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Occultism and Demonology

R. Baxter. The Certainty of the Worlds of Spirits, 1691

The Vail Collection includes many items concerned with witchcraft, demonology, occultism, and magic. Dering’s reason for collecting books on such subjects isn’t quite clear. It could be connected to his apparent interest in spiritualism. The books may have been sent by book dealers who felt they were related, however tangentially, to animal magnetism, another of Dering’s collecting areas. Or they may simply have been among the eclectic interests of this fascinating gentleman, inventor, and collector.

Coniuratio Malignorum Spirituum, 1486

The earliest printed work in the Vail Collection is actually an incunable (printed in 1486) on the topics of demonology and exorcism, titled Coniuratio Malignorum Spirituum. Another early work, Magica de Spectris et Apparitionibus Spiritum, features an image of a witch at her cauldron, which has since become stereotypical witch iconography. The Reverend Samuel Parris made use of George Baxter’s The Certainty of the Worlds of Spirits during the infamous Salem Witch Trials. The Vail Collection copy of this book is notable for its pen facsimile title page.

F. Barrett. The Magus, or, Celestial Intelligencer, 1801

The Vail Collection also includes more modern publications on these topics. Francis Barrett’s 1801 The Magus, or, Celestial Intelligencer (1801) is a modern grimoire, largely adapted from Agrippa’s occult writings. It features beautifully colored images of terrifying demons. Another nineteenth-century work that gathered together earlier occult sources is the Zauber-Bibliothek (1821-1826) by Georg Conrad Horst, covering a wide range of topics from magic to the folklore of vampires.

G.C. Horst. Zauber-Bibliothek, 1821




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