Summer 2014 Exhibition at The Rare Book & Manuscript Library
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
“Between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries, a specter was haunting Europe, the specter of witchcraft. The West was swept by the growing preoccupation of ecclesiastical and secular authorities with the threat posed by witches—that is, by people, most often women, who were believed to be practitioners of magic, working in concert with diabolical powers toward the subversion of Christian society.
This seemingly irrational obsession is well represented by printed and manuscript works held by the Rare Book & Manuscript Library. Curated by RBML Graduate Assistant David Anthony Morris, this exhibition showcases texts illustrating the rise and fall of the West’s long fascination with witchcraft and demonology.
Among the items displayed are an incunable copy of perhaps the most infamous witch hunters’ manual ever written, “The Hammer of Witches,” also, a late sixteenth-century English manuscript handbook of magic, “The Crafte of Conjureynge,” (with instructions on how to summon demons, communicate with the dead, and find lost objects,) and first editions of several major works on the subject, including Jean Bodin’s “Demon-Mania of Sorcerers” (1580) and King James’ “Daemonologie” (1597).
Also on display are contemporary accounts of the witch trials in Lancashire, England (1612) and Renfrewshire, Scotland (1697), which each resulted in the execution of several alleged witches, as well as examples from the pamphlet war that ensued during the trial of Jane Wenham, among the last Britons to be sentenced to death for witchcraft (1712).
A printed handbook accompanies the exhibition. The exhibition’s website ( http://omeka-rbml.library.illinois.edu/exhibits/show/fire-burne/intro ) includes additional images, commentary, and bibliographical content.”