AN HISTORICAL ESSAY CONCERNING WITCHCRAFT.

(London: Printed for R. Knaplock and D. Midwinter, 1720). 203 x 127 mm. (8 x 5"). 16 p.l., 336 pp., with the half title and the ad leaf. Second Edition.

Contemporary sprinkled calf, covers with double gilt-ruled frame, raised bands, spine attractively gilt in compartments with foliate cornerpieces and elegant central floral ornament, gilt foliate sprays at head and tail of spine (the backstrip apparently laid on an earlier spine, but the replacement done at an early date and without any structural repair). Woodcut headpieces and initials. Front endpapers with engraved armorial bookplates of Strickland Freeman (Fawley Court, Buckinghamshire, 1810) and G. de Clifton Parmiter. Lowndes II, 1150. Corners, edges, and joints a bit rubbed (cracking to head of lower joint and about half of upper joint, but boards securely attached), slight insect damage to two compartments of the spine, but the binding solid and pleasantly mellowed. Leaves faintly browned around the edges, a few other trivial imperfections, but excellent internally, the text especially fresh, clean, and smooth.

First printed in 1718, this work is credited with ending the witch delusion in England. Anglican cleric Francis Hutchinson (1660-1739) graduated from Cambridge and by 1692 was Curate at St. James, in Bury St. Edmunds, the site of witch trials in 1645 and 1662. His book, which includes valuable historical details collected from personal interviews with survivors and witnesses, discredits several famous witch trials (including those in Salem, Massachusetts) with calm, rational skepticism. His study brought to light political motivations behind many trials, gave examples of fraud, and emphasized the number of trials that hinged on the testimony of children as well as the number of untoward incidents that could be reasonably explained without recourse to witchcraft. He demonstrated the invalidity of confession, and how application of rules of evidence would necessarily overrule many verdicts. Wallace Notestein, author of "A History of Witchcraft in England from 1558 to 1718," chose the year this work was published as his cut-off date because "Hutchinson levelled a final and deadly blow at the dying superstition. Few men of intelligence dared after that [date to] avow any belief in the reality of witchcraft."
(ST15557-36)

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