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THE DISPLAYING OF SUPPOSED WITCHCRAFT
Printed by J[onas] M[oore], London 1677 - Supposed Witchcraft from Frogs in the Stomach, a Presentation Copy with a Poem in Webster's Hand. 349 x 235 mm (13 3/4 x 9 1/4"). 8 p.l., 346 pp, [2] leaves. FIRST EDITION. Pleasing period dark brown armorial calf recently rebacked to style with tan calf, covers with gilt frame featuring intricate floral cornerpieces, upper cover with central medallion containing a family crest, surrounded by the inscription "Richard Samuel White Esqr. / Perseverando"; raised bands, black morocco label. With woodcut headpiece. A Large Paper Copy. Front pastedown stamped with a blank shield over a laurel garland, front free endpaper with signature of Charles Marsden (son of the dedicatee Henry Marsden) mounted on recto, and WITH THE AUTHOR'S SIGNED PRESENTATION POEM mounted on verso (see below); front flyleaf with ownership inscription of Rich[ard] Sam[uel] White, with his notation that the book was purchased at auction in December of 1798 for 5 shillings. Wing W-1230; Lowndes IV, 2864. Corners quite worn, covers somewhat dried, marked, and crackled, but the binding solidly restored now and entirely functional. Endpapers a bit soiled and wrinkled, occasional minor smudges, stains, insignificant tears, and other trivial defects, but an excellent copy internally, consistently fresh, mostly bright and clean, with gigantic margins, and with thick leaves that crackle when you turn them. This work--a denunciation of those who attribute the symptoms of bewitchment to demons or other supernatural causes--is valuable and fascinating to begin with, and the present volume could hardly be more special, having been owned by one of the five dedicatees, Henry Marsden (ca. 1625-88), of Gisburn, Yorkshire, and with a signed 49-word presentation poem to him in the author's own hand. The extended title tells us that in this work Webster "utterly denie[s] and disprove[s] . . . that there is a corporeal league made betwixt the devil and the witch, or that he sucks on the witches body, has carnal copulation, or that witches are turned into cats [or] dogs, [or that they] raise tempests or the like." Other topics under discussion in this volume include "the existence of angels and spirits, the truth of apparitions, the nature of astral and sidereal spirits, the force of charms and philters, [and] other abstruse matter." Although he attacks Casaubon, Glanvill, and Henry More for the credulity displayed in their works on witchcraft, Webster (1610-82) shows himself in this work to be a wonderful mixture of the enlightened and the gullible. His chief argument here is that the works and signs so often attributed to bewitchment actually stem from natural, not diabolical or demonic, causes. But when he undertakes to explain himself by averring that witch-like actions could well be caused by the presence of frogs in the stomach (they get there when one eats an apple with frog eggs in it), his hypotheses seem nearly as unlikely as those put forward by the "demonographers and witchmongers" he denounces. However far Webster falls short of thoroughgoing enlightenment, his attack on those who believe in witchcraft has genuine power and, in general, a sound intellectual foundation. This copy is especially significant in that it obviously was meant for presentation, being one of the very few recorded on Large Paper and containing a presentation poem in Webster's own hand (apparently rescued from the detached original endpaper and mounted on the new one) that he has signed. It reads: "Right worthy friend this piece to you I send / Peruse it well & read it to the end / And though nor law, nor gold therein you find / Treasure and greater that inrich the mind / And though small pleasure therein you may take / Accept it kindly for the Authors sake. / J. W." Beneath it, written in the hand of Charles Marsden, is an acceptance couplet: "Experience from this Learned piece I take / And love to read it, for ye Authors sake.". [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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