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The Penguin Book of Witches

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  720 ratings  ·  137 reviews
Chilling real-life accounts of witches, from medieval Europe through colonial America

From a manual for witch hunters written by King James himself in 1597, to court documents from the Salem witch trials of 1692, to newspaper coverage of a woman stoned to death on the streets of Philadelphia while the Continental Congress met, The Penguin Book of Witches is a treasury of histor
Paperback, 294 pages
Published October 2nd 2014 by Penguin (first published September 30th 2014)
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Average rating 3.59  · 
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 ·  720 ratings  ·  137 reviews

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Hannah Greendale
The Penguin Book of Witches is a collection of historical accounts of witchcraft and witches spanning from 1582 to 1813 with special emphasis on the Salem Witch Trials.

The court documents, warrants, and testimonies are fascinating, though some of the documents are difficult to push through if read from beginning to end.

And the said Ursula, seeing nothing to be had of the said Grace, fell out with her and said that she would be even with her and thereupon she was taken lame, and from that day. [. . .]
Jan 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Excellent non-fiction expostulation of the sociology of witchcraft in English speaking North America. Based on primary sources Katherine Howe builds a powerful picture of the gender, demographic, religious, economic, and political forces that led to the most notorious episode in North American witchcraft, the Salem witch hysteria in 1692 and its aftermath.

Compelling commentary enlivens the essential but often turgid source material. Howe builds a strong case for the cultural and hist
Stephanie Swint
Sep 15, 2014 rated it liked it
If you have ever had an interest the historical story of witches, how they became so notorious , and how society came to fear them to the point of mob justice, generating the term "witch hunt," this is the book for you.  Katherine Howe takes historical records from 15th century court records of witch trials to the 19th century when belief in witches as a reality began to wane.   Her study crosses England, Scotland, Ireland, New England and Canada.  Howe it's thorough in demonstrating what create ...more
Kathleen Kelly
Aug 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
When you think of Halloween you usually think of witches, well at least I do and a witches costume is usually one of the most worn on that day of ghouls and ghostlies. Whether or not you believe in witches is up to you, but I certainly do and when there are books to read or movies/TV shows to watch, I am always right there. I love reading about witchcraft even the dark magic stuff. Witchcraft is something that has often plagued history, in most countries, but we had our own scare of it right her ...more
Nov 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
I have to say I really enjoyed reading this book. It did take me a while but it was so interesting reading all the different accounts of women and men being convicted for witchcraft through the most significant years. Sometimes it was difficult to read as majority of it was written in old English but it kind of reminded me of reading some of the old cases I had to read for Law so I didn't mind.
I found it interesting how 99% of the people convicted were people who either fit outside of societal
Viviane Crystal
Sep 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
"The first witchcraft act in England was passed in 1542, and the last anti witchcraft statute was not officially repealed until 1736." This important quote indicates that over 200 years of witchcraft accusations, investigations, trials, and punishments of being thrown in stocks, ducked in water, exorcised, or suffering jail and death that fell on far too many men and women in England and America. Witchcraft was the definitive focus of hyperbolic, potent fury as clearly shown in this collection o ...more
Melissa ♥ Melissa's Eclectic Bookshelf
The Penguin Book of Witches is a great resource for primary source documents that either informed many of the key thought processes of the time or document many of the trials themselves. As a non-fiction compilation this does read more like a textbook but an immensely fascinating one if you are at all interested in cultural or socio-economic bias, bullying or witchcraft. Katherine Howe, our editor, makes several great points about how the hysteria had a lot less to do with religion or any partic ...more
Anna Elliott
Oct 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
With Halloween just around the corner I was in the mood for something a little bit spooky. However, I am not a fan of the horror genre so this collection of primary sources collated by Katherine Howe was exactly what I was looking for. Katherine is the author of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane which I read back in 2010 and really enjoyed.

My full review of this book is on my blog: http://leftontheshelfbookblog.blogspo...
Mark Warner
Oct 28, 2014 rated it liked it
As advertised...a collection of records, court transcripts and such back from the 1600's and 1700's, illustrating the persecution of alleged witches. Interesting stuff, a quick read... Just wondering, how can people be so nuts..?
Vince Darcangelo
Sep 27, 2014 rated it really liked it

The Penguin Book of Witches

Katherine Howe, editor

It’s fitting that Penguin is releasing its annotated Book of Witches in time for Halloween—and not just because of the seasonal correlation of Wicca and the feast of Samhain. The history of the witch is long and complicated. The difficulty of distilling thousands of years of witchery into a single volume is perhaps best illustrated by considering the variety of Halloween Penguin Book of Witchescostumes celebrating
Oct 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This intriguing and illuminating book assembles primary sources related to witchcraft trials in England and North America from the period of James I through the Salem witch trials, along with some post-Salem materials. Each of the excerpts is preceded by an excellent introduction by Katherine Howe, a descendant of the Elizabeth Howe, one of those condemned for witchcraft in Salem. In her introduction, Howe lays out her theme, that witchcraft was a social construct with a political purpose: "This ...more
Elsayed Taha
Aug 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
I disagree with some of the reviews that find this book great for reference purposes only, but in the same time i understand why this was the case; for me i was delayed in my reading by some early parts in the book, and in the middle by one lengthy account of some event, there is nothing wrong with these parts, it was only the old English language used in these early documents and for the account it was the repetitions. But away from these two issues, I found this book to be entertaining and ver ...more
Sep 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
Excellent short anthology of court records and testimony from witch trials in both England and the colonial US, mostly New England.

It would have helped, for ease of reading, to make it more clear where unintelligible or missing writing was in the transcript because [torn] or [illegible] were often right in line with the transcript and it was a bit confusing.
Jan 28, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: did-not-finish
Couldn’t finish this one. Too boring.
Jessie McMains
Aug 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
Great as a reference, not so much fun to sit and read straight through.
I bought this book thinking that it would tell stories about witches, the kind of witches we all know; white hair, big nose, black hat, etc. But i got very surprised when i started reading its content, that actually contains fragments of the transcriptions of real judgments against innocent peolple, who didnt have a chance to deffend themselfs, who were accused from the very first minute as whitches and were finally unfearly hanged or burned.

I think this is a great book to understand a period o
I felt this book ended rather abruptly.
Sep 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Good primer on Witchcraft history.
Aug 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
A few days ago, I pulled asparagus out of our refrigerator to find that it had turned. When my husband commented on it, I said that I thought the cashier at the grocery store was a witch and had cursed it. He replied that I was wrong, and in turn I replied that he was obviously under the witch's thrall. Of course, I was joking. The cashier was a very nice lady, and the reason our asparagus had turned was because we had let it sit too long in the fridge. However, there was a time in our history w ...more
In The Penguin Book of Witches Katherine Howe has collected and transcribed a variety of original sources pertaining to witchcraft's place in the cultural, legal, and theological landscape of England and colonial America. It's a fascinating look at the actual men and women involved in the prosecution and persecution of alleged witches spanning a period of about 150 years.

Reading Book of Witches was kind of like watching one of those reality court shows on TV. My sympathies were with
Oct 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
"Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." This one phrase from Exodus has shaped the lives of countess people throughout history, especially women. The Penguin Book of Witches is a non-fiction account of Witchcraft from medieval England to the new Colonies. Shedding light on the evolution of the trials of the witches themselves to the spread of fear in the new world, this is a comprehensive view of just how witches were accused and tried in the words of the accused and afflicted.

The Penguin Book
Oct 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Ms. Howe has gathered, transcribed, and organized an exceptional amount of original reference material for research on the early 1690’s witch trials. She has provided an in-depth look at the persecution of witches, spanning roughly 150 years, during the Salem Witch Trials. She then goes on to discuss how this persecution evolved over the years and has not disappeared.

Ms. Howe describes how superstition, fear, and prejudice can influence our decisions and the consequences that are t
Freda Mans-Labianca
Oct 18, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
I wanted to read this book because I was interested in the history behind witches. Well, this book didn't disappoint there. That is all this book is. A recount of actual documents dating really, really far back in time. Most of us are familiar, or at least heard of the Salem witch trials, but this history lessons extends a few hundred years further back.
I really appreciated all the links inside of the book, so you can look at and read the research articles yourself. It took me a while to r
My Book Addiction and More MBA
Oct 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: witch
The Penquin Book of Witches is an intriguing look though the ages of witchcraft. Informative and engaging of real-life accounts of witches across Medieval Europe to Colonial America. Filled with historical accounts, and sheds some light on the people accuse of witchcraft. Interesting, fascinating and engaging. Another treasure from Penguin Classics.

*Received for an honest review from the publisher*

Rating: 4
Heat rating: N/A
Reviewed by: April R, courtesy of My B
Brooke Gunderman-Harris
Feb 01, 2017 rated it did not like it
I absolutely hate to DNF a book, but this one was a complete fail. It was nothing like what I was expecting to read by any means. With everything being second hand accounts by a few people nothing was anything to convince me that those people were witches. People will say anything to shut people up. I was hoping for more from this regarding the Salem witch trials and it fell short in every aspect.
Tamara Vallejos
Nov 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A seriously engrossing (and deeply upsetting) collection of annotated primary sources from the 16th-18th centuries, with the Salem trials at its heart. Very enlightening stuff, and the strength of the parallels between that hysteria and today's superstitious and religious approaches to the Other, to sexuality, to gender, and more, is really and completely terrifying.
Kelly Akemann
Sep 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
I am not normally one to enjoy a non-fiction book. I found I really enjoyed this one. After reading Conversion by this author, I became slightly enamored with the subject of witches. I therefore felt the need to continue reading. I really enjoyed reading about other witches than just the Salem witches.
Michael Durant
Howe's book is a curated collection of primary and secondary source documents that show the history of witch trials up to and beyond Salem.

It's well done, engrossing, and Howe effortlessly guides the reader through each source.
Laura Picardo
Oct 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Excellent primary sources of the various cases of witchcraft in the UK and US. Great to read about the non-Salem events, as well as the writings of the forward thinkers who knew everyone who believed in witches was bananas.
Sep 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful book. I really enjoyed reading this book. Very well written. If you like to read about witchcraft and history, you will find this book very enjoyable. I received an early copy of this book through First to Read (Penguin Books).
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Katherine Howe is a New York Times bestselling and award-winning writer of historical fiction. Her adult novels are The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, which debuted at #2 on the New York Times bestseller list in 2009 and was named one of USA Today’s top tend books of the year, and The House of Velvet and Glass, which was a USA Today bestseller in 2011. For young adults, Katherine has written Co ...more
“Such faithless people (I say) are also persuaded that neither hail nor snow, thunder nor lightning, rain nor tempestuous winds come from the heavens at the commandment of God, but are raised by are raised by the cunning and power of witches and conjurers; insomuch as a clap of thunder, or a gale of wind is no sooner heard, but either they run to ring bells, or cry out to burn witches, or else burn considerate things, hoping by the smoke thereof to drive the Devil out of the air, as though spirits could be frightened away with such external toys.” 0 likes
“It is not the sort of place where one would expect to find a witch. But a witch did live there, though she is not buried there.” 0 likes
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