Description

    A Sceptic Disproves Witchcraft and Inadvertently Writes One of the First English Books on Conjuring

    Reginald Scot [Scott]. The Discovery of Witchcraft: Proving, That the Compacts and Contracts of Witches with Devils and all Infernal Spirits or Familiars, are but Erroneous Novelties and Imaginary Conceptions... London: For A[ndrew] Clark, and are to be sold at Mrs. Cotes's, 1665. Third edition. Folio. ¹1, a-b4, B-Z, 2A-2B6, 2C-2D4; 3A-3F6, 3G2. Lacks ¹1 half-title (reported by Toole-Stott but lacking from all copies we can find). [18], 95, [60], 97-138, [136], 140-219, [221], 221-254, [256-257], 257-292, [14], 72, [2] pages. Nineteenth century marbled boards rebacked in leather with titling label, marbled endpapers; corners rubbed; bookplate of Thomas Walford, Junior; repaired tear in lower margin of title-page, small tear in 3C1. Some minor foxing. Still, a very good copy. From the Krown & Spellman Collection.
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    Reginald Scot (Scott), (d. 1599), writer on witchcraft. The Discoverie of Witchcraft, his most important work, was published without licence in 1584 and reprinted in 1651, 1654, and 1665... Scott's objective was to refute the Démonomanie of Jean Bodin (1580) and to go well beyond the arguments of the most radical author on witchcraft known to him, Johann Weyer, whose De praestigiis daemonum (1566) had been attacked by Bodin. Scott made a number of remarkable claims. He maintained that there were no witches in contemporary England and that all those executed for witchcraft were innocent: "he had tried to find anyone who would offer instruction in witchcraft without success. He asserted that none of the terms used in the Bible which had been translated as 'witch' had that meaning in the original languages, thereby undermining the claim that there was a biblical sanction for the execution of witches, and he is thus a significant figure in the history of biblical criticism. According to Scott, witchcraft was an impossible crime, because words could not work upon the world. His arguments thus implied a radical separation between mind and matter. He contended that where curses or spells were followed by unpleasant events the link between the two was entirely coincidental. Scott went beyond a systematic attack on the intellectual foundations of the belief in witchcraft because he described witch accusations in England as resulting out of a particular type of social encounter: old women begging for food or other assistance would curse their neighbours when they were turned away empty handed; if something bad then happened - the death of a child, perhaps - the old woman would be taken to be a witch. Witchcraft accusations in England thus arose in the context of disagreements over expectations and obligations relating to charitable giving. This sociological account was persuasive to contemporaries and has been adopted by modern historians. As far as Scott was concerned, those who confessed to being witches were either deluded or the victims of torture, while much of what Bodin had taken to be evidence for the existence of witchcraft in different eras and diverse cultures Scott was prepared to dismiss as mere fable and fiction. His book was a remarkable triumph of erudition for an obscure country gentleman with little formal education: he listed 212 Latin and 23 English authors on whom he drew. He had clearly taken an interest in contemporary English trials, but there is no evidence to support the suggestion that he was a JP, beyond the fact that he claimed the title of esquire. Scott bolstered his study of witchcraft with attacks on other forms of credulity and superstition, under which heading he included Catholicism and astrology. He dismissed alchemy as a type of confidence trick. He reproduced from a manuscript detailed procedures for conjuring up demons, presumably with the idea that his readers could demonstrate for themselves that such techniques were ineffective. And he set out to show how easy it was to confuse an observer. To this end he dedicated book 13 to the first significant account of how to perform conjuring tricks. The book, with some revisions, was republished as The Art of Juggling (1612; repr. 1614) by S. R., which was itself absorbed into Hocus Pocus Junior (1634); this had numerous editions in the seventeenth century (one calling itself the thirteenth edition appeared in 1697) and was the basis of later manuals on legerdemain which continued to appear into the twentieth century.

    The Discoverie ended with a 'Discourse on devils and spirits' (which is unfortunately omitted from some modern reprints; the 1665 edition contains a spurious second discourse). Although this discourse avoided a full-frontal attack on orthodoxy, it appears from it that Scott was not a Trinitarian and did not believe that the account of the fall in the book of Genesis referred to a historical event. He seems to have held that the idea of good and evil spirits was simply a metaphor for internal promptings towards good and evil experienced by the individual and that the individual could overcome evil and become truly good. The discourse was incompatible with orthodox protestant Christianity, which stressed predestination, and it, together with Scott's association with Abraham Fleming (who worked with him on the Discoverie and published a familist prayer book in 1581), suggests that he may well have been a member of the Family of Love. Familists are known to have denied the reality of the devil. Thomas Basson, publisher of the Dutch translation of the Discoverie, published familist works. Yet Scott obviously believed he could call on the protection of leading figures in the kingdom: as well as to Sir Thomas Scott, the Discoverie is dedicated to Sir Roger Manwood, chief baron of the exchequer, to John Coldwell, dean of Rochester (afterwards bishop of Salisbury), and to William Redman, archdeacon of Canterbury (afterwards bishop of Norwich). Scott was very widely read in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries - Gabriel Harvey and Thomas Nashe refer to him, and William Shakespeare and Thomas Middleton were evidently familiar with the Discoverie. He was attacked at length by James VI of Scotland in his Daemonology (1597) and referred to by almost all the Tudor and early Stuart authors on witchcraft (Henry Holland in 1590, George Gifford in 1593, John Deacon and John Walker in 1601, William Perkins in 1608, John Cotta in 1616, and Richard Bernard in 1627). Thomas Ady's Candle in the Dark (1655) and John Webster's Displaying of Supposed Witchcraft (1677) were the first works to defend Scott's uncompromising scepticism directly, and he was still an indispensable reference point for Francis Hutchinson in his Historical Essay Concerning Witchcraft (1718). Scott also had a significant influence on Samuel Harsnett, later archbishop of York, and, through him, on two important witchcraft cases, in which the supposed victims were Mary Glover (1602) and Anne Gunter (1604). Both cases encouraged scepticism regarding claims of bewitchment. Ady thus seems justified in his claim that Scott made 'great impressions on the magistracy and clergy' (DNB). It is often asserted that James ordered that all copies of the Discoverie be burnt when he came to the English throne, but there is no contemporary evidence to support this story, which first appeared in 1659." (Oxford DNB).

    Wing S945A. ESTC r20054. Coumont S38.5. Toole-Stott, Conjuring, 620 "The second issue of the Third Edition (this one) is undoubtedly the scarcest of all the issues of this work." Cornell, Witchcraft, 497-498. Krivatsy/NLM 10735. Wellcome V, 71. Kernot 1664.

    Scot [Scott], Reginald. The Discovery of Witchcraft: Proving, That the Compacts and Contracts of Witches with Devils and all Infernal Spirits or Familiars, are but Erroneous Novelties and Imaginary Conceptions. Also discovering, How far their Power extendeth in Killing, Tormenting, Consuming, or Curing the bodies of Men, Women, Children, or Animals, by Charms, Philtres, Periapts, Pentacles, Curses, and Conjurations. Wherein Likewise The Unchristian Practices and inhumane Dealings of Searchers and Witch-tryers upon Aged, Melancholly, and Superstitious people, in extorting Confessions by Terrors and Tortures, and in devising false Marks and Symptoms, are notably Detected. And the Knavery of Juglers, Conjurers, Charmers, Soothsayers, Figure-Casters, Dreamers, Alchymists, and Philterers; with many other things thst have long lain hidden, fully Opened and Deciphered. All With Are ver necessary to be known for the undeceiving of Judges, Justices, and Jurors, before they pass Sentence upon Poor, Miserable and Ignorant People; who are frequently Arraigned, Condemned, and Executed for Witches and Wizzards... Whereunto is added An excellent Discourse of the Nature and Substance Of Devils and Spirits, In Two Books: The First by the aforesaid Author: The Second now added in this Third Edition, as Succedaneous to the former, and conducing to the compleating of the Whole Work: With Nine Chapters at the beginning of the Fifteenth Book of the Discovery. London: For A[ndrew] Clark, and are to be sold at Mris. Cotes's, 1665. Folio. ¹1,a-b4, B-Z, 2A-2B6, 2C-2D4;3A-3F6, 3G2. Lacks ¹1 half-title [reported by Toole-Stott but lacking from all copies we can find]. [18],95, [60], 97-138, [136], 140-219, [221], 221-254, [256-257], 257-292,[14],72,[2]p. 19th c. marbled boards rebacked in leather with titling label, corners rubbed; marbled endpapers; bookplate of Thomas Walford, Junior; repaired tear in lower margin of t.p., small tear in 3C1; minor foxing. Scott [Scot], Reginald (d. 1599), writer on witchcraft.
    ÒThe Discoverie of Witchcraft, his most important work, was published without licence in 1584 and reprinted in 1651, 1654, and 1665... Scott's objective was to refute the DŽmonomanie of Jean Bodin (1580) and to go well beyond the arguments of the most radical author on witchcraft known to him, Johann Weyer, whose De praestigiis daemonum (1566) had been attacked by Bodin. Scott made a number of remarkable claims. He maintained that there were no witches in contemporary England and that all those executed for witchcraft were innocentÑhe had tried to find anyone who would offer instruction in witchcraft without success. He asserted that none of the terms used in the Bible which had been translated as ÔwitchÕ had that meaning in the original languages, thereby undermining the claim that there was a biblical sanction for the execution of witches, and he is thus a significant figure in the history of biblical criticism. According to Scott, witchcraft was an impossible crime, because words could not work upon the world. His arguments thus implied a radical separation between mind and matter. He contended that where curses or spells were followed by unpleasant events the link between the two was entirely coincidental.

    Scott went beyond a systematic attack on the intellectual foundations of the belief in witchcraft because he described witch accusations in England as resulting out of a particular type of social encounter: old women begging for food or other assistance would curse their neighbours when they were turned away empty handed; if something bad then happenedÑthe death of a child, perhapsÑthe old woman would be taken to be a witch. Witchcraft accusations in England thus arose in the context of disagreements over expectations and obligations relating to charitable giving. This sociological account was persuasive to contemporaries and has been adopted by modern historians. As far as Scott was concerned, those who confessed to being witches were either deluded or the victims of torture, while much of what Bodin had taken to be evidence for the existence of witchcraft in different eras and diverse cultures Scott was prepared to dismiss as mere fable and fiction. His book was a remarkable triumph of erudition for an obscure country gentleman with little formal education: he listed 212 Latin and 23 English authors on whom he drew. He had clearly taken an interest in contemporary English trials, but there is no evidence to support the suggestion that he was a JP, beyond the fact that he claimed the title of esquire.

    Scott bolstered his study of witchcraft with attacks on other forms of credulity and superstition, under which heading he included Catholicism and astrology. He dismissed alchemy as a type of confidence trick. He reproduced from a manuscript detailed procedures for conjuring up demons, presumably with the idea that his readers could demonstrate for themselves that such techniques were ineffective. And he set out to show how easy it was to confuse an observer. To this end he dedicated book 13 to the first significant account of how to perform conjuring tricks. The book, with some revisions, was republished as The Art of Juggling (1612; repr. 1614) by S. R., which was itself absorbed into Hocus Pocus Junior (1634); this had numerous editions in the seventeenth century (one calling itself the thirteenth edition appeared in 1697) and was the basis of later manuals on legerdemain which continued to appear into the twentieth century.

    The Discoverie ended with a ÔDiscourse on devils and spiritsÕ (which is unfortunately omitted from some modern reprints; the 1665 edition contains a spurious second discourse). Although this discourse avoided a full-frontal attack on orthodoxy, it appears from it that Scott was not a Trinitarian and did not believe that the account of the fall in the book of Genesis referred to a historical event. He seems to have held that the idea of good and evil spirits was simply a metaphor for internal promptings towards good and evil experienced by the individual and that the individual could overcome evil and become truly good. The discourse was incompatible with orthodox protestant Christianity, which stressed predestination, and it, together with Scott's association with Abraham Fleming (who worked with him on the Discoverie and published a familist prayer book in 1581), suggests that he may well have been a member of the Family of Love. Familists are known to have denied the reality of the devil. Thomas Basson, publisher of the Dutch translation of the Discoverie, published familist works. Yet Scott obviously believed he could call on the protection of leading figures in the kingdom: as well as to Sir Thomas Scott, the Discoverie is dedicated to Sir Roger Manwood, chief baron of the exchequer, to John Coldwell, dean of Rochester (afterwards bishop of Salisbury), and to William Redman, archdeacon of Canterbury (afterwards bishop of Norwich).

    Scott was very widely read in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuriesÑGabriel Harvey and Thomas Nashe refer to him, and William Shakespeare and Thomas Middleton were evidently familiar with the Discoverie. He was attacked at length by James VI of Scotland in his Daemonology (1597) and referred to by almost all the Tudor and early Stuart authors on witchcraft (Henry Holland in 1590, George Gifford in 1593, John Deacon and John Walker in 1601, William Perkins in 1608, John Cotta in 1616, and Richard Bernard in 1627). Thomas Ady's Candle in the Dark (1655) and John Webster's Displaying of Supposed Witchcraft (1677) were the first works to defend Scott's uncompromising scepticism directly, and he was still an indispensable reference point for Francis Hutchinson in his Historical Essay Concerning Witchcraft (1718). Scott also had a significant influence on Samuel Harsnett, later archbishop of York, and, through him, on two important witchcraft cases, in which the supposed victims were Mary Glover (1602) and Anne Gunter (1604). Both cases encouraged scepticism regarding claims of bewitchment. Ady thus seems justified in his claim that Scott made Ôgreat impressions on the magistracy and clergyÕ (DNB). It is often asserted that James ordered that all copies of the Discoverie be burnt when he came to the English throne, but there is no contemporary evidence to support this story, which first appeared in 1659.Ó [Oxford DNB] Wing S945A. ESTC r20054. Coumont S38.5. Toole-Stott, Conjuring, 620 "The second issue of the Third Edition (this one) is undoubtedly the scarcest of all the issues of this work.". Cornell, Witchcraft, 497/8. Krivatsy/NLM 10735. Wellcome V, 71. Kernot 1664. Occult. Witchcraft. Demonology. Magic. Sleight-of-hand. Prestidigitation. Fraud. Psychology. Law. Juggling. tricks. Hysteria.



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