Printed at the beginning of the Malleus is a papal bull from Innocent VIII, a reference letter of sorts for the authors, Kramer and Sprenger. The bull, known as the Summis Desiderantes Affectibus, says that the two inquisitors, “our dear sons,” were empowered to witch hunt and preach the word of God to the faithful. The bull dates to 1484. It is not a forgery, but its placement at the beginning of the book may be somewhat misleading, as if the pope endorsed the book and not simply the witch hunting activities of its authors.
There is difficulty dating the first edition of the Malleus, but certainly the bull predates it by a few years.
There is, however, a forgery (at least most scholars think it is a forgery)—a letter of endorsement for the Malleus Maleficarum purportedly written by the faculty of the University of Cologne. This too was inserted in some editions of the Malleus, but not in my Dover reprint of the Montague Summers’ 1928 translation so I didn’t know about it.
However, a little quick googling yields the information that at least one scholar is opening the case back up and asserting that the letter is not a forgery. This scholar recently translated the Malleus –actually there were two new translations in 2006 and 2007. Read this article for more information.
The Montague Summers translation is very strange because he believed in witches and in witch hunting. Rather than writing an introduction that reflected dolefully on how women and men of the past were persecuted, he calls the Malleus “one of the most important, wisest and weightiest books of the world.” More on this later.