Exhibit Explores Witchcraft Craze

Fire Burne & Cauldron Bubble: Witchcraft at the Dawn of Modernity , a new exhibition in the Rare Book & Manuscript Library curated by Graduate Assistant David Anthony Morris, presents 21 items from the 15 to the 18th centuries, chronicling the rise and fall of the witch hunt in late-medieval/early-modern Europe.

Feared for their sorcery and devil worship, witches were the embodiment of all that Christian society reviled. Across Europe, authorities executed tens of thousands of people who were allegedly part of this vast satanic conspiracy. Several cultural trends from the Middle Ages—including hostility to magic and institutionalized persecution of heretics—coalesced in a theory of witchcraft that became the locus of profound societal anxieties. These apprehensions climaxed during the Reformation, as Catholic and Protestant communities alike strove for identity through the turmoil of the period.

A parallel web exhibition is available at http://go.library.illinois.edu/fireburne .

“I am deeply grateful to my colleagues at the Rare Book & Manuscript Library and to the conservators, digitization specialists, and printers, who together made this exhibition possible, both on-site and online,” Morris said.

Among the largest repositories of early printed books in the country, the Rare Book & Manuscript Library is home to a rich collection that chronicles the European witch hunt—which still perplexes and captivates people centuries later.

Fire Burne & Cauldron Bubble: Witchcraft at the Dawn of Modernity runs through August 8, 2014. Morris, a Ph.D. candidate in medieval history at the University of Notre Dame, is available to give scheduled tours to individuals or groups this summer. For more information, visit www.library.illinois.edu/rbx .

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