Literary Witchcraft

Yesterday a class of undergraduate English students from Royal Holloway came to see some books from the Harry Price Library of Magical Literature. The class was studying various works of English literature featuring witches for a course ‘Witchcraft and Drama 1576-1642’. – for example, Macbeth; Marlowe’s Dr Faustus; Middleton’s The Witch; Jonson’s The Masque of Queenes. Books on witchcraft from the Harry Price Library put the plays into context: for example, Reginald Scot’s famous Discoverie of Witchcraft, bravely denying the existence of witches and known by Shakespeare; Sprenger and Institutoris’s chilling Malleus Maleficarum, urging their prosecution; and more ephemeral items about specific cases, such as that of Temperance Lloyd, Mary Edwards, and Susanna Trembles, three impecunious elderly women from Bideford.

Enthusiasm about our books is always pleasurable to witness. It was also salutory to realise afresh the connection between sociology and literature. In bequeathing his books to the University of London, Harry Price wanted to give his collection academic respectability, and yesterday’s visit proves that he succeeded.

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