A Guide to the Primary Sources of the Salem Witch Trials

Digital Editions of Various Books of Interest
Books Available to the Authorities in 1692
A Tryal of Witches (1682)
The trial and hangings of Rose Cullender and Amy Duny, the "Lowestoft Witches", in 1665 (using the new calendar) in England were well-known to the magistrates and clergy in Massachusetts, because of this account published in London in 1682, and because Baxter refers to the case in his book.

A Candle in the Dark, by Thomas Ady (1656)
Cotton Mather claims in Wonders of the Invisible World that when Rev. Burroughs was being tried, he began reading a text from a paper that was recognized as coming from Ady, a 17th century author who published a variety of books challenging the validity of witchcraft prosecutions. According to Mather, Burroughs claimed, "That there neither are, nor ever were, Witches that having made a compact with the Divel, Can send a Divel to Torment other people at a distance."

A Perfect Discovery of Witches, by Thomas Ady (1661)
Ady's works were used by George Burroughs to try to refute - although unsuccessfully - the evidence used against him at trial.

The Doctrine of Devils, by Thomas Ady (1676)
Ady's work was used by George Burroughs to try to refute - although unsuccessfully - the evidence used against him at trial. It is not clear, however, which of these books Burroughs referenced.

The Certainty of the World of Spirits, by Richard Baxter (1691)
Baxter, a friend of Sir Matthew Hale, who had conducted the trials at Bury St. Edmonds in England, detailed those trials in this book, as well as giving the Magistrates additional support for how to conduct the trials in Salem.

A Guide to Grand Jury Men, by Richard Bernard (London, 1627, 1629)
The Magistrates consulted Bernard's book for advice on how to proceed in the prosecution of the crime of witchcraft.

The Country Justice, by Michael Dalton (1690)
Legal practices were typically based on precedent in the 17th century, and Dalton's advice appears to have been used through the proceedings, although this book appeared in several different editions throughout the 17th century.

Sadducismus Triumphatus, by Joseph Glanvil (1688)
There are allusions to the accounts of the Swedish witch trials throughout the records of what happened in Salem, likely inspired by readers of Glanvil's book.

Memorable Providences, by Cotton Mather (1689)
Cotton Mather's account of the afflictions of the Goodwin children in Boston was likely known to the inhabitants of Salem Village, and the afflictions of their children bore an uncanny resemblance to what Mather had described happening the Goodwin chldren.

Remarkable Providences, by Increase Mather (1684)
Rev. Increase Mather was one of many New England ministers constantly looking for signs in the visible world of God's pleasure and displeasure.

A Discourse of the Damned Art of Witchcraft, by M. William Perkins (London, 1616-1618)
The Magistrates consulted Perkins' book for advice on how to proceed in the prosecutions.

A Brief Account of a Strange & Unusuall Providence of God, by Samuel Willard (1672)
Samuel Willard's account of the events twenty years before the trials in Salem of how he had handled the case of the afflictions of Elizabeth Knapp in Groton, but the Magistrates in 1692 did not follow his example.

Accounts of the Events of 1692, First Published Within Ten Years of the Events
Letter of Thomas Brattle, by Thomas Brattle (1692)
Likely circulated in handwritten copies, Brattle's resounding criticism of the trials illuminates many of the issues on the minds of the public while the trials were under way.

More Wonders of the Invisible World, by Robert Calef (1700)
Boston merchant Robert Calef took on Cotton Mather in print with this book, the title echoing the minister's "Wonders of the Invisible World" and including that text, but was a sound denunciation of how the trials were conducted. This edition is the 1823 one, which includes the examination of Giles Cory, the only source for it.

A Modest Enquiry into the Nature of Witchcraft, by John Hale (1702)
Rev. John Hale of Beverly was present at many of the legal proceedings. Although he waited five years before puhblishng this account, it essentially details the inreliability of spectral evidence.

A Brief and True Narrative, by Deodat Lawson (1692)
Rev. Deodat Lawson, formerly the minister in Salem Village, returned because there was talk that the accused witches had been responsible for the death of his wife and child. Lawson's is the most detailed first-person account of the events outside of the legal records.

Christ's Fidelity the Only Shield Against Satan's Malignity, by Deodat Lawson (2nd ed., 1704)
Rev. Deodat Lawson, formerly the minister in Salem Village, delivered this sermon in Salem Village on March 24, 1692, just as the accusations were expanding.

The Wonders of the Invisible World, by Cotton Mather (1692, but dated 1693)
Rev. Cotton Mather was urged in the fall of 1692 to write a book about the trials, essentially to defend the Court's actions. Mather himself was not present at any of the trials, to the best of our knowledge, but obtained the legal records from the Clerk fo the Court, his friend Stephen Sewall, to describe the five trials he includes in this book.

Magnalia Christi Americana, by Cotton Mather (Vol. 2, 1702)
Cotton Mather's general history of New England, which includes various accounts of witchcraft trials taken from other sources, including a major portion of Hale's Modest Enquiry.

Cases of Conscience, by Increase Mather (1692)
Rev. Increase Mather, then President of Harvard College, wrote his own response to the trials, refuting the value of spectral evidence, among other things.

A Further Account of the Tryals of the New England Witches, by Increase Mather (London, 1693)
A letter from an anonymous man in Boston describing various aspects of the trials was published by Increase Mather, along with Lawson's Brief and True Narrative, Increase Mather's own Cases of Conscience.

The Truth Held Forth and Maintained, by Thomas Maule (1695)
Maule was a Quaker and a regular critic of the Puritan establishment in Massachusetts, whom he berates, among other things, for their handling of the witchcraft trials.

Some Miscellany Observations, by Samuel Willard (1692)
This dialog between "S" and "B" -- supposedly "Salem" and "Boston" -- was published without Willard's name, but exposes the arguments of the day in support of and opposed to how the witchcraft trials were proceeding.

Public & Private Records from the Period
Records and Files of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County (Vols. I-IX, 1636-1686)
Transcribed and indexed, these records of the inferior court yield a lot of information about the people in Essex County.

Salem Village Church Record Book (1689-1753)
This record book begins with the arrival of Samuel Parris as minister in Salem Village.

Salem Village Record Book (1672-1713)
The records of Salem Village reveal information about taxes and other civic concerns.

The Salem Witchcraft Papers, by Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum (1977)
In 1977, Boyer & Nissenbaum published the transcriptions of the legalrecords as transcribed in the 1930s by the WPA, and added some additional items that the WPA had not.

The Sermon Notebooks of Samuel Parris, by Samuel Parris (1689-1695 )
Excerpt only! Transcription of Rev. Samuel Parris' handwritten notes for his sermon delivered in Salem Village, March 27, 1692. Source copy consulted: Connecticut Historical Society, Parris, Samuel, 1689-1695, Sermons, Microfilm Roll A, 3/1/66

The Revolution in New England Justified, by Several Gentlemen who were of his Council (1691)
Contemporary accounts of the ouster of Governor Edmond Andros in 1689

A Narrative of the Proceedings of Sir Edmond Androsse, by William Stoughton and et al. (1691)
Contemporary account of the ouster of Governor Edmond Andros in 1689

Records of Salem Witchcraft, by W. Eliot Woodward (1864)
Woodward's two-volume collection of transcriptions of the legal records in the Essex County Court was the first major publication of the primary sources of the event.

Publications from the 18th, 19th & early 20th Centuries
History of the Town of Gloucester, Cape Ann, Including the Town of Rockport, by John J. Babson (1860)
This contains a brief section about the witchcraft accusations against people in Gloucester.

Historical sketches of Andover, by Sarah Loring Bailey (1880)
Bailey is the standard reference for the early history of Andover.

Narratives of the Witchcraft Cases, 1648-1706, by George Lincoln Burr (1914)
This early 20th-century collection remains includes reprints of most of the important publications about the trials, along with Burr's careful notes.

History of Ipswich, Essex and Hamilton, by Joseph B. Felt (1834)
Felt's history of Ipswich includes a brief mention of the impact of the trials under "Remarkable Events" on pages 207-208.

The History of Rowley, Anciently Including Bradford, Boxford, and Georgetown, by Thomas Gage (1840)
Very little of the record of the case against Margaret Scott has survived, but this history includes transcriptions of seven documents in her case, giving many more details about one of the least-known of those executed. See pages 169-175 for these documents.

The History of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, by Thomas Hutchinson (1767)
Gov. Thomas Hutchinson's house was stormed during the Stamp Act Riot, and many of his papers scattered. Many of the witchcraft trial documents he transcribed in this book are no longer extant.

The History of Salem, Volume 3, by Sidney Perley (1924)
The standard 3-volume history of the town of Salem, MA. Perley addresses "The Witchcraft Delusion" in Chapter XIV of Volume 3.

The Witchcraft Delusion in Colonial Connecticut (1647-1697), by John Taylor (1908)
Although this book is not about the trials in Massachusetts, there were witchcraft trials occurring concurrently in Connecticut during the fall of 1692.

Salem Witchcraft, by Charles Upham (1876)
Upham's work in the 19th century remains a powerful influence on how the events in Salem Village are still interpreted.


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