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AN HISTORICAL ESSAY CONCERNING WITCHCRAFT
printed for R. Knaplock and D. Midwinter, London 1718 - An Extraordinarily Fine Contemporary Copy of One of the Major English Books on Witchcraft. 200 x 121 mm (7 7/8 x 4 3/4"). xv, [v], 270 pp., [1] leaf (ads). FIRST EDITION. Attractive contemporary panelled calf, covers with frames of plain and decorative blind rules, fleuron cornerpieces, spine gilt in compartments with ornate central lozenge framed by laurel branches, red morocco label, lacking (plain) rear endleaf. Front pastedown with armorial bookplate of "Rolle"; front free endpaper with armorial bookplate of William Allen Potter. Sabin 34063; Howes H-848. Gilt slightly dulled, covers with two small patches of lost patina from insect activity, two tiny chips to head of spine, but AN OUTSTANDING CONTEMPORARY COPY, the binding tight and the leather lustrous, and THE TEXT AS FRESH, BRIGHT, AND CLEAN AS THE DAY THE BOOK WAS ISSUED. This is a sensational copy of the first edition of the work credited with ending the witch delusion in England. Anglican cleric Francis Hutchinson (1660-1739) graduated from Cambridge and by 1692 was Curate at Saint James, in Bury Saint Edmunds, the site of witch trials in 1645 and 1662. His book, which includes valuable historical details collected from personal interviews with survivors and witnesses, discredits several famous witch trials (including those in Salem, Massachusetts) with calm, rational skepticism. His study brought to light political motivations behind many trials, gave examples of fraud, and emphasized the number of trials that hinged on the testimony of children as well as the number of untoward incidents that could be reasonably explained without recourse to witchcraft. He demonstrated the invalidity of confession, and how application of rules of evidence would necessarily invalidate many verdicts. Wallace Notestein, author of "A History of Witchcraft in England from 1558 to 1718," chose the year this work was published as his cut-off date because "Hutchinson levelled a final and deadly blow at the dying superstition. Few men of intelligence dared after that [date to] avow any belief in the reality of witchcraft; it is probable that very few even secretly cherished such a belief." Our copy was once owned by John, Baron Rolle (1751-1842) and is in the superb condition for which works from that library are known; in 35 years of bookselling, we have never owned a cleaner, fresher copy of any book from the period. [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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