Click on the tiles below to find excerpts from Reginald Scot’s 1584 The Discouerie of Witchcraft featuring an epistle dedicated to Sir Roger Manwood. Discouerie is a skeptical treatise about the existence of witchcraft. Scot shows himself to be knowledgeable about the myths and stories told about witches and demonic creatures through his narrative examples. He also provides illustrated examples of witchcraft symbols and summoning circles that suggest he is well versed in then-current witchlore, despite disavowing its supernatural power: “the fables of witchcraft have taken so fast hold and deep root in the heart of man, that few or none can (nowadays) with patience indure the hand and correction of God” (C.j.r). Scot makes it clear that witchcraft is a fable and that people’s belief in it undermines their faith in God; therefore (per Scot) belief in witchcraft is illogical and un-Christian. Of Scot’s reception in early modern England, S.F. Davies explains that many were “happy to condemn Scot with one hand, while with the other borrowing from his voluminous compendium of source material on witchcraft and magic” (384). See below for full citation.

This semi-diplomatic edition of Reginald Scot’s The Diſcouerie of Witchcraft, is published on TAPAS (TEI Archiving, Publishing, and Access Service) site. The first three epistles were transcribed and encoded by the Framingham State University students in Kristen Abbott Bennett’s Fall 2021 Introduction to Digital Humanities (Honors) course. Gwendolyn Carpenter and Caroline M. Hawkes additionally transcribed and encoded chapters two and three. Kelsey Rhodes (FSU 2023) acted as Assistant Editor of the project from Fall 2021 to Spring 2022.

Reginald Scot. The diſcouerie of witchcraft, vvherein the lewde dealing of witches and witchmongers is notablie detected, the knauerie of coniurors, the impietie of inchantors, the follie of soothsaiers, the impudent falshood of cousenors, the infidelitie of atheists, the pestilent practises of pythonists, the curiositie of figurecasters, the vanitie of dreamers, the beggerlie art of alcumystrie, the abhomination of idolatrie, the horrible art of poisoning, the vertue and power of naturall magike, and all the conueiances of legierdemaine and iuggling are deciphered: and many other things opened, which have long lien hidden, howbeit verie necessarie to be knowne. Heerevnto is added a treatise vpon the nature and substance of spirits and diuels, &c: all latelie written by Reginald Scot Esquire. London, Printed by Henry Denham for William Brome, 1584, STC 21864. Transcribed from facsimile edition in EEBO; original in British Library.

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Reginald Scot, The Discouerie of Witchcraft (1584)