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. 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 “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 and communicate with the dead) along with 17th century accounts of witch trials, pamphlets and broadsides.
(Picture: The Rare Book & Manuscript Library, University of Illinois)