Book of The Week!

Each week (erratic Biblio Gods willing) we will pick out a book that we consider to be extra special/pretty/lovely/annoying and crown it our Book of the Week.

This week’s contribution, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Mighty Discoverie (that word must always be pronounced “Disskovereee!” in a high pitched tone of lunacy):

The Caring Face of Witch-Finding, now available in full red morocco.

SCOT, Reginald (NICHOLSON, Dr. Brinsley, Ed.) The Discoverie of Witchcraft. By Reginald Scot, Esquire. 

Being a reprint of the First Edition Published in 1584. 

Edited with Explanatory Notes, Glossary and Introduction by Brinsley Nicholson, M. D. Deputy Inspector General. 

London: Elliot Stock, 1886. [37407]
LIMITED EDITION OF 250 COPIES ONLY. Quarto pp. xxxviii, 590 [2 ads.]

Bound in later full red morocco leather, raised bands with black and tan title labels and extra gilt to spine.

Gilt rules and cornerpieces to boards, inner dentelles and brown endpapers. Edges untrimmed, some leaves unopened.

Title in red and black.

Facsimilies of the first three editions’ title pages and reproductions of original woodcuts throughout.

Some spotting to page edges, otherwise clean internally without writing or other marks.

A fine copy of Nicholson’s excellent edition (after editions of 1584, 1651, 1654 and 1665) of this famous work,

renowned for it’s sympathetic and sensible obsevations on 16th Century witchcraft.

The above issues from the pen of the marvellous Mr. Blair Cowl, keeper of the Cupboard of Darknessss ™.

What follows comes from me, and Mr. Cowl cannot be held responsible in any way for my ramblings.

Basically the Discoverie is a sceptical examination of accounts of medieval witchcraft, suggesting that on virtually all occasions, those who witnessed so-called acts of malicious witchcraft were misled or mistaken as a result of the actions of charlatans and tricksters. Or (and this is crucial, considering the context) they were mentally ill or deluded.

Scot shockingly suggested that the Catholic church was in the main responsible for fostering the frenzied persecution of “witches” (really, as if, they were such a reasonable bunch, not like the people who bought us the Inquisition to take a somewhat frothing stance on something, especially where filthy, disgusting, god-forsaken perpetually sinning WOMEN were involved).

He also rather controversially criticised some of the more respected authors in the field, most notably Jean Bodin (Démonomie des Sorciers 1580) and the truly unpleasant Jacobus Sprenger, joint author along with Heinrich Kramer of the Malleus Malificarum (the charmingly named ‘Hammer of Witches’ or “Hexenhammer” published in 1486), a collection of the most vividly demented outpourings on witches and witchcraft and how they may be rooted out and combatted, not to mention rattling on about  women in general and how they are the cause of everything being horrid and filthy and if you end up in hell don’t blame us, blame horrible, evil women…especially if they’re old, and have warts, and any old, warty woman who owns pets might as well set herself on fire right now because…we’re watching!

Mr. Scot suggested this might be an exaggeration, and that possibly we might want to calm down a bit. He also suggested that the persecution of the old, the infirm and the conspicuously female for the perceived crime of witchcraft was edging over into being downright un-christian. Initially Scot’s work was rather well received and ran to several very collectable editions, our copy being the 1886 re-issue.

Of course the suggestion that one couldn’t simply rampage around the country shouting “witch” and chucking an old lady in a fish-pond every time your hens stopped laying was less popular than you might think and upon the accession of James I to the throne in 1603 an order was given for all available copies to be seized and burned. The Discoverie was already well regarded  and quite influential by this time however, and survives to this day as a welcome ray of light in the otherwise somewhat dark history of witchcraft in Britain.


About bibliodeviant

This is the journal of Jonathan Kearns Rare Books & Curiosities, and all who sail in her. Information, updates, rantings, musings and pretty pictures related (loosely I would imagine) to the world of rare and antiquarian books will be brought to you by a number of different personalities, some of whom cohabit in the same person's head. We welcome queries, comments and contributions of virtually any description, and in return we will attempt to rein in our multitudinous personality disorders and deliver wonders and joys beyond compare. At least that's the plan. View all posts by bibliodeviant

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