The Dissertatio de Vampyris

The Dissertatio de Vampyris (also known as Dissertatio de Vampiris) is a pseudoscientific treatise (a formal and systematic explanation in writing of the beliefs of a subject, generally longer and more detailed than an essay) written by Johann Heinrich Zopfius and Francus von Dalen on Serbian vampires. Written in a time when the fear of vampires plagued the minds everyone, this was one of the more popular and authoritative treatises on the undead of the eighteenth century. Translated as Dissertation on the Vampire and published in 1733, it is best known for containing this famous declaration:

“The vampires, which issue forth from their graves at night, rush upon people sleeping in their beds, suck their blood and destroy them. They attack men, women and children, sparing neither age nor sex. People attacked by them complain of suffocation and a great interception of spirits; after which they soon die… Those who are killed by them, after death, become vampires…”

There were countless treatises written about vampires during this time, and they are always fascinating to me, mainly because these are the actual beliefs of people from the time. That means that in the 1700s real people genuinely thought that the dead left their graves at night to feed upon the blood of sleeping victims. It’s incredible to learn today what so many believed in the past. I swear, if someone were to collect the many treatises written on the undead and published them together in one book I would buy it in a heartbeat. It would be history geek heaven! But alas, no one has done this.

What do you guys think of these old vampire treatises? Do you find them as fascinating as I do, being able to view a glimpse into the past? Or do they simply bore you? Let me know in a comment below.

– Moonlight

By Moonlight

Moonlight (aka Amanda) loves to write about, read about and learn about everything pertaining to vampires. You will most likely find her huddled over a book of vampire folklore with coffee in hand. Touch her coffee and she may bite you (and not in the fun way).

6 replies on “The Dissertatio de Vampyris”

Actually, the quote here sounds like a description of Consumption. A Consumption (or tuberculosis) victim would waste away and would have difficulty breathing – especially when trying to sleep.

The illness is infectious and would spread through a family and/or community. Some would waste away – but others would not show the early signs and be taken quickly. A lack of understanding led this to be designated as galloping consumption – a different order of the disease rather than a symptomatic difference.

The reason for mentioning all of this is because the vampire scare and exhumations in 19th century America were most likely due to consumption. Certainly Mercy Brown and her family were killed by consumption (Mercy was exhumed and her heart [and sometimes suggested her liver] removed, burnt and fed [probably mixed in water] to her brother, in order to cure his consumption, in 1892). Indeed the grave of Simon Whipple, who died who died May 6, 1841 aged 27 years and is located in Northern Rhode Island, actually has engraved the verse “Altho consumption’s vampire grasp, Had seized thy mortal frame,”

For more information on the 19th century US vampire scare I highly recommend the book by Michael E Bell, entitled Food for the Dead, which I reviewed here:

Thanks :) We have a few posts on diseases here. Vampire myths are due largely to people not having the scientific knowledge to explain common illnesses, so they blamed it on the supernatural.

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