Wednesday 31 October 2012

A full and plain evidence concerning witches

As it's Hallowe'en it's time for something a bit witchy and where better to start than the 'evidence' presented by Joseph Glanvill in his popular work of 1681 Sadducismus Triumphatus: or A full and plain Evidence concerning Witches and Apparitions. The six images shown here were engraved for the frontispiece by William Faithorne and represent well-known cases of witchcraft assembled by Glanvill to support his view that witches were aligned with supernatural powers of magic.

Keen readers will recall the drumming rooftop devil - better known as the Drummer of Tedworth:

The Somersetshire witch Julian Cox: 

 The levitation of Richard Jones, of Shepton Mallet:

Margaret Jackson, the Scottish witch devoting herself to the demon:

 The celestial apparition at Amsterdam:

...and at the head of the post, the rendezvous of witches near Trister Gate, Wincanton.

Glanvill attacked those who were sceptical about witches and likened them to the Sadducees, members of a Jewish sect from around the time of Jesus who were said to have denied the immortality of the soul. His book was said to have influenced Cotton Mather and the subsequent witch trials held 1692-3 in Salem, Massachusetts. But other writers, such as John Webster of Clitheroe, were more sceptical, claiming that Glanvill's literal account of the existence of witches could not be supported either from the Bible or from reason.

Whilst the Tedworth drummer is perhaps the most interesting case, being a celebrated early account of a poltergeist, some of the others are also notable - not least the levitation of Richard Jones, a twelve-year-old boy who was allegedly bewitched by an old woman named Jane Brooks and was seen to rise above the ground and pass over the garden wall for thirty yards before falling down at a house apparently dead. Sadly, this was witnessed by only one woman but later nine people claimed to have seen Jones hanging by a beam by the flat of his hands. Some three centuries after Jones, a certain superhero by the name of Spiderman regularly performed the same feat.

Chetham's copy of Glanvill's Sadducismus is the fourth edition, printed in London in 1726.

Friday 26 October 2012

Brains not beauty

This week's treasure is no great beauty, but is of huge significance to the study of history and the birth of social science. Thomas Percival's Enumeration of the houses and inhabitants in the town and parish of Manchester in three volumes was produced by himself and historian John Whitaker in 1773/4, one of the first uses of statistics in the study of the history of a town.

Read more on the website...

Wednesday 24 October 2012

The Bondage of Pleasure

We have recently acquired The Bondage of Pleasure: Reminiscences of social life in Lancashire, Yorkshire and North Wales, a small pamphlet published in Manchester in 1910. The author, a clergyman going by the name of 'Amos', takes it upon himself to expose what he calls the 'ever-increasing mania for the sensual',  a task necessitating personal investigation of a vast number of drinking establishments in the north west of England, 'witnessing scenes of the most revolting character'.

The attention paid by Amos to every kind of depravity is extraordinary, obviously requiring an enormous sacrifice on his part. As he observes, 'our drinking saloons and places of amusement are crowded on week-days and Sundays; our churches practically deserted'. With characteristic fortitude and disregard for his own personal comfort, Amos sets out to discover the source of such distraction from religious duty: 'I determined to visit personally, and by personal observation ascertain where, when, and how, the people spend their time and money … I visited Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Blackpool, Scarborough and Llandudno on week days and Sundays … the sights we witnessed … were a revelation of shame and horror'.

Amos takes a systematic approach to his investigations. Taking each city individually, he visits a representative sample of taverns, drinking saloons and houses of resort, as well as mingling with merrymakers on the crowded streets. Listing each of these individually, he describes the horrors therein:

'I have no words to describe the scene which presented itself', he announces (taking up half a page in the attempt)

'it was a scene of debauchery unparalleled anywhere'

'By this time we had got somewhat accustomed to dreadful sights and sounds, but this house surpassed all we had seen. I can only describe it as a hell'

'The sight was such it is impossible to give an adequate description of the excitement, drinking and the general revolting behaviour. The place swarmed with women'.

In his summing up, the author regretfully concludes that these atrocities are by no means the sole domain of the working classes, the people coming from 'well furnished homes' in which, he judges, 'there is no parental control to-day'. He reserves particular judgement for the entertainment on offer: 'what a mischievous influence on the young are the Sunday concerts and animated picture shows'. Over the course of a hundred years then, perhaps not much has changed: nightclubs, cheap booze and the X Factor being our modern equivalent.

Monday 22 October 2012

Tudor marginalia

An extraordinarily beautiful series of decorated annotations has been revealed in the Library copy of George Buchanan's Rerum Scoticarum historia, published in Edinburgh in 1582.

The annotations were made by the sixteenth-century music copyist Robert Dow, a most interesting character who is chiefly remembered for his collection of five partbooks for voices and viols which remain one of the most important - and beautifully written - sources of Tudor music, particularly that of the composer William Byrd. 

Dow (1553-1588) was the eldest of five sons born to Lettice Bull and Robert Dowe, a merchant and philanthropist. He went up to Corpus Christi College, Oxford and later to All Souls to study civil law. He also gave lessons in penmanship to, amongst others, the Elizabethan statesman and poet Robert Sidney, 1st Earl of Leicester. Dow's notes on Buchanan's Rerum Scoticarum show a strong interest in the legendary past of both Scotland and England as represented in the works of Geoffrey of Monmouth.

Little is known about Dow's short life, and he died intestate in 1588, leaving a library of over 300 volumes, including the music partbooks. The comments he wrote in these suggest a thoughtful and sensitive individual with a deep love of music: 'music moves the very trees and savage beasts', 'wine and music gladden our heart'. In an elegy written to the composer Robert Parsons he noted: 'you who were so great in the springtime of life, how great you would have been in the autumn, had not death intervened'. The same, perhaps, could be said of Robert Dow himself.

Friday 19 October 2012

The drum solo from Hell...

Just as you think the guitar is going to come back in, you realise that actually it's going on for an eternity...

Engraving by William Faithorne from Sadducismus Triumphatus: or A full and plain Evidence concerning Witches and Apparitions by Joseph Glanvill, 1726.

Happy weekend everyone!

Fashion forward

It's common knowledge that here at the Library we're at the cutting edge of high fashion, so obviously we're delighted to be featured in the Manchester volume of the new Louis Vuitton City Guides to European Cities, available now... if you can afford it.

Paradise Lost

New on the 101 Treasures page today, a look at two of the Library's copies of Milton's Paradise Lost, including a beautifully bound 1770 edition by the Foulis Press in Glasgow, featuring this elegant miniature portrait of the great man himself. Read more on the website...

Tuesday 16 October 2012

In the Labyrinth

Librarian Michael Powell is giving a talk tonight at 8pm to the John Dee of Mortlake Society entitled 'In the Labyrinth: John Dee in Manchester'. Dee's time as warden of the college could at perhaps at best be described as 'mixed': he was beset with financial worry, could not agree with the fellows of the Collegiate Church, and he lost his wife and several of his children to the plague. You can read more on our 101 Treasures 'John Dee Special', or if you are in south London why not go along and hear Michael talk? Details on the Society website.

Monday 15 October 2012

The ways of mad folk

A browse through William Asheton Tonge's bound set of The East Lancashire Review led to the discovery of a magnificently un-PC article entitled 'The Ways of Mad Folk', written by 'An Ex-Warder of Prestwich Asylum'.

The author recounts:

"I've been a keeper for many years and I reckon I've learned something of East Lancashire Lunatics. Of course there's no difficulty about the most of 'em. They think they're the Prince of Wales or a blue glass bottle, breakable, and wanting great care, or some such rubbish of the sort. Of course they want watching to keep 'em from quarrelling or running away, but they don't give us much real trouble, only, perhaps, in keeping 'em clean."

But that's not the end of it:

"Then there's another sort, just the opposite, regular wild beasts, who want to damage or kill themselves or anyone else, and yell and roar and upset everybody."

Or, perhaps worse:

"A man may think he's Noah come to life again, after being a kangaroo and an elephant in the meantime, or that he hears and talks to his great grandmother, who was dust years ago."

Sobering stuff indeed, although in the author's defence he seems to have run a kindly ship and the 'mad 'uns' appear to have been cared for in a friendly spirit.

Prestwich Asylum (later Prestwich Hospital) was built as a result of the 1845 Lunatics Act at Prestwich Woods, chosen for its 'general air of salubrity'. It was intended to house five hundred lunatics, or the 'morally depraved', as they were then known.

The image is from Salford University's School of Media, Music and Performance blog.

Friday 12 October 2012

An Account of the Foxglove

This week we take a closer look at William Withering's seminal work on digitalis, the first to properly study its use in the treatment of heart disease. Withering himself was a fascinating and scholarly character, a member of the famous Lunar Club in Birmingham along with others such as Josiah Wedgewood, James Watt and Erasmus Darwin.

Read more on the website.

Friday 5 October 2012

Donne over

This week's website treasure is our first edition of the poetry of John Donne. Although incomplete, it's a significant work, not least because of a piece of additional verse written on the last page by an unknown contributor...

Find out more on our 101 Treasures page this week.