The scarce first London edition of the most famous contemporary account of the Salem Witch Trials.
THE WONDERS OF THE INVISIBLE WORLD : Being an Account of the Tryals of Several Witches Lately Excuted [sic] in New-England
"That there is a Devil, is a thing Doubted by none but such as are under the Influences of the Devil."
Before the Salem Witch Trials, Cotton Mather had already established himself as a leading voice in the investigation of witchcraft within the New England Puritan community; contemporaries like Robert Calef argued that Mather's 1689 book MEMORABLE PROVIDENCES "conduced much to the kindling of those Flames" of the Trials (MORE WONDERS OF THE INVISIBLE WORLD, 152). Indeed, Mather's description of the Trials reads as a defense of his own religious views, and of the larger Puritan society. He frames their community struggles into an epic narrative of Good vs. Evil, in which the Puritans are uniquely suited to triumph. It is this high-stakes combination of the righteously justified with the unjustifiable that makes Mather's account so perversely compelling: "like a criminal who protests his innocence, the more he scribbled, the more he disclosed" (Miller 201). In the process of attempting to reconcile the moral, religious, and scientific contradictions of the event, Mather created a powerful story of colonial New England exceptionalism — a narrative that would become part of the developing culture of the modern United States.
The story of the Salem Witch Trials has remained evocative over centuries in part thanks to its capacity for symbolic interpretation, from the McCarthy-era retelling THE CRUCIBLE to feminist arguments that "Vulnerable women pay the price for circumstances that are often beyond their control" (THE WASHINGTON POST, "What the Salem witches can teach us about how we treat women today," 2018). Mather's work, the most widely published and discussed contemporary account of the Trials, is exceptionally scarce on the market in its earliest imprints: the last copy at auction of the Boston first edition, published approximately two months before this edition, appeared in 1987; this edition has been seen only three times at auction in over 20 years. It is the only 17th-century edition that published the full account for English readers, and it provides a touchstone, then and now, for the complex and contradictory spirit of the United States.
Read more: Wing, Short-title catalogue of books, M1175; Holmes, Cotton Mather: A Bibliography of His Works; Rosenthal, Salem Story; Miller, The New England Mind: from colony to province; Connie Hassett-Walker, "What the Salem witches can teach us about how we treat women today," The Washington Post, 10 June 2018.
London: John Dunton, 1693. Full title: The Wonders of the Invisible World: Being an account of the tryals of several vvitches, lately excuted [sic] in New-England: and of several remarkable curiosities therein occurring. Quarto, 8'' x 5.5''. 20th century full red goatskin elegantly stamped in blind with gilt-stamped cornerpieces, raised bands, gilt-lettered spine. Marbled endpapers, gilt dentelles. Bound without half title. 2 pages of publisher's ads at rear. , -16, -16, 33-80, 41-56, 89-98,  pages (text continuous). Modern bookplate on front pastedown. Careful paper repairs to gutter of title page, affecting "New" of title; text block trimmed close, with a number of running titles shaved. Paper somewhat browned and brittle at edges. Binding bright with only minor rubbing.
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