17th Century New England, with special emphasis on the Salem Witchcraft Trials


Site Index


Primary Sources

These are texts of writings from the 17th century -- including court papers and first-person accounts of events. Some of the texts are embedded in page somewhere, but they are useful to be able to find.

Best! A Guide to the On-Line Primary Sources of The Salem Witch Trials by Margo Burns [Link #375]
This website is a portal to make it easier to access the on-line primary sources -- both in transcription and facsimile images -- of the Salem Witch Trials located at other websites on the internet. Most of the links will take you to the Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive at the University of Virginia, others will take you to the Witchcraft Collection at the Cornell University Library website, and a few others will take you to other sites, such as the Library of Congress, Maryland State Archives and the NEHGS. Texts or images are generally not hosted at 17thc.us: these webpages are only an index to make locating what you want on-line easier.

Includes cross-references to digital facsimiles available on-line of the original manuscripts and the entries in Records of the Salem Witch-Hunt, Bernard Rosenthal, General Editor (Cambridge University Press, 2009), Salem Witchcraft Papers, Paul Boyer ∓ Stephen Nissenbaum (DaCapo, 1977), and Records of Salem Witchcraft, Woodward (1864).

Best! The Samuel Wyllys Papers by Connecticut State Library [Link #378]
From the site: "The Samuel Wyllys Papers are a group of 88 court documents from 1600s Connecticut, with the official title Depositions on Cases of Witchcraft, Assault, Theft, Drunkenness, and Other Crimes Tried In Connecticut 1663-1728." This is an amazing collection of digital facsimiles of 17th century court documents, with a very easy interface to find and examine them.

Best! The Avalon Project at Yale Law School: Pre 18th Century Documents [Link #2]
A wonderful site with loads of documents of the original grants and charters from the 17th century. From the site: "Source: The Federal and State Constitutions Colonial Charters, and Other Organic Laws of the States, Territories, and Colonies Now or Heretofore Forming the United States of America Compiled and Edited Under the Act of Congress of June 30, 1906 by Francis Newton Thorpe Washington, DC : Government Printing Office, 1909." Includes:

Best! Mayflower and Early Families [Link #6]
This is a very cool site -- full of texts of wills and deeds, image scans of actual documents, a bulletin board for discussions, some vital records (Saybrook, CT, and Plymouth County, MA) -- even a couple of "slide shows" about the Plymouth colony and the events in Salem. The site was orginally called "The Massachusetts Enquirer: Mayflower, MA & New England Events, People, Life" -- an interesting attempt to portray colonial New England events as if being reported today -- but the site has been deepened and that has become only part of the site, renamed "The Colonial Gazette" when the site was given a major overhaul in March-May 1999. Thumbs up to the folks at Maddox Interactive for this contribution to the Internet!

Magnalia Christi Americana; or The Ecclesiastical History of New England by Cotton Mather (1663-1728) [Link #66]
Published in 1702

Best! Notable Women Ancestors: Witches by Sam Casey [Link #70]
This site includes links to many biographies of women accused of witchcraft, including these Biographies located at this site include:
  • Susanna North Martin by Sam Casey. A superb, well-documented biography of her ancestor who was executed for witchcraft in 1692, with links to transcriptions of the warrant for her arrest, her indictment, and depositions of John Pressey, John & Mary Pressey, and Bernard Peach; Jarvis Ring & Joseph Ring (2); John Kimball, John Allen, Joseph Knight & Elizabeth Clark; Robert Downer, Mary Andrews, Moses Pike, Thomas Putnam, Sam Parris, Nathaniel Ingersoll, Abigial Williams & Ann Putnam, Jr.; William Brown, Elizabeth Hubbard, Mercy Lewis, Sarah Vibber, John Atkinson & Sarah Atkinson.
  • Elizabeth Jackson Howe by Cynthia (Frazier) Abbott
  • Rebecca Nurse by Dana A. Wildes
  • Sarah Wild(e) by Rhonda Little
  • Mary Bliss Parsons , one of the women accused of witchcraft in Hartford, Ct.

Questia: Salem Witch Trials [Link #324]
Questia is "the world's largest online library of over 47,000 books and 375,000 journal, magazine and newspaper articles", -- and is a commercial site. Still, for less than $20/mo. or $120/yr. (prices as of 1/1/04), you can access a LOT of excellent book-length material as well as articles on-line about the Salem witch-hunt.

Best! The Salem Witchcraft Trials by Doug Lindner [Link #181]
This site is so chock full of transcripts of the primary sources -- depositions, warrants, letters, petitions -- you really have to go and explore it for yourself! There are images, including portraits of Samuel Sewall, William Stoughton, William Phips, and Cotton Mather. The brief biographies of various participants are excellent, and the timeline of events very helpful!

Best! Danvers Archival Center: Witchcraft in Salem Village [Link #182]
from the site: "This site was created by the Danvers Archival Center, the local history, rare book and manuscript department of the Peabody Institute Library of Danvers, Massachusetts, with the support of the Electronic Text Center at the University of Virginia. Its purpose is to introduce a major area of Danvers' collections relating to the infamous Salem Village Witchcraft Trials of 1692. This Website is designed to provide accurate general information about these witchcraft events, as well as information on other aspects of Danvers' history. We hope you enjoy browsing our information." Includes a wealth of good stuff from the places where the events happened.

This site includes the portrait of Rev. Samuel Parris, with information about the circumstances of its discovery, and its dimensions The image is black-and-white, however, and seems to be a mirror image of the the real thing. See a version of this image at my site:

Best! Philadelphia Rare Books & Manuscripts Company: 17th-Century Books [Link #188]
This page is at a commercial site for a seller of rare books, and the reason I'm including it in my collection is that this particular "table" at the site is devoted to books from the 17th century, all of which are for sale, and which also include a lot of images of them.

Best! The Salem Witchcraft Papers by Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum , editors [Link #189]
This is the full eText version of the 3-volume Salem Witchcraft Papers: Verbatim Transcripts of the Legal Documents of the Salem Witchcraft Outbreak of 1692, which is frustratingly no longer available from the publisher. This is, bar none, the most important single website for anyone doing on-line research on the Salem Witchcraft Trials.

Best! The Plymouth Colony Archive Project at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champagn (formerly at the University of Virginia) by Patricia E. Scott Deetz and James Deetz [Link #207]
This is a terrific site for anyone researching the Plimoth colony: it includes legal and literary texts from the period, images of the material culture of the site, maps, reconstructions, and much more. If you are interested in Plimouth, start here.

From the site: "This Plymouth Colony Archive presents a collection of searchable texts, including court records, Colony laws, seminar analysis of various topics, biographical profiles of selected colonists, probate inventories, wills, a Glossary and Notes on Plymouth Colony, and Vernacular House Forms in Seventeenth Century Plymouth Colony: An Analysis of Evidence from the Plymouth Colony Room-by-Room Probate Inventories 1633-85."

Best! Salem Witchcraft: Holdings from Various Archives by Benjamin Ray [Link #230]
This is an archive of digital images of all the actual handwritten legal documents concerning the Salem Witchcraft Trials from various manuscript collections. You can actually look at the image of Samuel Parris's handwritten transcription of the examination of Martha Corey! Or the death warrant of Bridget Bishop. A small part of the site is still unavailable to the public because the holder(s) of some documents have not yet given the University of Virginia permission to do so, but the number of restricted manuscripts is very low. Some of the images are of better quality than others -- for instance, the images of the documents held at the Peabody-Essex Museum is taken from older black-and-white microfilm, but the new full-color digital photographs of the manuscripts at the Boston Public Library are absolutely luscious, with all the detail of the paper and ink. Each archive provides at least two sizes of each image, in case you are looking for very fine details in a manuscript. Definitely a class act!

Best! Cases of Conscience concerning evil SPIRITS Personating Men, Witchcrafts, infallible Proofs of Guilt in such as are accused with that Crime. by Increase Mather [Link #269]
The full text of this rare book from 1693 about witchcraft, in digital image format. Superb!

Best! Essex County (MA) Deeds Online: Historic Records [Link #274]
This site allows you to browse images of early deeds of Essex County. The images, however, are in TIF format, and require a special viewer. for Windows. Use can use Graphic Converter for the Mac to view them.

Best! The Malleus Maleficarum by Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger [Link #277]
Adobe Acrobat ReaderThe Malleus Maleficarum (The Witch Hammer) was first published in 1486, and was undoubtedly known to the witch-hunters in Salem. From the site: "Unabridged online republication of the 1928 edition. Introduction to the 1948 edition is also included. Translation, notes, and two introductions by Montague Summers. A Bull of Innocent VIII. " Currently this is available as webpages, but also in PDF, eBook, MS Word, and ASCII text versions at the "Downloads" link. A terrific addition to the eTexts of rare books on-line!

Best! The Public Records of the Colony of Connecticut, 1636-1776 [Link #280]
On-line archive at the University of Connecticut Library. Images of the pages of the printed volumes of the records are available. Search capabilites are limited, but each volume's subject index can be browsed. Names of people and topics such as witchcraft can be looked up. Definitely worth investigating if Connecticut is where you want to be exploring!

MAGIC Historical Map Collection [Link #281]
Collection of maps from 1676-1900, including a marvelous map by Marden from 1676 with the names of the native peoples located geographically. Of course, considering this was the time of King Philip's War, such information was probably considered crucial to the English soldiers.

Best! Some Miscellany Observations On our present Debates respecting Witchcrafts, in a Dialogue Between S. & B. by Samuel Willard [Link #282]
The text of a pivotal public dialogue about the witchcraft trials in Salem in 1692, transcribed more accurately than the version at the University of Virginia website.

Best! Records and Files of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County by Edited by George Francis Dow [Link #331]

Vehement Suspicion: Eunice Cole of Hampton (1656-1680) [Link #333]
Transcriptions of the documentary evidence of the numerous attempts to prosecute Eunice Cole for witchcraft, as they appear in David D. Hall's Witch-Hunting in Seventeenth-Century New England: A Documentary History, 1638-1692. Reprinted at this site by permission of the publisher.

Lithobolia: or, the Stone-Throwing Devil by Richard Chamberlain [Link #334]
Truly an amazing account of the inexplicable from the seventeenth century! From the site: "Lithobolia, or the Stone-Throwing Devil records the remarkable events of 1682 that took place in the Great Island (present-day New Castle, N.H.) tavern of George and Alice Walton. Lucy Treworgy Chadbourne’s brother Samuel was married to the Walton’s daughter, Dorcas. In the early 1650s, Humphrey Chadbourne built a house for George and Alice Walton on Great Island -- though probably not the house attacked by a 'stone-throwing devil' thirty years later.

This account was written by 'R.C.,' Richard Chamberlain, the secretary of the colony of New Hampshire, and agent of the Mason family. In 1682 Chamberlain was boarding at the Walton tavern, so he witnessed much of the attack. He did not publish this account until 1698. The text below is taken from George L. Burr, ed., Narratives of the Witchcraft Cases (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1914), 55-77."

Witch-Hunting in Early New Hampshire by Margo Burns [Link #343]
In the seventeenth-century, the best-known witch-hunting cases in New England took place in Massachusetts and secondarily in Connecticut, but my home state of New Hampshire had its share along the seacoast. Includes information about the following, which include a growing collection of primary sources about the cases:

A Further Account of the Tryals of the New-England Witches [Link #350]
This is a letter prepended to Increase Mather's Cases of Conscience in the London printing, not found in the first edition. It includes a brief description of the trial of Sarah Dustin/Dastin (spelled "Dayton" in the text), at which the letter-writer claims to have been present.

The Witchcraft Delusion In Colonial Connecticut (1647-1697) by John M. Taylor [Link #360]
Newly added to Project Gutenberg in May 2004, this is the text of a terrific book about the witchcraft cases in Connecticut.

The Book of the General Lawes and Libertyes Concerning the Inhabitants of the Massachusets (1648) [Link #363]
The laws on the books in 17th century Massachsuetts

The Massachusetts Body of LIberties (1641) by Introduced and redacted by John Beardsley [Link #364]
Adopted as law by the General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Bay December, 1641, this document was the foundation of Massachusetts liberties. From the site: "It is remarkable as a code of law, in that it lays out a structure of jurisprudence in terms of liberties rather than restrictions."

Matthew Grant Diary by Connecticut State Archives [Link #379]
From the site: "The note-book of Matthew Grant, first surveyor and second town clerk of the colony of Windsor, Conn., includes transcripts of sermons by the Revs. Thomas Hooker, John Warham, John Raynor, Thomas Brooks, Thomas Hanford, E.H. [possibly Ephraim Huit]. Also includes: Answers by Mr. John Cotton [relating to the Antinomian Controversy], Bible passages selected by Henry Jessey in support of the Fifth Monarchy, Henry Ainsworth's version of the Canticles, Grant family records, the Windsor church covenant, a List of persons hanged, Rules for measuring land, and Extracts from various religious books." The digital facsimile images look like they were made from microfilm images (they are black-and-white), but the navigation is excellent. Transcription is available as a PDF.

Best! Cornell University Library Witchcraft Collection [Link #321]
from the site: "Cornell's Witchcraft Collection contains over 3,000 titles documenting the history of the Inquisition and the persecution of witchcraft.... The most important materials in the Witchcraft collection, however, are the court records of the trials of witches, including harrowing original manuscript depositions taken from the victims in the torture chamber." Many of the texts are available on-line!

Thaumatographia Pneumatica (The Wonders of the Spirit World) by Cotton Mather [Link #310]
from Cotton Mather's Magnalia Christi Americana (Vol. II; Chp. VII): Relating the Wonders of the Invisible World in Preternatural Occurrences

Medieval Sourcebook: Witchcraft Documents [15th Century] [Link #62]
  • Innocent VIII: BULL Summis desiderantes, Dec. 5th, 1484
  • Johannes Nider, the ANT HILL, circa 1437, Nider, Formicarius, ed. of Augsburg, ca. 1476Lib. V. cap. 3
  • Extracts from THE HAMMER OF WITCHES [Malleus maleficarum], 1486

Groton In The Witchcraft Times by Samuel A. Green, M.D., Groton, Mass. 1883 [Link #68]
This account includes the letter Reverend Samuel Willard sent to Cotton Mather about the affliction of Elizabeth Knapp of Groton in 1671. From the essay: "The original letter of Mr. Willard, describing the case, is still preserved, and is found numbered 3 in the second volume of the "Mather Papers" now at the Boston Public Library. It is written in a very small, cramped hand, and contained in four pages of manuscript, which is extremely difficult to read. It has been printed in the Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, volume viii., fourth series, pages 555-570; but the present copy is made independently of that one, and varies slightly from it." This document also includes other various texts from the trials, and excerpts from Thomas Brattle's letter and from Calef.

from the Salem Witchcraft Papers [Link #73]
Early Modern Europe: The Witch Hunts by Hanover Historical Texts Project [Link #325]
Lots of good primary texts on European witchcraft. Links to many excellent articles, but which require a JSTOR account.

Selected Vital Records from the 17th c. and Early 18th c. [Link #104]
These are vital records, copied from sources at the Phillips Library of the Peabody-Essex Museum:

Salem Quarterly Court Records and Files [Link #105]
These are some cases involving the Nurse family, found in the Records of the Salem Quarterly Courts:

The Tryal of G.B.at a Court of Oyer and Terminer, Held in Salem, 1692 by Cotton Mather [Link #106]
Cotton Mather's dislike of Rev. George Burroughs of Wells (Maine), formerly of Salem Village, is abundantly clear in his description of Burroughs' trial, conviction, and execution for witchcraft.

Petition of Mary Esty [Link #122]
The text of Mary Esty's petition is included on this page, "American Fanaticism in witch hunts and special prosecutions."

The Cotton Mather Home Page by Phil Johnson [Link #126]
Basic page about Cotton Mather with various texts at the the Hall of Church History website ("Theology from A Bunch of Dead Guys" ). Includes: "What Must I Do To Be Saved?" "The Duties of Parents to Their Children," "The Duties of Children to Their Parents," and "The Education of Children "

17th Century Fashion Links Page by Tara Maginnis [Link #161]
All the links you could ever want regarding clothing and costume for the 17th century! Internal links have excellent pages with lots of period images of people. Part of the Costumer's Manifesto website.

17th Century Men's Fashions by Tara Maginnis [Link #162]
A small but elegant collection of images of the men's clothing of the period, mostly French and English, from contemprary drawings and etchings. Part of the Costumer's Manifesto website.

Rev. Samuel Parris: Undated Miniature Portrait [Link #180]
A color scan of the only portrait known to exist of Rev. Samuel Parris of Salem Village, at the center of the witchcraft hysteria.

Hanover Historical Texts Project: 17th Century Colonial History [Link #183]
From the site: "In 1995, the History Department and Hanover students initiated the Hanover Historical Texts Project. The Project's principal aim is to make primary texts readily available to students and faculty for use in history and humanities courses.

"The texts scanned for the project are all in public domain. The electronic forms of the texts created by the HHTP are under copyright. Permission to copy and use the texts is granted for educational purposes. We ask that you acknowledge the Hanover Historical Texts Project. Permission is not granted for commercial uses.

"Bibliographical information and acknowledgements for scanning, conversion into html, and proofreading are found at the beginning of each text. Page numbers appear in parentheses at the point of the page breaks in the original texts."

Best! Narratives of the Witchcraft Cases, 1648-1706 by George Lincoln Burr [Link #322]
This compilation by Burr includes classic texts on witchcraft: "A Brief and True Narrative," by Deodat Lawson, 1692, "Letter of Thomas Brattle, F. R. S.," 1692, "Letters of Governor Phips to the Home Government," 1692-1693, with excerpts from "The Wonders of the Invisible World," by Cotton Mather, 1693, "More Wonders of the Invisible World," by Robert Calef, 1700, and "A Modest Inquiry into the Nature of Witchcraft,& by John Hale, 1702. Searchable!

Fire and Ice: Puritan and Reformed Writings by Bill Carson [Link #196]
Adobe Acrobat ReaderThis is a very interesting site about Puritan sermons, and includes many sermons by Samuel Willard, who Carson describes as the "pastor of Old South Church in Boston, President of Harvard College, and in some ways might be considered the Last of the Puritans. His magnum opus, A Compleat Body of Divinity, was the largest book ever printed in New England at the time, and it's my all-time favourite uninspired book. It gives me great pleasure to share some of Willard's wonderful sermons with you, and I hope you benefit from them as I have."

Most of the sermons are in PDF Image format.

The Selling of Joseph by Samuel Sewall [Link #199]
Sewall's anti-slavery essay of 1700

Excerpts from "Of Plimouth Plantation" by William Bradford [Link #200]
Chapters I, II, IV, and IX of William Bradford's "Of Plimoth Plantation: 1620-1647"

The Piscataqua Pioneers Collection [Link #201]
This contains no actual documents, but is a list of what is in "The Piscataqua Pioneers Collection," a special collection at the Dimond Library at the University of New Hampshire, Durham -- including regional genealogies, vital records, town histories, maps, etc. Check here to see if UNH has something you're looking for. Of course it's primarily focused on New Hampshire, but there's plenty about Massachusetts and Maine as well.

Soldiers in King Philips's War by George Madison Bodge [Link #205]
From the site: "being a critical account of that war, with a concise history of the Indian wars of New England from 1620-1677, official lists of the soldiers of Massachusetts colony serving in Philip's war, and sketches of the principal officers, copies of ancient documents and records relating to the war, also lists of the Narragansett grantees of the United colonies, Massachusetts, Plymouth and Connecticut;" Second edition; First issued in the New England historical and genealogical register, 1883-91, v. 37-45; and first published separately in 1892

The Selling of Joseph by Samuel Sewall [Link #208]
Samuel Sewall, the only judge at the Salem witchcraft trials to publicly apologize, also wrote and published this anti-slavery essay in 1700.

Examples of Old Handwriting [Link #220]
An interesting scan of examples of handwritten alphabets from the 17th century.

Perspectives in American Literature: A Research and Reference Guide by Paul P. Reuben [Link #223]
The 17th century section of an Americna literature site for courses at California State University, Stanislaus. Includes lot sof images and bibliographies for the likes of Samuel Sewall, Cotton Mather, Mary Rowlandson, and others.

Primary Source Microfilm: Witchcraft in Europe and America [Link #225]
Listing for microfilm of primary sources. From the site: "Selected from our comprehensive witchcraft collection, Witchcraft in Europe and America, this material focuses on witchcraft in New England. Featuring the Salem witch trials in particular, it reveals the full scope of these phenomena from the most learned to the most popular levels. Among the collection's 96 titles are Colonial Witch: Being a Study of the Black Art in the Colony of Connecticut, A Philosophical Essay on Credulity and Superstition, and Cotton Mather's Strange Phenomena of New England. Includes a printed guide."

Geneva Study Bible (1599) [Link #226]
The Geneva Bible was the version of the Bible which the Puritans used -- not the King James Version. This is a public domain edition of one of the editions of it, although there were several. One of the major distinctions about this version is the profuse notations to the text.

The American Colonist's Library [Link #268]
An extensive list of the literary and legal texts produced in various centuries. Very in-depth!

A Plea for Religious Liberty by Roger Williams (1603-1683, founder of Rhode Island) [Link #271]
Roger Williams, The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution ... ("Publications of the Narragansett Club" [Providence, R.I.], Vol. III [1867]), pp. 3-4, 63, 58-59, 138-39, 148, 170-71, 201, 247-50, 372-73, 424-25.

Chapter IV, "Nehemias Americanus 1," The Life of John Winthrop, Esq., Governor of the Massachusetts Colony. by Cotton Mather [Link #298]
Cotton Mather's biography of Winthrop.

"A General Introduction" from Magnalia Christi Americana by Cotton Mather [Link #299]
Excerpt from Mather's opus.

Indian Converts by Experience Mayhew [Link #336]
Excerpt from this 1727 book.

A Very Grave Matter by Jenn Marcelais [Link #357]
From the site: "a collection of photographs and historical information of colonial cemeteries and gravestones of New England in southern Maine, southern New Hampshire and northeast Massachusetts."
  • Capt. Daniel Epps Includes gravestone picture and court case from Essex County Quarterly Courts, about the disputed ownership of an Indian boy named Lionel.

Robert Chapman Letter (1687) by Judith Halseth, Ed.D [Link #368]
from the site: "In 1687 Robert Chapman wrote a letter to his children, and the 18th century copy of this letter was given to NEHGS in 1917 by Miss Mary Chapman." Includes images of the 18th century copy and a transcription of this 26-page document.

Indian deed for Boston, 19 March 1685 [Link #369]
from the website: "This 1685 quitclaim deed formalized the transfer of the peninsula that became the town of Boston from the native Massachuset Indians to the English colonists."

The First Church Record Book, 1629-1736, Salem, MA [Link #383]

Links in this Category = 63

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This page was last updated Feb. 15, 2009 by Margo Burns, My email address.