Sunday 18 July 2010

Rohr and De Virunculis Metallicis

Apropos of the copy of Philipp Rohr's De masticatione mortuorum - apparently from the collection of Montague Summers himself - that is on sale, here is what Summers had to say about Rohr in The Vampire in Europe (p. 178) when introducing his translation of the 1679 book:

'Philip Rohr in his day stood in fair repute for his scholarship and he was also known as an occult investigator. His work on the Kobolts who haunt mines is held in esteem. It may be remarked, however, that the subject had previously been treated by Georg Landmann, the famous metallurgist, in his De Animantibus subterraneis, which with other of his treatises was published at Bale, folio, 1657.'

Despite Summers's numerous footnotes, it is hard to see if the characterization of Rohr is based in fact or in the fantasy of Summers. In any case, thanks to the Bayerisches Staatsbibliothek and the Münchener DigitalisieringsZentrum you can now take a look at an online copy of the Dissertatio pneumatica de Spiritibus in fodinis apparentibus, sive, de virunculis metallicis presented by Johann Heinrich Rumpel on April 24 1672 with Rohr as respondent. So the dissertation according to the title is about the spirits and dwarves (literally: small men) appearing in mines: Berg-Männlein and Wichtelein as mentioned in some quotes in German.

The reference to De Animantibus subterraneis is to George Agricola, and it was published approximately one hundred years before the date mentioned by Summers. Looking at the list near the end of Agricola's book, you will see that, although he mentions: 'Demon subeterraneus truculentus: bergteufel mitis: bergmennel/kobel/guttel', Agricola is actually concerned with animals: Serpents, birds etc.

1 comment:

klavaza said...

I love this post. Where I live, decades ago, I read a pamphlet written by a historian by request of a concrete processing factory, in which the historian collected a telltale which was common when the factory began operations, flattening a relatively small rock prominence. Beneath, so people said, the miners found a small people population. They lived inside the mountain and on Saturday's evenings they gave food for free. These apparitions ceased when a Christian shrine was erected in the place. I never though that this is, in fact, a very old myth (in Bolivia the miners build shrines inside the manes but dedicated to Satan).

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