gives us into the mindset of renaissance exorcists and demonologists. Read in conjuction with Del Rio's "Investigations Into Magic" and the new translation of "The Malleus Maleficarum", it provides a fuller picture for any serious student of the subject. That Menghi was considered the leading exorcist of his time is attested to by the fact that Del Rio cites his work as a reference in his own masterpiece - high praise indeed.

This translation cannot be faulted and the essay bundled with it is a nice and useful addition and is well worth reading in itself. I'm now just waiting for a translation of Menghi's "Fustis" by the same writer...

The Malleus Maleficarum (Dover Occult)
The Malleus Maleficarum (Dover Occult)
by Jakob Sprenger
Edition: Paperback
Price: 14.02

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Handle with care, 1 Feb 2008
This version of Malleus is handy more for students of literature than for students of history or those wishing to seriously study the history of the paranormal. This particular version - the Montague Summers translation - is inaccurate as an historical source and those who seek to use it as such are backing a loser. Summers mistranslated much of the original latin either by accident or design; he uses a single word - "witch" - for a multitude of nouns which vary in gender application; they are either male, female or simply ambiguous and common to both. Summers also had his own social agenda, really believing that a powerful cult of devil worshipping sorceresses stalked the middle ages and deserved to be wiped out.

Yes, the original text is at times misogynistic in tone. So what. So was medieval and early modern European society in general. So are many societies worldwide today. It is NOT however the venomously misogynistic tome which this translation would have the reader believe. For those who wish to study how different versions of the same book can emerge over time, for those who study literature in general, then the book is an interesting curiosity. This version's historical importance, however, is over-stated and undeserved, for it is really only of use as a tool to examine attitudes to witchcraft in the 20th and 21st centuries, not as a yardstick for those attitudes at the time when the original was written.

The serious student of the subject is advised to consult the newer translation by P.G Maxwell-Stuart, an expert in the field with no agenda to pursue rather than the provision of an accurate version of the text. Montague Summers was an eccentric and enthusiastic, not to mention partisan and deeply flawed, layman. The serious student is advised to track down a copy of Martin Del Rio's "Investigations Into Magic" - also translated by Maxwell-Stuart - as well. Trust me it will be worth it, and Malleus makes more sense when considered as just one of a series of related texts rather than an isolated case. While you're at it, try Menghi's "The Devil's Scourge" as well.

FYI - Heinrich Kramer and Heinricus Institoris - two individuals listed among the authors - were actually the same person. In addition, Kramer was the main author, not Sprenger, the involvement of whom was fleeting at best, and is now itself in doubt.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 13, 2010 10:56 PM GMT

by Paul Tice
Edition: Paperback
Price: 10.62

22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Right Royal Demonological Discourse, 23 Jan 2008
This review is from: Demonology (Paperback)
Underrated and dismissed by many as a rampant perverted social misfit, James VI & I was the archetypal renaissance King in that he was intellectually irrepressible and in many ways, brilliant. This work is testament to that, as he turns his attention to witchcraft, a source of some ire for him as witches had supposedly recently made an attempt on his life. "Demonology" is well written, and this edition is bundled with "Newes From Scotland", another invaluable source for the study of the paranormal in the early modern period.

There is one gripe - the edition I received (the one with the cartoon of the winged, sword wielding demon on the cover) had a new preface written by someone who quite obviously has no grasp of the history of the period and can only be pushing some sort of religio-political agenda: the King James version of the Bible comes in for particularly venomous treatment and one can only assume that this is tied in with that self same agenda. The preface labels James as a bestial blood thirsty pervert who sought carnal pleasure from freshly slain animals (untrue), who was the product of an affair between Rizzio and Mary, Queen of Scots (untrue), places the capital of Scotland at Edinburg (sic) and places Elizabeth I of England on the throne of Scotland for some insane and woefully inaccurate reason.

The actual sources are priceless. The preface is good for a laugh and a great demonstration of how history should not be written.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 13, 2010 10:49 PM GMT

Martin Del Rio: Investigations into Magic (Social & Cultural Values in Early Modern Europe)
Martin Del Rio: Investigations into Magic (Social & Cultural Values in Early Modern Europe)
by P. G. Maxwell-Stuart
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magic Del Rio, 17 Jan 2008
In this remarkable book, translated into english for the very first time by P.G Maxwell-Stuart, we're given a window into the world and the mind of the greatest demonologist of the early modern period. As an investigation into the paranormal the book is a tour-de-force, as a translated and edited historical artifact it is a masterpiece, as one genius - Maxwell-Stuart - brings us the work of another. Del Rio is ahead of his time, comfortable with the fact of his ignorance of many of the laws of the universe, not content to merely subscribe to the superstition and intellectual blindness of so many of his contemporaries. What he does not understand or cannot explain, he is never simply content to dismiss as being forever unexplainable.

This book is remarkable, and deserves to sit in the collection of any serious student of the history of the paranormal - whereas the types who like to run around with night vision cameras screaming at creaking floorboards need not bother as it will simply be beyond them. If "Malleus Maleficarum" - also masterfully translated and edited by Maxwell-Stuart - can be compared to Del Rio's "Investigations...", then the former is an average A-level essay and the latter is an epoch making PhD thesis. A brilliant thinker and incredibly well-read scholar, Del Rio continues to reach across time itself and guide us through his work - he is an entertaining, thought-provoking companion on the journey.

If you have a serious intellectual interest in the social history of the supernatural, you MUST own this book. Don't be put off by the price tag - even if it were 100+ it would be tremendous value for money. This book is a masterpiece and is the benchmark in its field by a distance measured not in miles but in light years. It's THAT good.

Early American Writing (Penguin Classics)
Early American Writing (Penguin Classics)
by Giles Gunn
Edition: Paperback
Price: 11.59

5.0 out of 5 stars Buy this book before it goes out of print... Again!, 30 Dec 2007
This is an invaluable collection of primary sources, as the early history of the Colonial Americas is related to us, in their own words, by the people who were there. It isn't just post-Columbian material though - Native American mythology gets a section of its own, and the European accounts begin with the Vikings. The sources speak to us from pre-Colonial days, through the settlement period, to the days of the early Republic - we have Columbus and Powhatan, Winthrop and Washington and Paine.

Anyone with even a passing interest in American history should have this book in their collection. Students of a number of disciplines will find this anthology of sources invaluable, and a handy work of reference which they will keep revisiting. Just try and get it before it goes out of print again, ok?

Return of Martin Guerre
Return of Martin Guerre
by Natalie Zemon Davis
Edition: Paperback
Price: 18.95

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Jolly Good Stuff, 30 Dec 2007
With style, wit and authority, Davis takes a fascinating court case from the late middle ages and using original sources and her own opinion, paints a vivid picture of life in early Reformation era Languedoc. Its hard not to empathise with the characters she introduces us to, and in the end we don't know whether to cheer at the return of the eponymous Martin Guerre, or to jeer. Read it and see, and make up your own mind.

The book rips along at a fair pace, and that leads me to the only quibble I have, and the only reason it gets 4 stars instead of 5 - the book is too short. Much much more could have been made of the material, and the core thesis could easily have bourne a study twice, or perhaps even three times, the actual length without ever becoming stale or boring; as it is, it feels a bit rushed.

All things considered though, this is a learned work on a fascinating subject, and a brilliantly written addition to the field of social history.

The Reformation
The Reformation
by Prof Patrick Collinson
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Short but oh, so sweet!, 28 Dec 2007
This review is from: The Reformation (Paperback)
Collinson's is the best one volume entry level guide to the reformation that there is. It fairly speeds along, and Collinson is a knowledgeable, entertaining companion on the ride. He manages to take a complex subject, make it readable and enjoyable, and does it in a fraction of the page count certain other historians would rack up, and with infinitely more style and aplomb.

This is a great book, whether your using it for undergrad background or simply reading it for pleasure.

Tudor England
Tudor England
by John Guy
Edition: Paperback
Price: 19.27

8 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good if a little, well... dull., 28 Dec 2007
This review is from: Tudor England (Paperback)
John Guy's "Tudor England" is a well-researched book, crammed with facts and analysis, and is handy to have whether you're studying at 'A' level or are a university undergrad. It ticks all the boxes and as textbooks go, it does exactly what it's supposed to.

It's also as dull as dishwater.

Guy takes an exciting, interesting period of history and turns it into a snore & bore-fest. I found that while it is, on paper, an excellent resource, Guy's book sucks all the fun out of the subject and leaves no meat on the bones of history. It reminds me of the kind of dry, dusty, soulless history books I absolutely loathed reading at school.

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