Wednesday 2 May 2007

Carl Ferdinand von Schertz: Magia Posthuma

Magia Posthuma is not only the name of this blog, but also the title of a book written by Carl Ferdinand von Schertz (d. 1724) and published in Olmütz (present day Olomouc in the Czech Republic) in 1706. At least that is what we are told by Augustin Calmet in his famous Dissertation sur les apparitions des esprits etc. and by Montague Summers in The Vampire in Europe. However, although I have been able to find a few other books by von Schertz in the catalogues of a few libraries, I have as yet not been able to locate one single copy of the Magia Posthuma!

It is quite obvious from other books that refer to von Schertz’s Magia Posthuma, that the authors are simply quoting or paraphrasing either Calmet or Summers. A few authors even comment on the unavailability of the book. Stephan Hock in his Die Vampyrsagen und ihre Verwertung in der deutschen Literatur (1900) mentions that it is “mir leider nicht zugänglich”, i.e. it was not available, and Aribert Schroeder in Vampirismus: Seine Entwicklung vom Thema zum Motiv (1973) indicates that the book belongs to the category that “konnte nicht eingesehen werden”, i.e. it was unavailable.

I have tried to ask the Danish Royal Library to locate the book for me. However, they could not locate a copy. Consequently I have myself looked at a number of web sites of Continental European libraries, but still without result.

So it seems that this book, which some have labelled as the earliest book on vampires, remains a bit of a mystery. Frankly, I have at times doubted that this book might even exist, so if anyone can shed any light on the whereabouts or even existence of a copy of this book, I would be very grateful!


Anonymous said...


I'd like to start of by saying how delighted I was to come across your blog. We both share a similar interest in vampires.

I too, have struggled to come across a copy of Shertz's mysterious work with no success.

However, I'll give you a little tidbit, regarding its publication date. Massimo Introvigne's essay, "Antoine Faivre: Father of Contemporary Vampire Studies" (Ésotérisme, gnoses & imaginaire symbolique: Mélanges offerts à Antoine Faivre. Leuven: Peeters, 2001), states the following:

"Vampire scares in Moravia centered on the Catholic Diocese of Olmutz, where in 1704 the lawyer Karl Ferdinand de Schertz published his famous booklet Magia postuma." p. 599

The above quotation is accompanied by a footnote that reads:

"Karl Ferdinand de Schertz, Magia posthuma, Olmutz 1704."

I know this is tantalisingly brief, and probably leaves you with even more questions, but it could perhaps, aid you in your research. Best of luck.

Niels K. Petersen said...

Thank you for your kind comment. I hope to hear from you again, if you have any other comments.

As for your information about Karl Ferdinand von (or: de) Schertz's Magia Posthuma, the most reliable bibliographical sources I have had access to confirm that the year of publication should be 1706, not 1704 as Introvigne says.

As I have written elsewhere, I hope to have more news on the book soon, so I suggest that you come back to my blog every now and then!

Anonymous said...

Here's more on the issue of the publication date of Schertz's work...

Introvigne's mention of the publication date seems to stem from the research of Antoine (Tony) Faivre.

Indeed, Shroudeater says the following on the matter, in his article for "The Vampire of Blow":

"This case, which does get a mention in Dom Calmet's book, is said to have first appeared in a work by Charles Ferdinand de Schertz : "Magia Posthuma", which (according to Dom Calmet) was published in Olmutz in 1706. Thanks to Antoine Faivre, we can correct that. Apparently the book was published in 1704 and the more precise titel is: "Magia posthuma per juridicum illud pro et contra suspenso nonnullibi judicio investigata a Carolo Ferdinando de Schertz, arae salutiferae ubi paciscendum"."

I've also turned up this interesting Czech bibliography (it's a pdf file). Take a look at item 2503...

Niels K. Petersen said...

Thank you for your further comments and information which - I must admit - I have actually known for a while. I just decided not to post more information on the book until I will hopefully have access to it in some form in a not too distant future. In fact, I have recently been offered a microfilm of the book, and I hope that I can soon post some information on this here. I am certainly keeping my fingers crossed that I will have news soon!

But thanks again for your interest!

Anonymous said...

Ah, excellent.

I can totally sympathize in you wanting to keep your research findings secret.

I will certainly look forward to seeing the results of your findings, and commend you greatly, for being able to track down a copy of the work.

All the best and well done!

Niels K. Petersen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Niels K. Petersen said...

Well, I wasn't particularly interested in keeping it a secret - in fact, this blog has so few visitors that it is in reality almost a secret - but I just decided to wait until I will hopefully have conclusive information on the existence and contents of the book before writing about it. At the samme time, one of the reasons why I started this blog was to get into contact with people who might help me in finding out more about e.g. that book. It would certainly also be very interesting to get some feedback from people who live in the areas where some of the historical cases of vampirism and magia posthuma occurred.

By the way, I suppose you are the Anthony Hogg who has made a list called The Complete Vampirologist's Library on Amazon?

Anonymous said...

You are correct! I am the one and the same.

Funnily enough, Rosemary Ellen Guiley also "recognized" me via that same list, when I contacted her some time ago.

Looking back at the list now, I'd certainly make amendments to it, but I think it's an excellent selection for those delving into the genre.

Anonymous said...

There is one copy in France, at the Bibliotheque municipale de Nancy. The only copy in the country.

Niels K. Petersen said...

Thank you very much for that information, French. Although I do now have access to reading the book, it is very reassuring to hear that a copy of the book exists in Nancy, because Calmet was abbot there for a period, and Senones where he stayed later on, is not that far from Nancy. So, it is not unlikely that the copy of Magia Posthuma at the Bibliothèque Municipale in Nancy is the very copy of the book that Calmet himself studied!

Anonymous said...

French was right!

I checked their library catalogue (available here), and came up with this detail, in regards to the publication date:

"(Olomucii [= Olmütz] : typis J. Rosenburg, 1704"

If Calmet did indeed read this manuscript, that still begs the question of where he got the 1706 date from. I have a feeling, that all the sources that cite Magia Posthuma's publication date as being 1706, derive from Calmet's work.

Unless you have come across a source written prior to Calmet's work, that lists the same date?

Niels K. Petersen said...

I currently am not aware of any book prior to Calmet mentioning the work of von Schertz. As far as I recall it is not mentioned in Davanzati's Dissertazione sopra i vampiri, and van Swieten's use of the term magia posthuma is from the 1750'ies. In any case, there may exist some book catalogue or other source mentioning the Magia Posthuma, or there may be some bibliography of books printed by the printer Rosenburg. You might have to go to Olomouc and talk to some specialists there to try and find out :-)

Anonymous said...

I would suggest that van Swieten's use of the term, "magia posthuma" was probably derived from Calmet and the residual popularity of de Schertz's work.

In fact, I'd even go so far as to suggest that a lot of bibliographers have taken their queue from Calmet's reference to the book, than actual examinations of an original copy. This is indicated in the lack of a full title provided in these publications.

In your 29 October 2007 06:58 comment, you wrote that: is not unlikely that the copy of Magia Posthuma at the Bibliothèque Municipale in Nancy is the very copy of the book that Calmet himself studied!

This might not be so likely, considering that the library's website says:

Fondée par le Roi Stanislas en 1750, la bibliothèque municipale de Nancy conserve un riche fonds encyclopédique et spécialisé. Elle a fêté, en 2000, son 250ème anniversaire .

As we know, Calmet's Dissertation was first published in 1746, leaving little time for him to have consulted the library's shelves.

Anonymous said...

I have a copy of the magia posthuma from nancy, and there ist handscriptly written on the frontpiece MDCCVI. Maybe this is really the book calmet has read.

Anonymous said...

"MDCCVI" is 1706.

Now, while Calmet lists this as the date of the work's publication, how do we account for the date of 1704 that Tony Faivre established as being the book's publication date?

Mr. Petersen has also found the publication date to be 1704 (at least, as listed on the manuscript).

Unknown said...

This book is in library of the National Museum in Prague, adress:

Signature 48 G 11.

In presence only. I´m sorry. :-(

Anonymous said...

simsala bim, abrakadabra

Magia Posthuma is not mysterious as before! here is modern czech edition for everybody:

Unknown said...

Look up An Encyclopedia of Occultism:A Compendium of Information on the Occult by Lewis Spence and look on page 419 under Vampire.

philippek said...

Bonjour. L'exemplaire de Magia posthuma de la bibliothèque de Nancy a été numérisé : il est accessible en ligne. Il porte un ex-libris daté de 1783 : il ne semble pas que ce soit l'exemplaire de Dom Calmet.
Il est visible avec ce lien :
Best regards
PS: with google : bibliotheque de nancy . Then : La Bibliothèque Stanislas - Ville de Nancy. Then : Site internet. Then : recherche avancée. Then magia posthuma.

Niels K. Petersen said...

Merci beaucoup!

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