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In 2018, Portland State University purchased a medieval codex containing a 1490 printing of Werner Rolewinck’s Fasciculus Temporum and a 1490 edition of the Malleus Maleficarum printed in Speier, Germany, by Peter Drach. Based on information from the bookseller in France, PSU has concluded that the codex most likely came from the collection of Robert Lenkiewicz (1941-2002), a twentieth-century English figurative painter who amassed a significant collection of rare books and incunables during his life.
Lenkiewicz’s artwork, interests, and book collection revolved around addiction and fanaticism, and one of the more noteworthy sections of his library focused on witchcraft and the occult. Lenkiewicz owned at one time as many as ten copies of the Malleus Maleficarum, and his artwork and collecting habits demonstrated his fascination with all things witchcraft-related. From early editions of works by occultists like Robert Fludd, Henricus Cornelius Agrippa, and Johannes Nider, to a sixteenth-century witch’s remains, Lenkiewicz’s ongoing obsession with collecting artifacts of what he referred to as the “crazy notion” of witchcraft culminated in an early book collection that rivaled that of the British Library.
By examining Lenkiewicz’s interest in rare books and witchcraft, and the marks left by these interests in some of his artwork, we can create a picture of the environment in which PSU’s codex existed in recent years, and get a glimpse into its history through the lens of an eccentric and often enigmatic owner.
History | Medieval Studies
Hood, Ashley M., "Robert Lenkiewicz: Witchcraft Collector" (2022). Provenance and Preservation. 1.