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Putting the Devil on the Map: Demonology and Cosmography in the Renaissance

  • Thibaut Maus de RolleyEmail author
Chapter
Part of the Studies in History and Philosophy of Science book series (AUST, volume 41)

Abstract

This chapter explores the conceptions and representations of space in early modern demonology, focusing on the contribution brought by cosmographical knowledge to demonology in the Renaissance. I start by examining the conception of the devil as an inhabitant of the air, free to invade the world of the living: a fundamentally mobile creature, the devil possessed a mastery of the sublunar world that made him akin to cosmographers. I then assess the extent to which demonologists incorporated geographical information into their treatises, and in particular material related to the new worlds discovered overseas. I argue that the publication of Olaus Magnus’s Description of the Northern Peoples (1555) marked a critical moment in the construction of this “cosmography of the devil,” and analyse one of its most striking examples: Le Loyer’s Discours et histoires des spectres (1605). The diabolical world map outlined by demonologists was a dynamic one, across which demons moved according to the flow of history. It expressed an anxiety beyond that of the fear of witchcraft: what is at work here is the idea of Europe being contaminated by the New World.

Keywords

Ancient World Printing Press Geographical Knowledge Catholic Faith Moral History 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Notes

Acknowledgments

Most of the research for this chapter was supported by a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship held at Oriel College, Oxford (2010‒12). I would like to acknowledge the support and encouragement of Timothy Chesters and Wes Williams, both of whom gave constructive comments on early versions of this essay. I also thank Grégoire Holtz, Jan Machielsen and an anonymous reviewer for their useful feedback. Last but not least, I am grateful to Emma Claussen, who translated it from the French. All translations of non-English quotations are mine except where otherwise noted.

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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of FrenchUniversity College, London (UCL)LondonUK

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