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· Witchcraft,Montague Summers,New York Public Library,George Fraser Black,Fine Book Collecting

First of all, a note – this is my 150th Saturday Book Musing.

And as we move into the spooky month of October, I have a witchcraft treat for you.

In November 1999, Glenda and I went on a Thanksgiving excursion. We were living in Maryland at the time, so this was the American November Thanksgiving weekend. We drove down into Virginia and West Virginia, and the mountainous terrain was spectacular. We went into Lexington, Virginia where there was a nice little bookstore called The Bookery. Wandering through the bookshelves, I noticed a small handwritten sign “Witchcraft” and I bought all the books in the section – maybe four or five. I would imagine that the sign came down after we left.

Here is one of the books that I acquired.

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The Geography of Witchcraft; by Montague Summers; Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co. Ltd., London, 1927

Here is what Wikipedia has to say about the author:

"Augustus Montague Summers (1880 – 1948) was an English author, clergyman, and teacher. He was employed as a teacher of English and Latin while independently pursuing scholarly work on the English drama of the 17th century. The latter earned him election to the Royal Society of Literature in 1916.

"Noted for his eccentric personality and interests, Summers became a well-known figure in London society as a result of the publication of his History of Witchcraft and Demonology in 1926. That work was followed by other studies on witchcraft, vampires, and werewolves, in all of which he professed to believe. Summers also produced a modern English translation, published in 1929, of the 15th-century witch hunter's manual, the Malleus Maleficarum. (This just may be the subject of a later musing in October.) He has been characterized "arguably the most seminal twentieth century purveyor of pop culture occultism."

"Summers' interest in Satanism appears to have derived in part from his reading of the works of the French writer Joris-Karl Huysmans, particularly the novel Là-bas (1891), which includes an account of a Black Mass. Summers himself later claimed in private conversation to have attended Black Masses in Bruges, Brighton, and London. There are also testimonies from former associates, including the poet J. Redwood Anderson, suggesting that Summers may even have conducted such ceremonies himself.

'In 1926, his work on The History of Witchcraft and Demonology appeared as part of the series
on "History of Civilization" published by Kegan Paul and edited by C. K. Ogden. In the introduction to that book, Summers wrote:

"In the following pages I have endeavoured to show the witch as she really was – an evil liver: a social pest and parasite: the devotee of a loathly and obscene creed: an adept at poisoning, blackmail, and other creeping crimes: a member of a powerful secret organisation inimical to Church and State: a blasphemer in word and deed, swaying the villagers by terror and superstition: a charlatan and a quack sometimes: a bawd: an abortionist: the dark counsellor of lewd court ladies and adulterous gallants: a minister to vice and inconceivable corruption, battening upon the filth and foulest passions of the age."

"The book sold well and attracted considerable attention in the press. That success made
Summers "something of a social celebrity" and allowed him to give up teaching and write full time. In 1927 a companion volume, The Geography of Witchcraft, also appeared in Ogden's "History of Civilization" series (this book).

"The popular novelist Dennis Wheatley relates that he was introduced to Summers by the journalist and politician Tom Driberg while Wheatley was researching occultism for his novel The Devil Rides Out (1934). A weekend visit by Wheatley and his wife to Summers' home in Alresford was cut short by the Wheatleys, who determined "never to see the, perhaps not so Reverend, gentleman again". Summers and Wheatley continued to correspond on friendly terms, but Wheatley reportedly based the character of the evil Canon Copely-Syle, in his novel To the Devil – a Daughter (1953), on Montague Summers."

This book has several interesting illustrations:

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And now for the “special sauce” that I often refer to when addressing collections of books. This book has a full page letter from Summers, pasted just inside the front cover.

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The letter accompanied the book as it was forwarded to The New York Public Library. In the letter he thanks the library for forwarding a copy of G. F. Black’s Bibliography of Lycanthropy. Certainly, a book of interest to Montague Summers.

Here is what Wikipedia has to say about Mr. Black:

"George Fraser Black (1865 – 1948) was a Scottish-born American librarian, historian and linguist. He worked at the New York Public Library for more than three decades, and he was the author of several books about Scottish culture and anthroponymy, Romani people and witchcraft.

"Black collected books about witchcraft, some of which were later acquired by Fairleigh Dickinson University, followed by Drew University. Among them is a copy of Malleus Maleficarum, co-authored by Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger.

He obviously collected books that were destined for the New York Public Library, as you can see from his rather unusual bookplate, pasted inside Summer’s book:

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And he has the audacity to put a curse in Latin upon anyone who may purloin his book. To the

Happy October