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Shortly Before the Persecution of Witches

Scarce view of the city of Trier, from De Belleforest's French edition of Sebastian Munster's Cosmographia.

Trier in Rhineland-Palatinate, with a history which dates to the Roman Empire, is often claimed to be the oldest city in Germany. Traditionally it was known in English by its French name of Treves. In 1473, Emperor Frederick III and Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy convened in Trier. In this same year, the University of Trier was founded in the city. From 1581 until 1593, intense witch persecutions, involving nobility as well as commoners, abounded throughout this region, leading to mass executions of hundreds of people.

In 1544, the scholar and geographer Sebastian Munster published his Cosmographia, one of the most important an influential works of its type in the16th century

Belleforest's work is an adaptation of . Sébastien Münster's Cosmographia  first published in Basel in 1544. As Münster had been mainly concerned with Germany, the chapters on France had to be rewritten in order to make the work more interesting to a French audience. Belleforest had sent local elites in major cities across the country a request for information on regional history and geography. As a good philologist, he relied above all on recognized textual authorities, which set him against André Thevet, who published his Cosmographie universelle  in 1575. In the vehement controversy between the two authors, Thévet says of Belleforest that he "never traveled by name more "Than the Owls who repaired in the Aqueduct of Athens, or at the Byzantine Hippodrome". Belleforest replied to the accusations by arguing that a single man could never visit all regions of the earth and that a traveler could easily lie, for lack of possibilities to verify the veracity of his account "