A Call to Arms: The Contents of the Invectives


The Alberta manuscript, fol. 7r

Tinctor appears to have been motivated by a variety of concerns when he crafted the Invectives. The first, and most pressing, was no doubt the need to justify the prosecutions that were taking place (or had recently taken place) in Arras. But his text makes no direct mention of these events, and it becomes clear early in the treatise that Tinctor also has higher theological and political objectives in mind. One of these is to call on earthly authorities to make war against a sect of people whose evil he sees behind every tree and in every shadow. Another is to contribute to a scholarly debate around elements of the “elaborated theory,” such as the idea of night flight by diabolical means, that strained credulity—and which Thomists and other thinkers in previous centuries might have regarded as laughable.

The treatise is divided into three parts: a prologue and two major sections. (View the Alberta manuscript here; you will find its original table of contents on the first three complete pages of the text.) Because some pages of the Alberta manuscript have been removed over the centuries, parts of these sections are missing; this includes folio (or sheet) 9, which probably included an image depicting a witches’ sabbath (and one of the earliest-ever depictions of witches in flight; see The Missing Illustration). A small, tantalizing fragment of this rich illumination remains bound in the volume; you can see it by turning immediately past the table of contents.

Next: The Prologue: A Diabolical Cosmology