Tag Archives: witchcraft

The stars align to reveal an Old Prophet in the stacks!

It was a dark and stormy afternoon in Special Collections & Archives. I was sitting in my office, cataloguing a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore, when Lisa, our Assistant Librarian, tapped at my office door. ‘I think maybe there’s an error in the catalogue,’ she said.

When the Cardiff Rare Books collection came to Cardiff University in 2010, we’d drawn up a bare-bones inventory, knowing that it would be several years before the collection could be fully catalogued. Lisa had been looking through the collection inventory to look for uncatalogued books that might be useful for a resource guide on Witchcraft. ‘The inventory says this book was published in 1681, but the catalogue record says 1685,’ she observed as she showed me the two conflicting records.

Being a cataloguer and somewhat inclined to obsessive-compulsive behaviour, I couldn’t allow such an egregious error to remain in our records, so I went to the stacks to investigate. Stretching to reach the top-most shelf, I spotted the title in question: William Lilly’s Merlini Anglici ephemeris: or, Astrological judgments for the year 1685… with the 1681 issue, uncatalogued, sitting next to it on the shelf—both records had been correct, but incomplete! Alongside these almanacs I noticed several other volumes of William Lilly’s astrological writings. Thinking they might be useful for the resource guide, I brought the lot of them back to my office for cataloguing.

lilly-books

A selection of astrological books by William Lilly, from the Cardiff Rare Books Collection.

A contemporary of John Dee and Nicholas Culpeper, William Lilly began his life as the son of a yeoman farmer in Leicestershire. He worked for seven years as a servant in London before marrying his former master’s widow when he was just 25 years old. Now a man of leisure, he spent his time studying astrology. From 1647 to 1682, he published a series of astrological almanacs which brought him both popularity and scandal. By 1649, sales of his almanacs had reached nearly 30,000 copies and by the 1650s, they were being translated into Dutch, German, Swedish, and Danish. At he same time, however, he made many enemies by predicting on astrological grounds the downfall of the Stuart monarchy, while also criticizing both parliament and the Presbyterians.

Among the volumes I’d picked up for cataloguing was a first edition of Christian astrology modestly treated of in three books (London, 1647), Lilly’s most comprehensive work. An amalgamation of 228 earlier texts, Christian astrology contains 832 pages of instruction on reading the stars and planets and their influence on everything from the physical characteristics and likely fortunes of unborn children, to international politics. The work is significant because it was the first astrological instruction book to be published in English rather than Latin, making it accessible to a middle-class audience.

After carefully transcribing the book’s bibliographical details, I began to describe the unique attributes our particular copy: binding and marginalia. I spotted inscriptions in at least four different hands, ranging across three centuries. I deciphered and recorded them in the catalogue record as best I could, and then brought the volume over to Lisa, thinking she might find them interesting.

inscriptions-in-christian-astrology

Inscriptions, dating between the 17th and 19th centuries, on the front endpaper of William Lilly’s Christian astrology (London, 1647)

*     *     *

‘Is that the “Old Prophet’s” signature?’ I exclaimed, at which point, the lights in the office flickered. I had a sixth-sense (those of us who work with special collections often get this!) that this was the signature of the Welsh Independent Minister and author, Edmund Jones (1702-1793).

An intriguing figure in eighteenth-century Wales, he was a passionate Calvinist connected with the vicinity of Pontypool and Monmouthshire, where he regularly preached during the 1730s. Sympathetic to the growing Methodist movement, characterized by a more heartfelt, experiential form of religion, it was Jones who encouraged Howell Harris to preach in Monmouthshire for the first time in 1738.

Certainly, his diaries record a dedicated schedule where he travelled and preached extensively, delivering 104 sermons in the year 1731. Almost fifty years later, in 1778, he took a ‘tour through Monmouth [and] Wales … to Caerphilly’. Although not traditionally educated, his autobiography reveals how he was a ‘great lover of books, buying and borrowing as much as he could’. One such book it seemed, appeared to be our copy of Lilly’s Christian astrology.

edmund-jones-signature-1

Edmund Jones’ signature on the front endpaper of Christian astrology (London,  1647).

 

nlw-ms-10565b-edmund-jones-signature

Edmund Jones’ signature on A geographical, historical, and religious account of the parish of Aberystruth (Trevecka, 1779), held by the National Library of Wales.

In order to confirm my suspicions, we needed to compare this signature with some known examples of Jones’s handwriting. Fortunately, the National Library of Wales holds Jones’s diaries, saved from the final destination of being used as wrapping paper in a Pontypool shop. Thanks to the help of their Manuscript Librarian, these journals not only reveal a script eerily similar to our sample, they also include a list of books that Jones acquired …

And yes! No need to consult the stars on this one, for Lily’s Astrology is clearly recorded at the bottom of the page.

nlw-ms-7025a-2-lilys-astrology

A page from Edmund Jones’ diary for the year 1768, listing the books that Jones acquired that year. Held by the National Library of Wales (NLW MS 7025A).

So not only does Special Collections hold Edmund Jones’s personal, annotated copy of Lilly’s Astrology, but this discovery reveals Jones’s more mystical side.

Known as the ‘Old Prophet’ due to his apparent gift of prophecy and ability to foretell future events, he was also a firm believer in witchcraft and the supernatural. His interest in books was not confined to collecting, for he published a number of works, including A Relation of Apparitions of Spirits which comprised a collection of supernatural experiences and spiritual encounters designed to ‘prevent a kind of infidelity … the denial of the being of Spirits and Apparitions, which hath a tendency to irreligion’.

As the seventeenth century drew to a close, a slight change of attitude towards the beliefs in apparitions and witchcraft, is evident. Atheism now posed a greater threat than popery (Roman Catholicism), and works composed around this time were directed at countering this new danger.

Joseph Glanvill’s Sadducisimus Triumphatus, for example, provides ‘full and plain evidence concerning witches and apparitions’. To deny the existence of the spirit, he argues, ‘is quite to destroy the credit of all human testimony’. Bovet’s Pandaemonium, or the devil’s cloyster, is aimed at ‘proving the existence of witches and spirits’, for ‘there can be no apprehensions … from the attacks of the … Sadducees’. For Richard Baxter, a belief in spirits was a means to salvation since through faith in the world of spirits, the ‘saving’ knowledge of God could be obtained.

glanvill-1

Illustration detail from Glanvill’s Saducismus Triumphatus (London, 1700)

It is in this context that Jones collected Relations of Apparitions which include fairy encounters and apparitions such as corpse candles and phantom funerals. For example, a ‘Mr. E. W.’ confirmed in a letter to Jones that saw the fairies as a company of dancers in the middle of the field, while an innkeeper from Llangynwyd Fawr saw them with speckled clothes of white and red, as they tried to entice him a while he lay in bed. Another gentleman also told Jones how ‘the resemblance of a young child … and also of a big man’ appeared to him. As he looked on, ‘the child seemed to vanish into nothing’. Not long after the encounter, Jones notes, the child of the man who witnessed the apparition sickened and died, as did he not long after his daughter was buried.

The phantom funeral or Toili, could manifest itself as a mournful sound, the cyhyraeth. Noises associated with the funeral procession or service, or the dismal cries of the Cŵn Annwn (Hell Hounds), inevitably signalled death. Thomas Phillips heard the cries of these spiritual dogs prior to the death of a woman in his parish of Trelech. In Ystradgynlais, two women heard someone singing psalms. The voice was that of John Williams, who sang the psalms at a later Dissenting meeting and was indeed ‘buried’ a few days after. Faced with such great sums of truth, Jones challenges, ‘who … can deny the reality of Apparitions of Spirits?’

Indeed, and here at Special Collections we are well aware of the ghosts of owners past that we sometimes encounter amongst the aged pages of our rare books. Like Jones’s unique accounts of the supernatural experiences of ordinary Welsh men and women, these rare books occasionally reveal the spectre of a bygone reader and their occult interests. So the moral of this post is to beware! For you can never predict what you’ll find between the pages of a rare book, even one on predictions.

South, West and Wales AHRC Doctoral Training Partnerships open day

Special Collections and Archives recently attended a recruitment event for students intending to apply for a South, West and Wales AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) studentship. These grants fund PhD theses which are  supervised by two Higher Education institutions within the partnership. This consortium approach allows students to draw on the academic expertise and unique and distinctive research collections of two Universities, widening possibilities for interdisciplinary and inter-institutional collaboration and discovery.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAcademics and research support staff from all partner institutions (Aberystwyth, Bath, Bath Spa, Bristol, Cardiff, Exeter, Reading and Southampton) gathered at the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff to meet with prospective students and discuss their requirements.

Our Special Collections and Archives stand was very busy, as applicants sought information on research collections covering a broad range of subjects. We received enquiries on Anglo-Welsh writers; folklore; the history of sport; Jane Austen; Restoration drama, archaeology; literary archives; Indian history; the history of genetics; male witches; interwar women’s history; medical history; Catholicism and martyrdom; philosophy; King Arthur; superstition and the occult; Gothic serialised literature; William Caxton; and 20th century charities.

Best of luck to all applicants – we look forward to working with you!

The Drummer of Tedworth: a Halloween tale of witchcraft, demons and an extremely noisy ghost

Joseph Glanvill was an Oxford-educated philosopher and clergyman, best known for his 1681 treatise on the supernatural, Saducismus Triumphatus: or, Full and Plain Evidence Concerning Witches and Apparitions.

20131031_140617

The devil and the drum, from the frontispiece to the third edition of “Saducismus Triumphatus” (1700)

20131031_150420Among its numerous tales of 17th century ghosts, witchcraft and demons, the book includes the spooky tale of ‘The Drummer of Tedworth’, thought to be one of the earliest reports of poltergeist activity. In Glanvill’s version of the story, John Mompesson, a landowner in the town of Tedworth, brought a lawsuit for extortion against a local drummer. After he had won the suit and confiscated the drummer’s instrument, Mompesson’s house was plagued by inexplicable drumming and thumping noises, strange lights, scratching, and unpleasant smells. These disturbances continued for many months, escalating until the children’s bedsteads would shake and levitate into the air by themselves, and objects were thrown violently around the room by unseen hands.

20131031_140558

An illustration of child levitation from “Sadducismus Triumphatus”

20131031_140845Mompesson’s plight quickly gained notoriety and many people came to visit the house and witness these strange occurrences for themselves. For most of this period, the drummer had been locked up in Gloucester jail and could not have been responsible without recourse to the supernatural, so it was assumed that he must have used witchcraft to summon a mischievous spirit, or poltergeist, to haunt the landowner’s home.

In the tale of the phantom drummer, we can see the prototype for many aspects of the modern poltergeist story, from banging doors and scratching nails to levitating beds. Glanvill’s book itself was a major influence on Cotton Mather’s Wonders of the Invisible World, written in 1693 to justify the Salem witch trials.

For an in-depth study of contemporary sources for the tale, see:
Hunter, Michael (2005) New light on the ‘Drummer of Tedworth’: conflicting narratives of witchcraft in Restoration England. London: Birkbeck ePrints. Available at: http://eprints.bbk.ac.uk/archive/00000250

Resource guide for women’s history launched for International Women’s Day

brazilSpecial Collections and Archives is marking International Women’s Day 2013 with the launch of its latest resource guide on women’s history and gender studies. The guide covers sources from the 16th-21st centuries, including:

  • Bibliographies and reference works on British women’s history and writing;
  • Biographies of the lives of women;
  • Gendered children’s literature and comics;
  • Conduct, etiquette and advice manuals;
  • Broadsides and ballads relating to women as both victims and perpetrators of crime;
  • Memoirs, diaries and autobiographies of women;
  • Sources relating to women teachers, and girl’s eduction;
  • Journals, magazines and ballads on fashion and dress;
  • histmedHistorical works on women’s health and medical treatment, including the history of midwifery, gynaecology and obstetrics; the history of nursing as a profession; and reports of the Medical Officer for Cardiff, including data on maternity and child welfare;
  • A range of material relating to women’s lives around the world, including newspapers from Indian women’s organisations, Spanish Civil War sources related to women, sources relating to women in Australia, European Union and United Nations reports on women, and papers of female slavery abolitionists;
  • A wide range of women’s journals and magazines, from society pages to radical suffragette publications;
  • Literary works by women, including the papers of Ann Griffiths (poet), Joan Reeder (journalist), Maria Edgeworth (novelist), Felicia Hemans (poet), Mary Tighe (poet), and Lady Sidney Morgan (novelist). Information on female applicants to the Royal Literary Fund, and women writers published by Longmans;
  • Musical scores and archives from Morfydd Llwyn Owen (1891-1918), Grace Williams (1906-1977), and Nancy Storace (1765-1817);
  • Press cuttings from late 20th century Welsh newspapers on women’s issues;
  • girlgraduatePolitical papers from the British Labour Party and Newport Labour Party on women’s issues; papers of the Labour MPs Ellen Wilkinson and Marion Phillips; the diary of social reformer Beatrice Webb; archives of the Women’s Labour League, journals by Sylvia Pankhurst, and a range of suffragette magazines;
  • Books by and archives belonging to female travellers;
  • Papers relating to the history of female students at Cardiff University and its predecessors;
  • Sources on witchcraft and those accused of its practice (commonly women), in Europe and America;
  • Sources on women’s societies

The hammer of witches: Montague Summers and the ‘Malleus Maleficarum’ in the Cardiff Rare Books Collection

In our rare book collections we have a number of curious works by Montague Summers (1880-1948), an eccentric Catholic clergyman, occultist and authority on English Restoration drama. Summers read theology at Oxford University and worked as a teacher of English and Latin before turning to writing, producing well-received scholarly works on 17th century theatre and publishing new editions of neglected plays by William Congreve, John Dryden and others.

P1200711

After drama, Summers’ other great interest was in the occult. During his unusual career as a priest he assumed the persona of a modern-day Catholic witch-hunter and produced meticulous studies of witchcraft, vampires, and werewolves, all of which he professed to believe in. In 1928, he was responsible for the first English translation of Heinrich Kramer’s and James Sprenger’s Malleus Maleficarum (“The Hammer of Witches”), a notorious Latin treatise on witch-hunting, first published in Germany in 1487.

P1200724

The stated purpose of the original text was to educate courts on the procedures for identifying and convicting witches, to refute arguments that witchcraft does P1200725not exist and to discredit those who expressed disbelief. Assisted by the rise of the printing press, the Malleus spread throughout Europe to become a major influence on the witch crazes of the 16th and 17th centuries. As many as 30 editions of the book were published between 1487 and 1669, even though the Catholic Church condemned the Malleus as false just three years after its first appearance and even the Spanish Inquisition dismissed the work as pagan superstition.

P1200734In contrast to the scepticism of modern Catholicism, Montague Summers insisted that the reality of witchcraft is still an essential part of Catholic doctrine, and declared the Malleus Maleficarum to be an accurate account of witchcraft and the methods needed to combat it. His History of Witchcraft and Demonology (1926) begins, “In the following pages, I have endeavoured to show the witch as she really was – an evil liver: a social pest and parasite: the devotee of a loathly and obscene creed: an adept at poisoning, blackmail, and other creeping crimes.”

Summers’ own volumes on witches and vampires brought him considerable renown and critics admired the obvious depth of his learning, while not necessarily sharing his credulity. As a notable eccentric who walked the streets of London in the  sweeping robes and buckled shoes of an 18th century cleric and was an acquaintance of Aleister Crowley, a self-proclaimed witch,  Montague Summers has inspired numerous legends, both malevolent and benign, which only add to his curious character.

P1200720

P1200731

Cardiff’s copy of Covent Garden Drollery, edited and signed by Montague Summers

In the Cardiff Rare Books Collection, we hold numbered copies of both Summers’ translation of the Malleus Maleficarum and his 1930 edition of Scot’s Discoverie of Witchcraft. They all feature in our current Special Collections and Archives exhibition on Shakespeare, magic and witchcraft.

Lunchtime workshops: women’s history and gender studies

Special Collections and Archives’ series of lunchtime workshops continues in December with sessions on women’s history and gender studies sources. The workshops are intended to raise awareness of the breadth of material available to support research in this area, and as a general introduction to using Special Collections and Archives.

The second workshop on women’s history sources will be led by Assistant Archivist, Alison Harvey. Topics will include: biography; children’s literature; conduct/advice manuals; crime; diaries and autobiographies; education; fashion; health and medicine; international affairs; journals and magazines; literature and journalism; music; newspapers; politics, suffrage and the labour movement; travel; University history; witchcraft; and women’s societies.

Workshops will be held in Special Collections and Archives, on the lower ground floor of the Arts and Social Studies Library, Corbett Road, Cardiff. The women’s history workshop is scheduled for 12-1pm on Thursday 6 December, and will be repeated at 1-2pm on Friday 7 December.

Workshops are open to all, but places are limited, so if you would like to attend either session, please email HarveyAE@cf.ac.uk, stating your preferred time.

“The Discoverie of Witchcraft”: a sceptical treatise on superstition and magic in 1584

As it’s Halloween I went hunting for our copies of The discoverie of witchcraft, wherein the lewde dealing of witches and witchmongers is notablie detected, written by Reginald Scot and first published in 1584. Unlike the majority of 16th century works on the subject of witches and witchcraft, Scot’s Discoverie takes a predominantly sceptical view and reveals how the superstitious public were often fooled by charlatans and frauds.

The title page of the 1665 edition of The discovery of witchcraft

Scot believed that the prosecution and torture of those accused of witchcraft, most often the elderly or simple-minded, was un-Christian and irrational. He set out to prove that belief in magic and witchcraft could not be justified by religion or observation, and that many reported experiences of the supernatural were either wilful attempts to defraud or  illusions caused by mental disturbance.  The book includes chapters on contemporary beliefs about witchcraft, magic, alchemy, ghosts, devils and other spirits, and was a heavy influence on later works about the occult, including Shakespeare’s portrayal of witches for Macbeth.

The aspects of the planets and the characters of angels

Publication of the book caused great controversy, with many clergymen writing in defence of  their concerns about witches. Scot in fact placed most of the blame for these superstitions on the Roman Catholic Church, but King James I, an enthusiastic witch hunter, ordered all copies of the first edition of the Discoverie to be burnt. Among the sceptical minority however, Scot’s work remained authoritative. In 1593 Gabriel Harvey wrote that “Scotte’s discoovery of Witchcraft dismasketh sundry egregious impostures, and in certaine principall chapters, and speciall passages, hitteth the nayle on the head.”

Scot’s Discoverie includes one of the first studies of magic tricks and sleight-of-hand ever published, with detailed explanations of tricks still performed today

A 17th century defence of red hair

While cataloguing some of our early English books, I came across an interesting volume by one Obidiah Walker, Periamma epidemion, or, Vulgar errours in practice censured, published in 1659. The work includes a curious chapter entitled, “A censure of the epidemicall practise of reproaching red-hair’d men.”

“Each man disparageth his fellow-creature,” says Walker, “and gratifies his haughty humour in the derision of his brother. And this is often done upon such trivial grounds, that a due perpension would cause an abashment in the face of the practiser. My present instance shall be in a common yet causeless calumniation: viz. the vilifying of red-hair’d men, the putting of disesteem upon persons, merely because of the native colour of the excrement of the head.”

On reading further, I was intrigued to learn that throughout history redheads have often been singled out for persecution. During the height of the witch trials in Europe, for example, red hair was considered evidence of witchcraft. Judas Iscariot was often depicted with red hair in Renaissance art and the Spanish Inquisition even suspected that redheads had been marked by the fires of Hell itself!

Walker makes it his duty to put an end to these prejudices: “It is then manifest, that they that laugh at red hair are tickled by the Devill: that they commit a greater outrage against the head then the Scythians did, who converted into drinking-cups the skulls of their more irefull enemies.”

He offers a spirited defence of red hair, which, we are assured, is neither a disease of the body nor a sign of the Devil. He lists some famous redheads and points out that red was considered by the Spartans to be the manliest colour, while Roman women enhanced their beauty by dying their hair ginger. Walker’s final thoughts are as apt today as they were in his time: “I could wish that the minds of men were of a more serene and dovelike constitution: that what the ingenious Des Cartes abhors in Philosophy, might not take place in Morality, to wit, that men would not hoodwink themselves with their own prejudice.”