The Malleus Maleficarum or "Hammer of Witches" is the best known and the most important treatise on witchcraft. It endorses extermination of witches and for this purpose develops a detailed legal and theological theory. It was a bestseller, second only to the Bible in terms of sales for almost 200 years. It was written by the Catholic clergyman Heinrich Kramer and first published in 1487. The Malleus elevates sorcery to the criminal status of heresy and prescribes inquisitorial practices for secular courts in order to extirpate witches. The recommended procedures include torture to effectively obtain confessions and the death penalty as the only sure remedy against the evils of witchcraft. At that time, it was typical to burn heretics alive at the stake and the Malleus encouraged the same treatment of witches. The book had a strong influence on culture for several centuries. It was later used by royal courts during the Renaissance, and contributed to the increasingly brutal prosecution of witchcraft during the 16th and 17th centuries.