Salem, MA: William Carlton, 1796 [but 1797]. First American edition. Hardcover. An atmospheric copy of this devastating criticism of the Salem Witch trials, a first person account by Calef, who was present at the trials. Calef's book excoriated Cotton Mather and the other clergy who took part in them. A skeptic about the existence of witchcraft, he argued that the trial unjust and suggested that Mather had influenced the judges and public opinion. It was the first important publication to show that the trials were a miscarriage of justice.
Calef was a Boston merchant who was present at the trials. The publication of the first edition in London in 1700 "caused a great sensation in Boston, for it not only attacked the Mathers, but included a well-documented and devastating account of the Salem trials of 1692"--DAB. The book was so controversial that no Boston publisher would touch it, and a burning of copies of the English printed first edition was held at Harvard. Evans 30149; Howes C25; Sabin 9927. "Antidote to the hysterical credulity of contemporary religious passion. The first copy to reach Boston was publicly burned"--Howes C25.
"Printed in London in the year 1700. Re-printed in Salem, Massachusetts, 1796, by William Carlton. Sold at Cushing & Carlton's Book-Store at the Bible and Heart, Essex-Street."
In the original brown calf, rubbed and battered, the spine long gone, but carefully and repeatedly sewn together by an early owner, perhaps the owner inscribed on the front free endpaper- Thos. Willsons Book August 29, 17?9 Montgomery Township" Item #26367