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The Discoverie of Witchcraft

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The Discoverie of Witchcraft
Title page
AuthorReginald Scot
Publication Date1584
The Discoverie of Witchcraft was a book written by Reginald Scot, a justice of the peace in Kent, England, first published in London, during 1584. Subtitled: Proving that the compacts and contracts of witches with devils and all infernal spirits or familiars, are but erroneous novelties and imaginary conceptions.

The book was an exposé of medieval witchcraft, which at the time was sweeping continental Europe and Scotland, making its way to England.

A small portion was devoted to the performance magic and was plagiarized heavily. It constituted a substantial portion (in some cases, nearly all) of the text in English-language magic books of the 17th and 18th centuries.

The Discoverie of Witchcraft was written in 16th century Elizabethan english, and is filled with archaic spelling and expressions.

Along with a well researched study on the practice of witchcraft, it also touched on astrology, alchemy, and divination. It presented logical evidences against the existence of witches.

The sections on magic follows several chapters discussing the similarities between the claims of Pharaoh's magicians, false prophets, and "our witches", and how they all use "juggling knacks" to convince others of their powers.

Scot was helped with sections dealing with magic by John Cautares, a 16th century French magician. The sections devoted to magic tricks contain many effects still seen today, but include very few actual methods. Scot emphasizes that he considered magic to be to the betterment of society and not the work of the devil.

The first edition is very rare and is perhaps the most prized of antiquarian conjuring books.


  • First edition (1584)
  • Second edition (London 1651)
  • Third edition (1665) has some extra material added to it (but probably not by Scot).
  • Brinsley Nicholson edition (1886)
  • John Rodker LIMITED EDITION (1930) with introduction by Montague Summers
  • Hugh Ross Williamson reprint (1964)
  • Dover paperback (1972) which is a reprint of 1930 edition.
  • Brinsley Nicholson edition (1973) which is a reprint of an 1886 edition. It incorporates the 1584 original edition plus two Appendices which contain the additional material added to the 1665 edition.
  • Modern English Text by Neil Alexander (1994)
  • Kaufman and Co's reproduction. In addition to the complete original text, it includes an introduction by Montage Summers detailing it's historical importance.


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