Created October 2020
This guide is designed as a helpful shortcut to many of the materials relating to witchcraft and the occult in the collections at the RBML. It is not meant to be definitive and may not always reflect the most recent acquisitions by the library.
The RBML has a significant collection of material pertaining to witchcraft, magic, and the occult. Most of the items focus on European and American experiences and range from the medieval period to modern publications. The collection is heavily tilted towards early modern publications given that our main areas of collecting include Early Modern Literature and Culture and the History of Science. In collaboration with the Social Sciences, Health, and Education Library (SSHEL), RBML also participates in the purchasing of tarot cards, runes, and other esoteric material.
Primary sources – manuscripts
Crafte of conjureynge and howe to rule the ffierye spiritts of ye planetts & make the devyle appearre. [Approx. 1590]. Shelfmark Pre-1650 MS 0102. This manuscript contains astrological tables, Rosicrucian charts and diagrams, and text describing and explicating spells.
Disputatio de malis spiritibus eorumque in corpora potestate. 1651. England. Shelfmark Post-1650 MS 0154. This manuscript describes malign spirits.
Newton, Isaac. Translation with emendations of Opus galli anonymi by Sir Isaac Newton. [1690s?]. Shelfmark: Post-1650 MS 0676 facsim. [NB. The original manuscript is currently in conservation until further notice.] Newton’s notes on an alchemical text. A digitized version of the text can be found here.
[Ostrakon magical charm]. Egypt, 500-700CE. Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Shelfmark: Pre-1650 MS 0231. A pottery shard with ink drawing and Coptic text.
Primary sources – print
The Compleat Wizzard: Being a Collection of Authentic and Entertaining Narratives of the Real Existence and Appearance of Ghosts, Demons and Spectres; Together with Several Wonderful Instances of the Effects of Witchcraft. To Which Is Prefixed, an Account of Haunted Houses, and Subjoined a Treatise on the Effects of Magic. London: T. Evans, 1770. Shelfmark X 133 C738. Tract describing a variety of supernatural incidents, with some commentary where applicable on known recipes for aphrodisiacs and elixirs.
Baker, Richard C. The History of the Lancashire Witches: Containing, the Manner of Their Becoming Such; Their Enchantments, Spells, Revels, Merry Pranks, Raising of Storms and Tempests, Riding on Winds, &c. The Entertainment and Frolicks Which Happened Among Them. With the Loves and Humours of Roger and Dorothy. Also, a Treatise of Witches in General. Conducive to Mirth and Recreation. The Like Never before Published. London?: s.n., 1785. Shelfmark 398.5 P818. A history of the Pendle witch trials much after the fact, with quasi-fictional elaborations on events.
Cooper, Thomas. The Mystery of Witch-Craft: Discouering, the Truth, Nature, Occasions, Growth and Power Therof : Together with the Detection and Punishment of the Same : as Also, the Seuerall Stratagems of Sathan, Ensnaring the Poore Soule by This Desperate Practize of Annoying the Bodie, with the Seuerall Vses Thereof to the Church of Christ : Very Necessary for the Redeeming of These Atheisticall and Secure Times. London: Printed by Nicholas Okes, 1617. Shelfmark IUA03315. Religious tract on the evils of witchcraft.
De virtutibus herbarum. Shelfmark: Incunabula 580.2 H4131499. An early herbal describing plants and their uses, drawing on knowledge mundane and folkloric.
Heywood, Thomas et al. The Late Lancashire Vvitches: a Well Received Comedy, Lately Acted at the Globe on the Banke-Side, by the Kings Majesties Actors . London: Printed by Thomas Harper for Benjamin Fisher, and are to be sold at his shop at the signe of the Talbot, without Aldersgate, 1634. Shelfmark IUA06704. A fictionalized drama of the events leading to the Pendle witch trials, with several invented episodes revolving around shape-shifting and cuckoldry.
Incipit Tractatus de virtutibus herbarum. [4 April 1520]. Shelfmark: IUA00526. Another early herbal.
Institoris, Heinrich, Jakob Sprenger, and Anton Koberger. Malleus maleficaru[m]. Nuremberg: Anthonium Koberger Nure[m]bergen[sis]. civem est impressus et ad hunc fine[m] p[ro]ductus., 1496. Shelfmark Incunabula 133.4 In7m1496. The famous “hammer of the witches” that laid the foundations for the identification and prosecution of witches.
James I, King of England. Daemonologie : in forme of a dialogve : diuided into three books. London: Printed by Arnold Hatfield for Robert VVald-graue, 1603. Shelfmark IUA07170.
Potts, Thomas et al. The Vvonderfull Discouerie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster : Vvith the Arraignement and Triall of Nineteene Notorious Witches, at the Assizes and General Gaole Deliuerie, Holden at the Castle of Lancaster, Vpon Munday, the Seuenteenth of August Last, 1612. Before Sir Iames Altham, and Sir Edward Bromley, Knights; Barons of His Maiesties Court of Exchequer: And Iustices of Assize, Oyer and Terminor, and Generall Gaole Deliuerie in the Circuit of the North Parts. Together with the Arraignement and Triall of Iennet Preston, at the Assizes Holden at the Castle of Yorke, the Seuen and Twentieth Day of Iulie Last Past, with Her Execution for the Murther of Master Lister by Witchcraft. Published and Set Forth by Commandement of His Maiesties Iustices of Assize in the North Parts . London: Printed by W. Stansby for Iohn Barnes, and are to be sold at his shop neare Holborne Conduit, 1613. Shelfmark IUA10083. Potts was the clerk of the court for the trials of the Pendle witches; this narrative reflects on the events leading up to the trials.
Two East Anglian picture books: a facsimile of the Helmingham herbal and bestiary and Bodleian MS. Ashmole 1504. Printed for presentation to the members of the Roxburghe Club. London: 1988. Shelfmark: Q. 091.0942 T93. A useful facsimile of an early herbal.
Morris, David. Fire burne & cauldron bubble: witchcraft at the dawn of modernity : summer exhibition at the Rare Book & Manuscript Library 30 May-8 August 2014. Shelfmark: IUQ04702. Brochure from the exhibit held at the RBML in 2014.
Schulke, Daniel A., and Graham. King. The Occult Reliquary: Images and Artefacts of the Richel-Eldermans Collection. Richmond Vista, Calif: Three Hands Press, 2010. Shelfmark: IUQ04576. Catalog of the 2,000 materials archived at the Museum of Witchcraft in Boscastle, Cornwall.
Witchcraft: Catalogue of the Witchcraft Collection in Cornell University Library. Millwood, N.Y: KTO Press, 1977. Shelfmark: Q. 016.1334 C81W. A catalog of the holdings held at Cornell.
Additional recommended reading
Hutton, Ronald. The Witch: A History of Fear, from Ancient Times to the Present. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017. Landmark accounting on a global scale of attitudes towards witches and witchcraft.
Williams, Liz. Miracles of Our Own Making: A History of Paganism. London: Reaktion Books, 2020. A history of paganism and British Traditional Witchcraft written for a popular audience with a critical analysis of medieval and early modern witchcraft practices and trials.