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THE DISCOVERIE OF WITCHCRAFT, WHEREIN THE LEWDE DEALING OF WITCHES AND WITCHMONGERS IS NOTABLIE DETECTED, IN SIXTEEN BOOKS . . . WHEREUNTO IS ADDED A TREATISE UPON THE NATURE AND SUBSTANCE OF SPIRITS AND DEVILS
[Henry Denham for] William Brome, London 1584 - A Desirable Copy of one of the Great 16th Century English Books, Ours a Remarkably Lucky Survival. 184 x 140 mm (7 1/4 x 5 1/2"). 14 p.l., 352, [4], 353-560, [16] pp. FIRST EDITION. Early (probably 17th century) black morocco, covers with gilt roll-tool border of alternating crown devices, palmettes, and fleurs-de-lys, spine gilt in diapered compartments, gilt titling, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. With decorative woodcut initials, eight woodcut charts in the text, and four full-page woodcuts of conjurers' devices. Front pastedown with engraved bookplate of Holland House. Toole Stott 618; Hall, "Old Conjuring Books," pp. 47-62; Osler 3950; Norman 1915; STC 21864. Vague wear to leather, spine gilt rather muted, but the early binding very expertly restored now, solid and quite pleasing. Title page somewhat soiled, the text trimmed close at head with occasional grazing of headlines and page numbers, light, inoffensive dampstains on about a third of the leaves, usually confined to the corner margins (see below), four gatherings with small wormhole at gutter, occasional minor smudges and other trivial imperfections, but still an excellent copy internally--especially in relative terms--of a book almost always found defective or, if complete, in woeful condition. One of the major publications from a 16th century British press, this is a rare complete copy of the earliest English skeptical attack on the belief in witches; as a by-product, it is also the first English account of the conjurer's art. Our copy is a remarkable three-fold survival in that it has escaped the order by James I to destroy all copies, has held up under the typical avid use of a work on such a fascinating topic, and (of particular interest in the present case) has emerged from the ravages of the London Blitz. A man of reason and science, Reginald Scot (1538?-99) was appalled at the frequency of witchcraft prosecutions in England, which nearly always ended with the conviction of some mad, or merely poor, old woman. His indignation, deepened by attendance at the trial of Margaret Simons in 1581, spurred him to write this treatise denouncing the belief in witches and other supernatural manifestations as against both religion and reason. He divided so-called witches into four categories: the poor and marginalized, mostly women, who were subject to the hostility of their neighbors; individuals who were mentally disturbed and deluded into believing they had supernatural powers; conjurers who used sleight of hand and other tricks to fool people into believing they had magical powers; and genuinely malevolent individuals who had indeed harmed others, but with poison rather than witchcraft. Scot compares the manifestations of witches' apparent supernatural powers to the impressive dexterity and illusion of jugglers and magicians. The four large woodcuts here depict the tools employed by such entertainers--trick knives and awls that gave the appearance of piercing one's head or tongue, and a large wooden contraption used in a beheading illusion. His comparisons are apt and convincing, and, as such, his presentation comprises the original exposition in English of the art of the conjurer. Scot's denial of the existence of demons and the supernatural was actually considered heresy by the church, and it particularly raised the ire of King James, who had written his own work on demonology, a fact that led to the order to burn Scot's book. Defenders of Scot included John Webster, among others, and one Anglican cleric later observed that the "Discoverie" was "one of the few instances in which a bold spirit opposes himself to the popular belief, and seeks to throw protection over a class of the defenceless." This copy was once in the celebrated library at Kensington's Holland House, assembled by Henry, third Lord Holland (1773-1840), where it remained until September of 1940, when the building was ravaged by German bombs. The volumes that survived the resulting fire were inva [Attributes: First Edition; Hard Cover]
      [Bookseller: Phillip J. Pirages Rare Books (ABAA)]
Last Found On: 2013-11-29           Check availability:      AbeBooks    

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