"HOW CRAFTILY AND DANGEROUSLY THE DEVILL TEMPTETH AND SEIZETH ON POORE SOULES": DAVENPORT'S THE WITCHES OF HUNTINGDON, EXCEPTIONALLY RARE 1646 FIRST EDITION, BEAUTIFULLY BOUND
(WITCHCRAFT) DAVENPORT, John. The Witches of Huntingdon, Their Examinations and Confessions; Exactly Taken by His Majesties Justices of Peace for that County. Whereby Will Appeare How Craftily and Dangerously the Devill Tempteth and Seizeth on Poore Soules. London: Printed by W. Wilson, for Richard Clutterbuck, 1646. Small quarto, early 20th-century full brown morocco, gilt-decorated spine, raised bands, all edges gilt; pp. [iv], 15, [1, blank]. Housed in a custom clamshell box. $15,000.
First edition of this very scarce collection of confessions and testimony given during the East Anglia Witch Hunt of 1644-47, during which self-appointed "Witchfinder General" Matthew Hopkins tried and hanged approximately 300 people, mostly women—more than had been executed for witchcraft in the previous 100 years. Beautifully bound in full morocco-gilt by Riviere & Son.
The 14 interviews recorded here contain both confessions of accused witches and testimony of witnesses against them, all taken down between March 31 and May 2, 1646; the Huntingdon witches were executed in May. The proceedings were recorded firsthand by John Davenport, an employee of Justice of the Peace Sir Robert Bernard, one of the magistrates who presided over the trials. It is interesting that at the end of this work, Davenport recommends "Select Cases of Conscience Touching Witches and Witchcrafts," the work of Matthew Hopkins' most vociferous opponent, John Gaule, vicar of Great Staughton, whose denunciation of Hopkins' dubious methods helped bring the witch-hunts to an end.
Self-proclaimed "Witchfinder General" Matthew Hopkins "was assisted by the Government of the Interregnum, which took witchcraft as seriously in theory and more seriously in practice than the Stuarts; and until it was forbidden he made a habit of 'swimming' witches, though he claimed that he only did so when they themselves desired it. Local authorities were very grateful to him; he throve on their thanks and payment, and so successful was he that it was reported that he had secured one of the Devil's lists of witches. He was, however not a continuous success; there grew up some feeling against him, and he was compelled to defend himself in a pamphlet" (Williams, Witchcraft, 188). Wing D368. Bookplate.
Faint dampstain to first half of text, beautifully bound. Extraordinarily rare and desirable, the only copy we have seen.