A list of non-occult books mentioned by Lovecraftian authors.
- 1 Fanciful Anthropology
- 2 Cultural Studies of Witchcraft and Superstition
- 3 Bestiaries
- 4 Books on Martian Life
- 5 Cryptography
- 6 Occult Skepticism
- 7 Books Bound in Human Flesh
Magic Jewels and Charms
The Magic Jewels and Charms by George Frederick Kunz (1915, English)
Intended as an illustrated reference work on the magical properties of gemstones and the folklore of precious stones for jewelers, collectors, and hobbyists, quoting heavily from magical, Biblical, historic, literary, and other sources, though without attribution. Described as a "Comprehensive compendium of fascinating facts and myths explores the interwoven aspects of jewels, gems, stones, superstitions, and astrological lore. A wealth of abundantly illustrated material on meteorites and stones with magical, electrical and healing powers, on stones credited with conferring special powers on the wearer, the religious use of various stones and amulets, and more."
Aradia: Or The Gospel Of Witches
Aradia: Or The Gospel Of Witches by Charles Godfrey Leland (1899, English)
Purportedly the last remains of an ancient Roman witchcraft religion form the basis of "Aradia". Though the authenticity of "Aradia" has always been questioned, it has undoubtedly helped form the basis for neo-Pagan religion today.
A Report from the Kingdom of Congo
Relatione del reame del Congo, or A Report of the Kingdom of Congo, and the Surrounding Countries, Drawn Out of the Writings and Discourses of the Portuguese, Duarte Lopez, (1591 in Spanish; 1597 in English, ? in French, and 1598 in German) by Filippo Pigafetta
Translated to English by Abraham Hartwell as A report of the kingdome of Congo, a region of Africa : And of the countries that border rounde about the same. 1. Wherein is also shewed, that the two zones torrida & frigida, are not onely habitable, but inhabited, and very temperate, contrary to the opinion of the old philosophers. 2. That the blacke colour which is in the skinnes of the Ethiopians and Negroes &c. proceedeth not from the sunne. 3. And that the Riuer Nilus springeth not out of the mountains of the Moone, as hath been heretofore beleeued: together with the true cause of the rising and increasing thereof. 4. Besides the description of diuers plants, fishes and beastes, that are found in those countries. Drawen out of the writinges and discourses of Odoardo Lopez a Portingall, by Philippo Pigafetta, 1597.
Inspiration for the pictures and book described in H.P. Lovecraft's "The Picture in the House (Fiction)":
The first object of my curiosity was a book of medium size lying upon the table and presenting such an antediluvian aspect that I marvelled at beholding it outside a museum or library. It was bound in leather with metal fittings, and was in an excellent state of preservation; being altogether an unusual sort of volume to encounter in an abode so lowly. When I opened it to the title page my wonder grew even greater, for it proved to be nothing less rare than Pigafetta’s account of the Congo region, written in Latin from the notes of the sailor Lopez and printed at Frankfort in 1598. I had often heard of this work, with its curious illustrations by the brothers De Bry, hence for a moment forgot my uneasiness in my desire to turn the pages before me. The engravings were indeed interesting, drawn wholly from imagination and careless descriptions, and represented negroes with white skins and Caucasian features; nor would I soon have closed the book had not an exceedingly trivial circumstance upset my tired nerves and revived my sensation of disquiet. What annoyed me was merely the persistent way in which the volume tended to fall open of itself at Plate XII, which represented in gruesome detail a butcher’s shop of the cannibal Anziques.
- H.P.Lovecraft, "The Picture in the House"
The book and its illustrations purport to describe the tribes of the African Congo, in exaggerated or fanciful detail, with special lurid detail payed to the supposed cannibal diet of the Anzique tribe, as depicted by the Anzique's unfriendly neighbors:
They have shambles for human flesh, as we have of animals, even eating the enemies they have killed in battle, and selling their slaves if they can get a good price for them; if not, they give them to the butcher, who cuts them in pieces, and then sells them to be roasted or boiled. It is a remarkable fact in the history of this people, that any who are tired of life, or wish to prove themselves brave and courageous, esteem it great honour to expose themselves to death by an act which shall show their contempt for life. Thus they offer themselves for slaughter, and as the faithful vassals of princes, wishing to do them service, not only give themselves to be eaten, but their slaves also, when fattened, are killed and eaten. It is true many nations eat human flesh, as in the East Indies, Brazil, and elsewhere, but to devour the flesh of their own enemies, friends, subjects, and even relations, is a thing without example, except amongst the Anzichi tribes.
- Philippo Pigafetta
The text of this rare volume is apparently short (said to be 60 pages of text), with much of this "medium sized" volume consisting of De Bry's woodcut illustrations. The woodcut illustrations were executed by the brothers De Bry, who had never been to Africa or South America and based their fanciful illustrations on vague, confused, or equally fanciful descriptions given to them second-hand. Lovecraft describes the German 1598 version as medium-sized and bound in leather with metal fittings. Some versions of this book have been described as "over a foot long". (source)
Qanoon-e-Islam or, the Customs of the Moosulmans of India (1830s)
A book describing the culture and rituals of Indian Muslims in the nineteenth century, mentioned in The Case of Charles Dexter Ward: "A fine volume of the forbidden Necronomicon conspicuously labelled as the Qanoon-e-Islam."
The Discoverie of Witchcraft
The Discoverie of Witchcraft (published in English by Reginald Scot in 1584)
Intended as an exposé of medieval witchcraft. It contains a small section intended to show how the public was fooled by charlatans, which is considered the first published material on magic. Scot believed that the prosecution of those accused of witchcraft was irrational and un-Christian, and he held the Roman Church responsible.
His volume became an exhaustive encyclopædia of contemporary beliefs about witchcraft, spirits, alchemy, magic, and legerdemain, as well as attracting widespread attention to his scepticism on witchcraft. The chapter on magic tricks constituted a substantial portion (in some cases, nearly all) of the text in English-language stage magic books of the 17th and 18th centuries.
Scot did adopt contemporary superstition, in his references to medicine and astrology. He believed in the medicinal value of the unicorn's horn, and thought that precious stones owed their origin to the influence of the heavenly bodies. The book also narrates stories of strange phenomena in the context of religious convictions. The devil is related with such stories and his ability to absorb people's souls. The book also gives stories of magicians with supernatural powers performing in front of courts of kings.
The Golden Bough
Frazer's The Golden Bough: A Study in Comparative Religion or The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion (1890)
In English. A wide-ranging, comparative study of mythology and religion, written by the Scottish anthropologist Sir James George Frazer (1854–1941). It was first published in two volumes in 1890; in three volumes in 1900; the third edition, published 1906–15, comprised twelve volumes. The work was aimed at a wide literate audience raised on tales as told in such publications as Thomas Bulfinch's The Age of Fable, or Stories of Gods and Heroes (1855).
Frazer offered a modernist approach to discussing religion, treating it dispassionately as a cultural phenomenon rather than from a theological perspective. The influence of The Golden Bough on contemporary European literature and thought was substantial.
The Witch-Cult in Western Europe
The Witch-Cult in Western Europe by Margaret Murray (1921)
In English. Describes the theory known as the witch-cult hypothesis, described in further detail in The God fo the Witches, which suggests that the things told about witches in Europe were in fact based on a real, ancient, existing, secret, pan-European pagan religion that worshiped a horned god, which was influential on the witchcraft revival of the 20th Century, introducing many of the ideas that would be incorporated into witchcraft as a modern religion. Murray suggested that the secrets of this religion were originally handed down by oral tradition among a hidden human race of "little people" who were constantly driven deeper into the wildernesses by the encroachment of civilization.
The God of the Witches
The God of the Witches Margaret Murray (1931)
In English. Continues describing the theory known as the witch-cult hypothesis first put forward in The Witch-Cult in Western Europe, which suggests that the things told about witches in Europe were in fact based on a real, ancient, existing, secret, pan-European pagan religion that worshiped a horned god, which was influential on the witchcraft revival of the 20th Century, introducing many of the ideas that would be incorporated into witchcraft as a modern religion. Murray suggested that the secrets of this religion were originally handed down by oral tradition among a hidden human race of "little people" who were constantly driven deeper into the wildernesses by the encroachment of civilization.
Cultural Studies of Witchcraft and Superstition
Der Aberglaube Des Mittelalters
Der Aberglaube Des Mittelalters, AKA Der Aberglaube Des Mittelalters. Ein Beitrag Zur Kulturgeschichte, Der Auberglaube Des Mittelalters. Ein Beitrag Sur Culturgeschichte, The Superstition of the Middle Ages. A Contribution to Cultural History by Heinrich Bruno Schindler (1858, German)
A review of superstition and occultism from the Middle Ages, and the contributions of superstition to cultural history.
Witchcraft, Magic and Alchemy
Witchcraft, Magic and Alchemy by Emile Angelo Grillot De Givry (1870, French; 1931, English)
From raising the dead and foretelling the future to possession, curses, Kabbalah, alchemy, and more, this historical tour of the occult offers a captivating exploration of sorcery and ceremonial magic. Prepared by a noted French historian, it ventures into virtually all of the classical arts, with 375 high-quality black-and-white illustrations derived from paintings, illuminated manuscripts, sculpture, and architecture, as well as a vast body of literature that includes many rare and beautiful manuscripts from private collections.
Naturalis Historia, or The Natural History (Pliny the Elder, Latin, 79 AD)
It is one of the largest single works to have survived from the Roman Empire to the modern day and purports to cover all ancient knowledge. The work's subject area is thus not limited to what is today understood by natural history; Pliny himself defines his scope as "the natural world, or life".
The work is divided into 37 books, organized into ten volumes. These cover topics including astronomy, mathematics, geography, ethnography, anthropology, human physiology, zoology, botany, agriculture, horticulture, pharmacology, mining, mineralogy, sculpture, painting, and precious stones.
The Natural History became a model for later encyclopedias and scholarly works as a result of its breadth of subject matter, its referencing of original authors, and its index.
Omnium Fere Gentium
Omnium fere gentium nostraeque aetatis nationum, habitus et effigies, et in eosdem epigrammata (Almost All the Nations of Our Age; Their Conditions and Images; and Described in Poems), by Jacobus Sluperius, Latin, 1572 Antwerp
The book contains 135 woodcuts of various men and women of different exotic nationalities in carefully-detailed traditional priestly attire, with poems about each of them. Curiously, among them are a few monstrous peoples, including a "Sea Monk" and "Bishop-Fish", a hideous cyclops, and hair-covered wild-men.
Physiologus, Greek, Anonymous, 200-300(?) A.D.; translations in Latin, Ethiopic and Syriac date to 700 A.D.
Consists of descriptions of animals, birds, and fantastic creatures, sometimes stones and plants, provided with moral content. Each animal is described, and an anecdote follows, from which the moral and symbolic qualities of the animal are derived. Manuscripts are often, but not always, given illustrations, often lavish. It retained its influence over ideas of the "meaning" of animals in Europe for over a thousand years. It was a predecessor of bestiaries (books of beasts). Medieval poetical literature is full of allusions that can be traced to the Physiologus tradition; the text also exerted great influence on the symbolism of medieval ecclesiastical art: symbols like those of the phoenix rising from its ashes and the pelican feeding her young with her own blood are still well-known.
Books on Martian Life
Mars (Percival Lowell, published by Macmillan Co. in Toronto Canada, English, 1895)
The first of three books Lowell wrote on Mars, this book focuses on attempts to interpret observations made by Earthly astronomers about mysterious features on Mars, spending most of the time painting a geological and climatic picture of mars as a planet, and ending with a brief examination of the observation of "canals", and their implications for life on Mars.
This book attempts to describe features Lowell believed he could see on Mars, including Seas, "Canals" that Lowell believed to be too regular and predictable to be natural, forests or fields of vegetation that seemed to be irrigated by the canals, flourishing in some seasons and residing in others, and oases of life in lifeless deserts.
Lowell believed Mars to be a very ancient world, far older than Earth, and with a far longer history in which civilization rose up earlier, reached its zenith, and then declined into decadence as Mars died from drying seas and thinning atmosphere.
Lowell in his conclusion to the book speculates on the nature of intelligent life on Mars, deducing that lower gravity would mean that beings on Mars would be much bigger than their counterparts on Earth who could do at a minimum three times as much work on Mars as on Earth with just as much effort, and potentially over 80 times as much work; judging from the marvels of engineering that the apparent canals suggested, Martians must have been - and might still be - incredibly intelligent beings as well, perhaps with technology far in advance of our own.
Lowell also deduced that the rise of Man on Earth to intelligence was likely accidental, and that there is nothing to guarantee that whatever rose to intelligence on Mars would in any way resemble human beings - perhaps just as easily intelligent beings on Earth might have been amphibians or reptiles, and more likely on Mars descended from some order of life that mankind has never seen. And so in closing, Lowell suggests that explorers to Mars prepare themselves for such a thing, so that they might some day meet their perhaps frighteningly alien Martian counterparts with courage, wisdom, and grace befitting the unprecedented meeting of two races of intelligent beings.
Mars and Its Canals
Mars and Its Canals (Percival Lowell, published by Macmillan Co. in Toronto Canada, English, 1906)
Following on his conclusions from his previous book, Lowell continues his speculations on Mars, with a focus on the Martian canals and the vegetation he previously believed to be oceans, and their implications on the current state of Mars as a habitable world.
Lowell expands on his previous book on Mars by describing Martian polar regions, seasons, and weather, and what Earth might look like to Martians. Lowell believes that Mars is largely flat with few mountains, colder and drier than Earth, but with similar weather, chemistry, and seasons, and still capable of supporting life analogous to Earthly life, though not necessarily in familiar forms. The climate of Mars is, Lowell observes, one of extremes.
Lowell also speculates on the nature of Martian plant life: regions alternating by season between a blue-green-grey and chocolate brown, are better accounted for by vegetation than by seas, as speculated in the previous book. With that revelation, Lowell concludes that the state of decay suffered by Mars is far different than previously believed, and Mars must be further along in the planetary evolution that Lowell believed dooms all worlds: to begin as a world covered in oceans, which in time dry up and disappear, leaving behind a dry, dead, barren landscape. The Canals, previously thought to merely irrigate Martian crops, must instead be a desperate, last-ditch attempt to distribute that last of the water from a dying Mars to parched and hopeless Martian cities and drying Martian fields and crops, and the remnants of Mars' wild vegetation and wildlife clinging to the drying, muddy pits that once were Mars' ocean deeps against the encroaching deserts.
Lowell considers terrestrial desert life in the Sahara to observations on "ochre" regions of Mars, believed to be deserts, which change hue seasonally from ochre to sometimes brick red, concluding that these regions must be populated by poor desert plants struggling at the edge of survival.
Lowell spends about half of the book elaborating on his observations of apparent canals, describing the presence of countless new canals and "double canals" of what seem to be parallel trenches dug across the Martian surface, and the connection of some canals to what appeared to be ports or inlets/outlets for the Canals at larger bodies of water.
Lowell then returns to the subject of Martian life, deducing that the presence of Martian vegetation, canals, and ports all provide tantalizing hints at higher forms of Martian life, including intelligent life, though evidence of animal life would be far harder to detect than plant life, except for feats of engineering on the scale of the Canals. Lowell then meditates on the nature of life and civilization, again speculating on what Earth and the works of man must look like to an observer from Mars, and ponders upon how life and civilization mark the worlds that host them, reasoning that geometry, straight lines, regularity, and other seemingly simple patters and forms arise as a natural result of agriculture and civilization, and on a large enough scale can imply the presence of civilized, intelligent life.
In conclusion, Lowell speculates on the nature of intelligent life on Mars: they must, he believes, be an incredibly advanced and intelligent civilization, and one which has evolved beyond war to allow the kind of cooperation that a project of the vast scale represented by the Canals must imply. The civilization must be heavily motivated to cooperate with each other to achieve such a vast and difficult undertaking, and the connection to water implies that water must be precious and important enough to this civilization to provide that motivation. Lowell suggests that, based on observations of Earthly life in conditions that might be similar to those he believes to exist on Mars, life on Mars might depend heavily on seasonal temperatures warm enough to encourage and support reproduction, and reasons that hibernation in colder seasons might be a necessity as a result. Long Martian seasons might, Lowell infers, lead to long childhoods, encouraging intelligent life, and thus making Mars an environment that, even if harsh, might also be potentially friendly to the development of intelligent life.
Mars as the Abode of Life
Mars as the Abode of Life (Percival Lowell, published by Macmillan Co. in Toronto Canada, English, 1908)
Expanding even further upon the observations and conclusions of his first two books, the primary focus of this book is upon the evolution and nature of life on Mars, and the geological and cosmological evolution of Mars as a planet, and its implications for Earth as Mars' younger sister.
Lowell speculates on the birth, history, and evolution of Mars, as a likely result of a catastrophic origin by collision of meteorites, and also upon the possible evolution of Martian life. Ultimately, Lowell follows what he believes to be the normal evolution of a world: from a youthful world covered in oceans, to a dead world of evaporated seas and waterless deserts; a fate which Lowell believes faces Earth some day as well, such that a glimpse into the present of Mars can hint at the future of Earth.
Lowell revisits the climate, weather, and other conditions that he believes must exist on Mars, including less obvious subjects such as the boiling point of water on Mars.
Ultimately and perhaps ironically, Mars as the Abode of Life is the most apocalyptic of Lowell's three books, painting a picture of worlds as the doomed products of celestial violence, places which enjoy a wealth of water in their battered youth, but which in time lose their reserves of water, drying into dead, icy, barren wastelands. Mars, Lowell concludes, must be in the twilight of its life span, and Earth must be following close in Mars' footsteps toward planetary death, with our world eventually to lose its oceans and air and warmth as well. The humans of Earth, currently warring savages who cannot cooperate for long on anything, would have much to learn from the mighty feats of engineering, organization, leadership, and cooperation which the Martians appear to have used to stave off the impending doom of their ancient civilization just a bit longer by constructing the canals needed to distribute much-needed water to the parched deserts which would once have been seas, fields, and forests.
Ultimately, Lowell's books would prove highly influential over science fiction by painting a picture of dying alien worlds peopled by cold, hardened, jealous beings thirsty for the water, warmth, life, wealth, and youth of Earth, and prepared to invade our world to take what they desire by force and colonization, paving the way for science fiction writers like H.G. Wells to take the next logical steps in creating the first alien invasion stories, which would prove to be one of Science Fiction's most fertile subgenres for the century following the publication of Lowell's books, and beyond.
Trithemius’ Poligraphia, Polygraphiae, or Polygraphiae libri sex - Clavis polygraphiae by Abbott Johannes Trithemius (1518)
The first printed book on cryptography. The codes that Trithemius invented and described in this book, notably the "Ave Maria" cipher, which takes up the bulk of the work (each word representing a letter, with consecutive tables making it possible to so arrange a code that it will read as a prayer), and the "square table", a sophisticated system of coding using multiple alphabets, were used for centuries. The remarkable title page is composed of a 7 woodcut blocks, showing the author presenting his book, and a bearded monk presenting a pair of keys, to the Emperor Maximilian. This block is within historiated woodcut borders of scholars holding emblems of science, arms of Maximilian and three other armorial shields at corners, and a reclining portrait of Trithemius himself at bottom.
One of various books on codes and cryptography mentioned in The Dunwich Horror (these are real books, Lovecraft copied the list verbatim from his Encyclopaedia Britannica).
Ars Steganographiae AKA Secret Writing, by Abbott Johannes Trithemius (Latin, written 1500 and formally published 1606)
This is Trithemius' most notorious work. On the surface it is a system of angel magic, but within is a highly sophisticated system of cryptography. It claims to contain a synthesis of the science of knowledge, the art of memory, magic, an accelerated language learning system, and a method of sending messages without symbols or messenger. In private circulation, the Steganographia brought such a reaction of fear that he decided it should never be published. He reportedly destroyed the more extreme portions (presumably instructions for prophecy/divination) but it continued to circulate in manuscript form and was eventually published posthumously in 1606.
De Furtivis Literarum Notis
Giambattista Porta’s De Furtivis Literarum Notis (1500s)
Describes the use of a deck of card to encode secret information by writing on the sides of the deck in a known order, then shuffling the cards to destroy the order and render the message illegible to anyone not familiar with the stack.
One of various books on codes and cryptography mentioned in The Dunwich Horror (these are real books, Lovecraft copied the list verbatim from his Encyclopaedia Britannica).
Traité des Chiffres
De Vigenère’s Traité des Chiffres (1586)
Describes an polyalphabetic encryption system, a type of substitution cipher, the same letter may, depending on its position, be replaced by different letters, unlike a monoalphabetic encryption system. This method thus resists frequency analysis, which is a decisive advantage over monoalphabétic ciphers. Vigenère's cipher was broken by the Prussian major Friedrich Kasiski who published his method in 1863, and it no longer provides any security.
One of various books on codes and cryptography mentioned in The Dunwich Horror (these are real books, Lovecraft copied the list verbatim from his Encyclopaedia Britannica).
Falconer’s Cryptomenysis Patefacta, or Cryptomenysis patefacta; or, The art of secret information disclosed without a key. Containing, plain and demonstrative rules, for decyphering all manner of secret writing. With exact methods, for resolving secret intimations by signs or gestures, or in speech. As also an inquiry into the secret ways of conveying written messages, and the several mysterious proposals for secret information, mentioned by Trithemius, etc.
Klüber’s Kryptographik, or Kryptographik Lehrbuch der Geheimschreibekunst (1809)
A book written by Johann Ludwig Klüber, still cited as a noted reference book on the history of cryptography. Includes examples of line scripts using a rectangle, circle and a series of embedded ci rcles. For each example, the letters of the alphabet were inscribed within the shapes. In some cases, multiple letters of the alphabet are contained in the same cell. In these cases, the person decrypting the message may need to figure out from the context which letter was more likely in the original message.
In The Dunwich Horror, Lovecraft mentions other books by Davys, Thicknesse, Blair, and von Marten in the subject of cryptography ("Davys’ and Thicknesse’s eighteenth-century treatises").
Philip Thicknesse (A Treatise on the Art of Decyphering and of Writing in Cypher), 1772
John Davys (An Essay on the Art of Decyphering: in which is inserted a Discourse of Dr Wallis), 1737
William Blair (the writer of the comprehensive article "Cipher" in Rees's Cyclopaedia), 1819
von Marten's Treatise
Cours diplomatique ou tableau des relations des puissances de l'Europe, 3 vols. (Berlin, 1801)
History of the Ridiculous Extravagancies
A History of the Ridiculous Extravagancies, AKA History of the Ridiculous Extravagancies of Monsieur Oufle Microform: Occasion'd by His Reading Books Treating of Magick, The Black Arts, Daemoniacks, Conjurers, of Elves, Fairies, of Dreams, The Philosophers Stone, Judicial Astrology, With Notes Containing a Multitude of Quotations Out of Those Books, Which Have Either Caused Such Extravagant Imaginations, or May Serve to Cure Them, by Abbot Laurent Bordelon (1711 Octavo, originally in French, translated to English, with engraved illustrations)
Fiction. A Satire on the "ridiculous extravagances" of belief in witches and demons written in the Age of Reason, containing some fairly accurate information on the then dated and increasingly less popular superstitious and occult beliefs of previous generations. Chapter 2 contains a detailed bibliography of nearly every important book on the subject of witchcraft, demonology, ghosts, spectres, spirits, and the occult written up until the time of the books publication in 1710.
Histoire Critique, AKA Histoire Critique Des Practiques Superstitieuses: Qui Ont Saeduit Les Peulples, & Embarrassae Les Scavans or "Critical History of Superstitious Practices: Which Seduced the People, & Embarrassed the Scavans" by Pierre Lebrun (1732 in four volumes, French)
A treatise linking the deceptions of occultism and pseudoscience together as the work of Satan. A curious refutation of pseudoscience of the era by a priest who largely accepted the natural scientific disciplines, but seems to have believed that both the knowledge that seems to be imparted by necromancy, divination, and other occult practices that were being attributed to bizarre chemistry and physics by the pseudoscience of his era, as well as the deceptive pseudosciences themselves, are the products of unconscious demonic inspiration. To Lebrun, the apparent knowledge transferred through divination and necromancy could even be imparted unconsciously by demonic spirits to unwilling human victims, along with pseudoscientific explanations for the impossible knowledge, for the purpose of entrapping the soul of the victim and those who would believe the deceptive corruptions of science invented by the demons for the purpose of misleading those who believe in pseudoscience; that the majority of "psychics" could be divided into those who were exceptionally accurate because they could be proven to be consciously engaging in imposture and trickery, and those who were notably inaccurate because they had deceived themselves as to the accuracy of their "power" was also taken as evidence that occult practices and the pseudoscience that supports them are elaborate deceptions with and without the willing, conscious cooperation of the occultists.
Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions
Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions, AKA Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by Charles Mackay (1880?, English)
An early study of crowd psychology by Scottish journalist Charles Mackay, first published in 1841. The book was published in three volumes: "National Delusions", "Peculiar Follies", and "Philosophical Delusions", written in a journalistic and somewhat sensational style. The subjects of Mackay's debunking include alchemy, crusades, duels, economic bubbles, fortune-telling, haunted houses, the Drummer of Tedworth, the influence of politics and religion on the shapes of beards and hair, "magnetisers" and other quack cures as placebos (influence of imagination in curing disease), murder through poisoning, prophecies, popular admiration of great thieves, popular follies of great cities, and religious relics. Present-day writers on economics, such as Michael Lewis and Andrew Tobias, laud the three chapters on economic bubbles; in later editions, Mackay added a footnote referencing the Railway Mania bubble of the 1840s as another "popular delusion" which was at least as important as the South Sea Bubble.
Discourse on Witchcraft
A Discourse on Witchcraft, AKA A Discourse on Witchcraft: Occasioned by a Bill Now Depending in Parliment, to Repeal the Statute Made in the First Year of the Reign of King James I, Intituled, An Act Against Conjuration, Witchcrafts and Dealing with Evil and Wicked Spirits Anonymous (1736, English, printed by J. Read)
An anonymous pamphlet giving an impassioned argument in support of the repeal of the Witchcraft Act of 1604, by providing evidence that witches are a figment of the imagination, that English Biblical references to witches are mistranslated and elaborated upon by Roman Catholic witch-hunters for their own personal gain. Containing seven chapters on the following topics:
- To prove that the Bible has been falsely translated in those Places which speak of Witchcraft.
- That the Opinion of Witches, has had its Foundation in Heathen Fables.
- That it hath been improved by the Papal Inquisitors, seeking their own private Gain, as also to establish the Usurped Dominion of their Founder.
- That there is no such Thing as a Witch in the Scriptures, and that there is no such Thing as a Witch at all.
- An Answer to their Arguments who endeavour to prove there are Witches.
- How the Opinion of Witches came at first into the World.
- The Conclusion.
Cock Lane and Common Sense
Cock Lane and Common Sense by Andrew Lang (1894, English)
A study of psychic research, with a highlight on ghosts (such as the famous Cock Lane Haunting), by noted folklorist Andrew Lang (famous for his collections of faerie tales), in which Lang concludes that, in the years following the advent of Spiritualism, the modern ghost has largely become a "purposeless" and largely working-man's ghost - a ghost that appears for no great reason (such as the typically epic, world-changing reasons ghosts of the past were said to have appeared before kings and other great men), a typically silent and wordless specter with no goals to achieve, no messages to deliver, no secret crimes or treasures to reveal, no appointments to keep or tasks to complete. And thus it is for much of modern occult and psychic phenomena, and the supernatural literature to follow, and so the occult and the supernatural are products of their time, malleable to conform to modern fashion against any external nature or tradition of the past.
Glimpses of the Next State by Vice-Admiral W. Usborne Moore (1911, English) The Voices: A Sequel to "Glimpses of the Next State" by Vice-Admiral W. Usborne Moore (1913, English)
Skeptical investigation into both Spiritualism, and its critics, from a former agnostic skeptic who believed he had seen suitable proof of the afterlife during his investigations not to dismiss it entirely, but still acknowledging the widespread presence of fraud in the movement, as well as some amount of fraud in overzealous efforts to debunk Spiritualism, both deliberate and accidental.
Occult Arts: An Examination
The Occult Arts: An Examination, AKA The Occult Arts: An Examination of the Claims Made for the Existence and Practice of Supernormal Powers, and as Attempted Justification of Some of Them by the Conclusions of the Researches of Modern Science by J.W. Frings (1914, English)
A skeptical look at common occult practices and beliefs, such as palmistry, fortune-telling, charms, alchemy, hypnotism, etc., defining and describing these practices, with suggestions on how to challenge and investigate those beliefs.
Books Bound in Human Flesh
De Humani Corporis Fabrica
Andreas Vesalius' De Humani Corporis Fabrica Libri Septem (Latin for "On the fabric of the human body in seven books") (1543)
A set of heavily-illustrated books on human anatomy written by Andreas Vesalius (1514–1564) and published in 1543.
(A copy of this book, bound in human skin, is kept in the collection of the Brown University John Hay Library in Providence, RI, one model for the Miskatonic University Orne Library.)
Danse Macabre (1538)
A satirical allegory on the universality of death illustrated with woodcuts by Hans Holbein: no matter one's station in life, the Dance of Death unites all. The original Danse Macabre consists of the dead or personified Death summoning representatives from all walks of life to dance along to the grave, typically with a pope, emperor, king, child, and labourer. They were produced to remind people of the fragility of their lives and how vain were the glories of earthly life. This book refashions the late-medieval allegory of the Danse Macabre as a reformist satire, and one can see the beginnings of a gradual shift from traditional to reformed religion. The first book edition, containing forty-one woodcuts, was published at Lyons by the Treschsel brothers in 1538. The popularity of the work and the currency of its message are underscored by the fact that there were eleven editions before 1562 and over the sixteenth century perhaps as many as a hundred unauthorized editions and imitations. Ten further designs were added in later editions.
(Two copies of this book, bound in human skin, are kept in the collection of the Brown University John Hay Library in Providence, RI, one model for the Miskatonic University Orne Library.)