Jacobus Palladinus de Theramo (1349-1417), a member of the powerful Palladini family, was an Italian canon lawyer and bishop. Jacobus is the author of various texts, the most peculiar of which is certainly the Consolatio peccatorum, seu Processus Luciferi contra Jesum Christum, written c. 1382. This ‘consolation of sinners’ (with the colophon Liber Bellial) takes the form of a lawsuit between Lucifer and Jesus Christ, in which the Devil sues Christ for having trespassed by descending into Hell. Recently it has been suggested that the Belial was intended as a legal textbook exemplifying the canonical process of a trial for laymen such as bailiffs, solicitors, etc.
This popular work was highly successful, soon translated into several languages, and quickly diffused, with incunabular editions in German, French, and Dutch. The first (unillustrated) German edition appeared already about 1464 in Bamberg, followed by seventeen illustrated editions, from 1472 to 1500, printed in Augsburg and Strasbourg. This is the third of four editions by Heinrich Knoblochtzer, who published the work in 1477, 1478, 1481, and 1483.
With the exception of the first, all German editions were accompanied by a series of curious illustrations. The figure of Belial is always given as a human-sized character with elongated ears and cloven hoofs, so he is easily recognizable in every woodcut.
Our copy presents a series of fifty-five woodcuts, made of thirty-four repeated blocks. This copy is generally uncoloured, but very attractive as the rubricator added some decoration in red and blue to the bodies of the initial letters. Moreover, he touched a few details in the opening border and in some of the woodcuts, such as the apples on the tree of knowledge, the flames of hell, the cross of Christ’s halo and on his pennant, and the seals attached on letters.