On Sunday the 30th of January 30 1718, Daniel Salthenius enters into a pact with the Devil. He writes a note with his own blood, walks into the woods close to his home, the Clergy house in the small village Markim north of Stockholm and puts up the note on the parish’s sacred and magical old oak.
“I Daniel Salhtenius do with you Satan this Contract, which is That You shall now soon give me the Black Book, and leave her by this Oak, that I tomorrow when Icome here, find her, or instead of her, a purse that is never empty of Rixdaler Caroliner and fifty cent pieces inside. Then I promise you to serve you in my lifetime and after my death belong to you with body and soul. Anno 1718, 30 January”
In exchange for Daniel‘s soul, Daniel wants the big book of spells (the Black Book) and a purse that should always contain money, like a small cornucopia.
It goes badly for Daniel — the note is discovered; the local police are called in and Daniel is brought to justice. The punishment for covenants with the devil was death at that time. The trial was held at the old courthouse near Daniel’s home. The district chief was Petter Abrahamsson, a tough judge but an experienced district chief, who 9 years later would be knighted by Sweden’s King Fredrik the 1st.
The judge sighs and reads —”You Daniel Salthenius, in accordance with the royal decree on oaths and Sabbath break of 1687, Article 1 §9, has been sentenced to death by this district court. Decapitation must be carried out.”
But now Daniels luck turns. Since he is a student at Uppsala University and a minor, the sentence must be determined by the university’s consistory. The consistory considers Daniel’s youth, the fact that Daniel was unusually gifted and converts the death penalty to one month in prison on water and bread.
After this, Daniel Salthenius wants to leave Sweden, he takes small jobs as a private teacher in Stockholm and Gothenburg and can after a few years enroll at the University of Halle in Germany. After receiving his master degree from University of Halle on 30 April 1729, Salthenius was immediately called to Königsberg by Franz Albert Schultz to help the Pietist cause there. He replaced Abraham Wolf as inspector of the Collegium Fridericianum and received the associate professorship of logic and metaphysics vacated by Johann Gottfried Teske. After he received his doctorate in theology in 1733, he became a full professor of theology at the University of Königsberg.
Königsberg was then the central town in Prussia (It is now called Kaliningrad and is part of Russia) On Sundays in Königsberg people went out walking in the town and it was a popular puzzle to try to find a route around the city that managed to cross every bridge exactly once — no more, no less. Nobody had ever managed to do so, and it was rumored impossible. In 1736, the mathematician Leonhard Euler, who had visited Königsberg, solved the problem and proved that it was impossible to take such a walk.
Daniel become a respected and learned professor at the University. However, rumours of his contract with Satan followed him all his life. In 1737 he was reported to the Prussian king Frederick William 1 by a group of Orthodox Lutherans who wanted him sacked because of his pact with the devil. But the King of Prussia is not intersted and decides that the report has no basis, and that Daniel is innocent so he remains a professor.
In 1740, the then 16-year-old philosopher Immanuel Kant born in Königsberg was admitted to the University. There he receives as course literature Daniel’s book “Introductio in omnes libros sacros tam veteris quam novi Testamenti, ad usum studiosae iuventius” “Introduction into the sacred books of the Old and New Testament, to the use of eager youths” and he also probably had Daniel as a teacher.
After 21 years in Königsberg, in 1750 Daniel dies. He was then a rich, well known and successful professor in one of Europe’s important states, Prussia. He had one of the world’s largest private libraries, about 22,000 volumes, including 300 Bibles.
The boy from a small rural village in Sweden, that 32 years earlier wrote a agreement in his own blood with Satan, died a wealthy and famous professor in Preussen.
Markimboken — Markims Hembygdsförening 1995 — In Swedish