From the Archives
July 10, 2019
by Jennifer Martinez Wormser '95
Denison Library’s Ida Rust Macpherson Collection contains books, manuscripts, images, and other materials by and about women. Included among the Macpherson Collection’s notable holdings, ranging from suffrage to domesticity to women’s education, is a small number of books related to witchcraft. Inextricably tied to the history and social conditions of women, these publications offer today’s students a glimpse into yesterday’s point of view on a magical and controversial subject.
Denison Library’s limited-edition 1930 reprint copy of Reginald Scot’s 1584 The Discouerie of Witchcraft, considered to be the first published work by an English author on witchcraft, explores the good and harmful aspects of magic and alchemy. The illustration accompanies text outlining the steps to “enclose a spirit in a christall stone . . . to fulfill thy will for ever.”
Charles Wentworth Upham, a Unitarian minister from Salem, Massachusetts, published Lectures on Witchcraftin 1831, which became a foundational work for scholarship on the 1692 Salem trials, at which 19 people were hanged. The playwright Arthur Miller acknowledged using Upham’s later two-volume 1867 study, Salem Witchcraft: With an Account of Salem Village and a History of Opinions on Witchcraft and Kindred Spirits, as a source for his 1953 Tony Award–winning play The Crucible.