Words on Witchcraft

The late 16th and early 17th Centuries saw the peak of ‘witch hysteria’ in Europe. Paranoia surrounding ideas about sorcery and demons led to accusations, trials and cruel punishments, including tens of thousands of executions. This month’s blog post explores the literature that fuelled this phenomenon: as texts that condemened or seemingly provided evidence forContinue reading “Words on Witchcraft”

The Texts of the Reformation

The 31st October 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, a text that sparked the Reformation. The movement was entwined with the introduction of Gutenberg’s printing press, allowing the rapid spread of texts such as pamphlets and vernacular Bibles. As such, it is a historical moment of shift in terms of reading, writingContinue reading “The Texts of the Reformation”

Scandinavia in the Special Collections

This month, we gather together a number of different items which share a northern theme: twentieth-century cartoons, seventeenth-century astronomy, nineteenth-century literature, sixteenth-century history, eighteenth-century exploration, and a seventeenth-century Bible. Historia de gentibus septentrionalibus [Description of the Northern people], Olaus Magnus (1550) ∑.2.14 Olaus Magnus (1490-1557) was a Swedish writer and Archbishop of Uppsala, and thisContinue reading “Scandinavia in the Special Collections”

Robert Hooke, Micrographia (1667), and Lectures and Collections (1678)

The works of Robert Hooke are well preserved at St John’s College Library with the library holding copies of 17th-century publications of Hooke’s work on microscopy, observations of comets, and the proposition of his eponymous law of elasticity. Robert Hooke (1635-1703) was renowned in his day for being an early member of the Royal SocietyContinue reading “Robert Hooke, Micrographia (1667), and Lectures and Collections (1678)”

Mamusse wunneetupanatamwe up-biblum God (the Massachusett Bible), 1661-1663

St John’s College library has a copy of the first Bible published in America. It is written in the Massachusett dialect of Algonquian, a Native American language which missionary John Eliot learnt in part of his attempt to convert the Massachusett people to Christianity and literacy. In 1663, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Samuel Green published JohnContinue reading “Mamusse wunneetupanatamwe up-biblum God (the Massachusett Bible), 1661-1663”

Abraham Ortelius, Theatrum Orbis Terrarum

In St John’s College Library’s Special Collections there are four copies of Ortelius’s world atlases. These were the first attempts at mapping the known world in its entirety which demonstrate a balance between striving for accurate cartography and presenting the wondrous elements of the distant world. Abraham Ortelius (1527-1598) From Antwerp, Brussels, Ortelius was partContinue reading “Abraham Ortelius, Theatrum Orbis Terrarum”

Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales (Westminster: William Caxton, c. 1483)

Early printed books form a significant part of the library’s Special Collections, and this particular item contains an illustrated second edition of one of the most famous works of middle English literature, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. It is thought to have been published in 1483 by William Caxton, famous for being the first English printer, andContinue reading “Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales (Westminster: William Caxton, c. 1483)”