SCOT, Reginald (c.1538-1599)
SCOT, Reginald (c.1538-1599)
SCOT, Reginald (c.1538-1599)
SCOT, Reginald (c.1538-1599)
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SCOT, Reginald (c.1538-1599)

The discoverie of witchcraft, Wherein the lewde dealings of witches and witchmongers is notablie detected. London: [Henry Denham for] William Brome, 1584.

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SCOT, Reginald (c.1538-1599)
The discoverie of witchcraft, Wherein the lewde dealings of witches and witchmongers is notablie detected. London: [Henry Denham for] William Brome, 1584.
First edition of a remarkable 16th-century treatise debunking the existence of witches. In demonstrating that belief in witchcraft and magic had no rational or religious basis, Scot lists 212 authors of Latin works and 23 authors in English who have informed his attack on ‘witchmongers’ who seek ‘to pursue the poore, to accuse the simple, and to kill the innocent.’ He instead suggests non-magical reasons for magical phenomena and apparent witchcraft, including psychological and sociological causes. For example, Scot argues that the guilt felt by those who deny charity to poor women may lead them to accuse these women of witchcraft.

James VI of Scotland referred scathingly to Scot in his Daemonologie (1597) as ‘an Englishman, who is not ashamed in publike print to denie that ther can be such a thing as Witch-craft’; according to Norman, after coming to the English throne he ordered all copies to be burnt. It is widely believed that Shakespeare was familiar with this work – the witches of Macbeth, the mock trial of King Lear, and magical elements in A Midsummer Night’s Dream are all thought to derive in part from Scot. Apart from witchcraft, it has great relevance to the history of conjuring, books 13 and 14 being largely an exposé of ancient conjuring tricks, magical illusions and various cozening devices. Bartlett 230; Graesse p. 58; Norman 1915; STC 21864.

Quarto (195 x 133mm). Black letter, with some Roman and italic. Title-page with woodcut head-piece, woodcut illustrations including 4 full-page cuts on *1-2, large floral and historiated initials and other woodcut ornaments (title slightly dusty and repaired at head with some loss to ornament, repairs to margins of a few leaves with no loss to text, occasional light spotting, a few margins with tiny wormholes, repaired tears within text in E3 and H2-3 without loss, lightly washed). Early-19th-century brown crushed morocco, covers gilt-stamped with arms of the Society of Writers to the Signet within panel triple-ruled in gilt with corner flourishes, spine gilt with five raised bands, all edges gilt (lightly rubbed). Provenance: Society of Writers to the Signet (binding) – Bloomsbury Auctions, London, September 22, 2011, lot 331.
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