[Incunabula - Nuremberg] [Occult & Paranormal - Ghosts, Poltergeist] [Spiritualism]

JACOBUS DE CLUSA (aka Jacob of Jüterbogk)

De animabus exutis a corporibus, sive De apparitionibus et receptaculis animarum.

Printed in Nuremberg by Georg Stuchs, ca. 1497.

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Text in Latin. First Nuremberg edition.
RARE: ISTC locates only about 30 copies worldwide, of which only 3 in the US and 1 in UK.
A scarce incunable edition of "AN INTERESTING TREATISE ON THE CONDITION OF THE HUMAN SOUL AFTER DEATH." (Catholic Encyclopedia)

This curious work "DEALS SYSTEMATICALLY WITH POLTERGEISTS AND MALEVOLENT GHOSTS, souls calling out for intercessory masses and spirits from Heaven and Hell. Jacob [...] wrote the treatise when asked for advice regarding a ghost haunting the Franciscan friary in nearby Leipzig." (Koslofsky, The Reformation of the Dead, p.26).

"The Cisterciensian abbot Jacob of Jüterbogk (1381 - 1465) [...] in his treatise Tractatus de animabus exutis a corporibus [states] that the dead do not always manifest themselves visibly but attract attention by (the later termed phenomenon) a poltergeist. They throw stones, break pots, overturn furniture, terrorize people in various ways and horrify them by whistling, sneezing, groaning, crying, wailing, and clapping. [...]

"The author explains procedures through which one enters into contact with the souls of the dead. The rituals he described are reminiscent of Johannes Gobi. Four or five priests after confession and mass go to the place where the spirit habitually appears. Then holy water is sprinkled and God is implored to enable the spirit to reveal who he is, why he has come, and what he wants. The intensity of the procedure to ward off the dead, the ghosts, their cult in cemeteries, sepulchers, and graves, and the ceremonies held for the salvation of the soul may prove that the living obviously could not be sure that the dead would stick to their area." (C. A. Tuczay, Interactions with Apparitions, Ghosts, and Revenants in Ancient and Medieval Sources. In: J. Houran (ed.), 'From Shaman to Scientist: Essays on Humanity's Search for Spirits', p.122-3)

"Bumps, throwing, whistling, sneezing, groaning, cries, wailing, clapping manifest the invisible presence of the soul that the living will have to question. The author takes up his pen to reassure the faithful, to invite them to aid the souls of the dead [...] His treatise demonstrates, from beginning to end, a perfect integration of ghosts into the official religious system of the time. [...]

"The concrete procedures through which one enters into contact with the souls of the dead in particular captured the author's attention. Words do not mislead: he speaks of 'the experimentation,' the 'ceremony,' and the 'questioning' to which souls must be subjected. [...] The ritual he describes recalls to the smallest detail the one that Johannes Gobi says he used in Ales: four or five priests, having confessed and having said their mass, go to the place where the spirit habitually appears. They first assure themselves that "all superstitious inquiry ceases": any uncontrolled act that might recall ancient necromancy must disappear, to be replaced by an ecclesiastical ceremony that resembled necromancy greatly but that alone was legitimate. [...]

"The word 'exorcism' is not used [...] that rite and the official role of the exorcist did not yet have the identity they would later acquire. A candle that was blessed at the time of the preceding feast of the purification (Candlemas) is brought, holy water is sprinkled, and the sign of the cross is made, the censer is swung while 'the seven psalms or the gospel of John' is sung. 'The stole does not seem useless,' specifies [the author]. Didn't the ghost of Beaucaire call it 'the bond of the devil'? There then follows a humble prayer intended to implore God to enable the spirit to reveal, without wronging those present, 'who he is, why he has come and what he wants.' [...]

"The author notes, however, that such an ecclesiastical ceremony is not always necessary for the revelations of the souls of the deceased. Within the domestic and familial framework there was a place for a direct manifestation 'of the dead husband to his wife, or vice versa, of the father to his son, or vice versa, of the mother to her daughter, or vice versa, of the brother to the brother, etc.' He therefore emphasizes the importance of kinship relationships, which we have already seen in tales of all sorts. Yet, wherever all ecclesiastical guarantees were not gathered together, it was necessary to call on other criteria to ensure the 'truth' of the apparition. Supported by scriptural examples (the Annunciation, the dreams of Daniel), in the case of the visit of a good spirit, the fear that struck the witness did not last long. The formal connection between the appearance and the being (between species and res) was also a good sign: a good dead person kept his or her voice and appearance as a person, whereas an evil spirit readily changed into a lion, a bear, a frog, a snake, a black cat, a dog, or a black shadow. Only a white dove was positive. Finally, the words and gestures of a spirit were signs that did not lie: if they contravened faith and morality, one was dealing with an evil spirit." (Jean-Claude Schmitt, Ghosts in the Middle Ages: The Living and the Dead in Medieval Society, p.156-8)

Jacob of Jüterbogk (c. 1381 – 1465) was a German monk and theologian, known in the world as Benedict Stolzenhagen. He was born at Jüsterbog in Brandenburg, of poor peasant stock. He joined a Cistercian monastery of Paradiz in Poland, and was, sent by the abbot to the university of Krakow, where he obtained the degrees of master in philosophy and doctor of theology and became a professor at that university. He then returned to his monastery, of which he became abbot. Displeased at the loose discipline of his order, he entered the Carthusian monastery at Erfurt in 1441, and also taught canon law at Erfurt university for many years, and was elected rector in 1456. From the time of his entrance into the Carthusian Order he was often called Jacobus Carthusianus or Jacobus de Clusa. He was full of zeal for reform in the Church, and in some of his writings severely criticizes Italian ecclesiastics for bestowing responsible benefices upon incapable and unworthy persons. Like many other great men of his time, he advocated the so-called conciliar theory, i.e. that a general council is above the pope. He is the author of numerous treatises, mostly on theological and canonical subjects.

Bibliographic references:

Goff J-27; Hain-Copinger 9345; GW 10829; BMC II:471; BMC II 471; CIBN J-31; BSB-Ink I-36; Proctor 2279; IGI 4971.

Physical description:

Slim Quarto; leaves measure 195 mm x 142 mm. Rebound in 20th-century bluish-gray decorative boards (with a faux-crocodile pattern and texture); a printed paper title-label on front cover. Edges speckled red.

17 leaves (forming 34 pages).
Signatures: A-C6 [-C6 blank].
COMPLETE (without the rear blank C6).

Text printed in single column, 41 lines per page, in handsome gothic type, with chapter headings in a larger type. Top line on the title page (A1r) printed in even taller, more angular gothic type. Blank capital spaces (unrubricated) with guide initials, except for the opening capital space on A2r, where a small capital ‘R’ has been supplied in ink in a contemporary hand.

Verso of title (A1r) blank.


Very Good antiquarian condition. Complete (without the rear blank). Light marginal water-staining and minor soiling to several leaves. A few small marginal notes in an early hand (partially cropped in binding), including one to top of title-page. Binding slightly rubbed to extremities. In all, a clean, bright and solid example of this rare incunabulum.

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