Letters on Demonology & Witchcraft by Sir Walter Scott [1830]

Photo Credit: MFLibra Books

These days, I do a lot of “window shopping” online, mostly. It’s fun to just peruse online auctions, storefronts, local marketplaces and good old Craigslist. There’s not a lot of books left that I really need to own… but that doesn’t always stop me! Occasionally, I’ll come across something too rare or unique (or just too weird) to not share with you. This book is beautifully bound and it is a first edition from 1830. It has a hefty price tag, but worth it if you’re a collector of such things.

1830 1stED bound by The Morrell Bindery – Letters on Demonology & Witchcraft color illustrated by Cruikshank.

MFLibra’s Cataloging info on this title follows:


Author: Scott, Sir Walter. (George Cruikshank, illustrator).
Title: Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft Addressed to J.G. Lockhart, Esq.
Publisher: London: John Murray, Albemarle Street, 1830. First Edition.
Language: Text in English.
Size: 6 ” X 4 “.
Pages: ix-402 pages.
Binding: Attractive, beautiful, and very good full brown calf leather binding finely bound by the Morrell Bindery (hinges tight, hinges and top and lower part of spine professionally restored – as shown, overall slightly scuffed and worn – as shown) under a protective removable mylar cover in a very nice custom made cloth wallet inserted in a custom slipcase with gilt title, author and date on a leather label. A beautiful First Edition.
Content: Very good content (bright, tight and clean, rare light foxing – as shown). Top edge gilt.
Illustrations: Beautifully illustrated with the frontispiece of the Bow in Edinburgh by Lizars after J. Skene and the wonderful scarce complete 12 engraved colored plates by George Cruikshank.

The book: Very attractively bound and protected, first edition with the scarce complete 12 engraved colored plates by George Cruikshank of Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft in a beautiful and attractive binding. — In ill health following a stroke, Sir Walter Scott wrote Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft at the behest of his son-in-law, J. G. Lockhart, who worked for a publishing firm. Letters was written when educated society believed itself in enlightened times due to advances in modern science. Letters, however, revealed that all social classes still held beliefs in ghosts, witches, warlocks, fairies, elves, diabolism, the occult, and even werewolves. Sourcing from prior sixteenth- and seventeenth-century treatises on demonology along with contemporary accounts from England, Europe, and North America (Cotton Mather’s Magnalia Christi, for one), Scott’s discourses on the psychological, religious, physical, and preternatural explanations for these beliefs are essential reading for acolytes of the dark and macabre; the letters dealing with witch hunts, trials (Letters Eight and Nine), and torture are morbidly compelling. Scott was neither fully pro-rational modernity nor totally anti-superstitious past, as his skepticism of one of the “new” sciences (skullology, as he calls it) is made clear in a private letter to a friend. Thus, Letters is both a personal and intellectual examination of conflicting belief systems, when popular science began to challenge superstition in earnest.

The author: Sir Walter Scott, 1st Baronet FRSE (15 August 1771 – 21 September 1832) was a Scottish historical novelist, poet, playwright and historian. Many of his works remain classics of both English-language literature and of Scottish literature. Famous titles include Ivanhoe, Rob Roy, Old Mortality, The Lady of the Lake, Waverley, The Heart of Midlothian and The Bride of Lammermoor.

The illustrator: George Cruikshank (27 September 1792 – 1 February 1878) was a British caricaturist and book illustrator, praised as the “modern Hogarth” during his life. His book illustrations for his friend Charles Dickens, and many other authors, reached an international audience.

The binder: The bookbinding firm Morrell was originally founded by W.T. Morrell in 1861 when he acquired the workshop of Charles Lewis at 17 Frith Street, Soho, London. Morrell’s son W.J. Morrell took over the management in 1887 after his father’s death, and subsequently brought his brother John Morrell into partnership. In 1891 an observer noted that W.J. & J. Morrell, at that time employing 50 people, preferred to bind all their work by hand and the gilding and the marbling of both paper and leathers was also done onsite. A specialty for which they were known were bindings in the Roger Payne style, although this firm was also known for their own creative designs.

There are a lot more photos on their site, including the color illustrations, you really must see them!

What kind of treasures have you added to your collection or library lately? Leave a comment below, I would love to hear all about it!

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