Treatise of Specters, Strange Sights or Apparitions


A Treatise of Specters or Straunge Sights, Visions, and Apparitions Appearing Sensibly Vnto Men
Wherein Is Delivered the Nature of Spirites, Angels, and Divels, Their Power and Properties : as Also of Witches, Sorcerers, Enchanters, and Such Like : With a Table of the Contents of the Severall Chapters Annexed in the End of the Booke : Newly Done Out of French Into English

Preferred Title: Livres Des Spectres, Ou Apparitions Et Visions D'esprits, Anges Et Demons Se Monstrans Sensiblement Aux Hommes

London, 1605

Author: Pierre le Loyer (1550-1634)

Printer: Valentine Simmes (active 1585-1622) for Mathew Lownes, Bookseller

Language: English with printed marginalia in English, Latin, and Greek

Dedications: James I, King of England, 1566-1625 | Catherine de Medici, Queen, Consort of Henry II, King of France, 1519-1589

Ink printed on paper, woodcuts on title vignette, initials, and head-pieces

height: 20cm

Multnomah County Library, John Wilson Special Collections, W133.1 L834


Nicole Berge, Medieval Portland Capstone Student, Spring 2015

A Treatise of Specters or Straunge Sights Visions and Apparitions Appearing Sensibly Vnto Men. Wherein Is Delivered, the Nature of Spirtes, Angels, and Divels: Their Power and Properties: as Also of Witches, Sorcerers, Enchanters, and Such Like, was considered a guide to the supernatural. The author, Pierre le Loyer, was a French Demonologist with a background in law and poetry. Before setting his sights on paranormal phenomena, he produced several romantic pieces, including Hobbies Erotopegnie or Love and Poetic Works and Mixtures (“Pierre Le Loyer”). Although Loyer was a Demonologist who believed in and studied demons, his religious background remains unclear. Presumably, he was tied to the Roman Catholic Church based on the nature of the content found in A Treatise of Specters. However, Loyer also published Discours et Histoires des Spectres, visions et apparitions des esprits, anges, démons et âmes se montrans visibles aux homes in 1605, which is known as the “most extensive study on the history of ghosts and demonology to appear at the time” (

A Treatise of Specters was published shortly after the Protestant Reformation wherein the Roman Catholic Church was broken out into various independent groups of Christianity (“The Protestant Reformation”).  This allowed authors like Loyer to begin questioning the teachings of the church and pushing his readers to think for themselves on a more critical level (sans church influence). Translating the original French publication into English added to the reader base by bringing access to more people across  Medieval Europe.

In examining the Multnomah County Library's physical copy of A Treatise of Spectres, of note is the lack of illustrations inside the book, though many of the chapter pages include small detailed images at the top as well as embellished capital letters that start off each new section. In addition, gilding or small gold inscriptions are found on the paper edges, boards, and leather binding. The biopredation on the outside shows about as much natural damage as one can expect from a pocket sized 7 ½” x 5 ¼” 400-year-old book. There are several signs of wear and tear throughout but they are most prominent on the corners and spine.  The inside of the book is in better condition than the outside, with virtually no watermarks, foxing (ink stains), or ripped pages.

The interior of A Treatise on Spectres boasts a couple of uncommon features. This book has not one but two dedication pages, both of which are addressed to noble people: “The Kings Most Excellent Majeslie of Great Brytaine, France and England” (no date) and “The Epittle of the French Author to the Queen Mother of the King” (June 21st, 1586).  This book also contains a typed commentary in each chapter; on both the left and right margins are short, comical comments that add both character and humor in the midst of such a dark topic. The author of the commentary remains a mystery.  

As far as provenance is concerned, the formal bookplate does not offer any other source outside the John Wilson Rare Book Room. In the book, a small newspaper clipping is (glued?) opposite the title page, giving condition and value tagged with what appears to be a prior owner, Matthew Lownes of London (University of Michigan library).