Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Martin Delrio: Demonology and Scholarship in the Counter-Reformation

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Martin Delrio: Demonology and Scholarship in the Counter-Reformation

Article excerpt

Martin Delrio: Demonology and Scholarship in the Counter-Reformation. By Jan Machielsen. (Published for the British Academy by Oxford University Press. Oxford, UK. 2015. Pp. x, 441. $150.00. ISBN 978-0-19-726580-2.)

As the author of the massive Disquisitionum magicarum librisex, Martin Delrio is now known mainly as one of the leading demon ologists of the early-modern era. Jan Machielsen wants to restore his status as an important humanist scholar and post-Tridentine Catholic intellectual. In doing so, Machielsen also seeks to expand our understanding of early-modern demonology, situating it within a much wider intellectual landscape. He acknowledges the inspiration of Stuart Clark's magisterial Thinking with Demons (New York, 1997), which demonstrated how demonologists regularly engaged with major political, religious, scientific, and other issues. However, Machielsen argues that in the nearly twenty years since that seminal publication, the traditional image of demonologists as deranged witch-hunters rather than sober scholars has endured.

Whereas Clark surveyed the full range of early-modern demonology, Machielsen opts to study just one author, but to take into account the full range of his writings rather than just his demonology. The resulting book is something of an intellectual biography of Delrio, although the emphasis is definitely on intellectual rather than the biographic. Machielsen begins with a few chapters on Delrio's early life during the tumultuous revolt in the Spanish Netherlands, which he argues shaped the young man's subsequent outlook on almost all issues and forged his life-long devotion to the authority of the Catholic Church. Thereafter, the book becomes almost exclusively a study of Delrio's mitten works. The picture we are given is of a citizen of the Republic of Letters who is only secondarily an inhabitant of the real world.

Delrio's accomplishments in the Republic of Letters are certainly impressive enough to warrant a book. Machielsen devotes chapters to his scholarship on Senecan tragedy, to his complicated relationship with Justus Lipsius, and to his visceral criticisms of Joseph Scaliger, among other topics. …

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