The Occult Laboratory: Magic, Science and Second Sight in Late Seventeenth-Century Scotland

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The uncanny ability of certain individuals to foresee future events had long been regarded as a characteristic of the Scottish Highlands, but in the late seventeenth century interest in the phenomenon came to a head, stimulated by English scientific and philosophical curiosity about magic, particularly second sight.The natural philosopher Robert Boyle and other English savants investigated these Highland beliefs; they found the region a kind of laboratory, strange yet accessible, where data about unusual beliefs could be collected and theories tested. Scottish authors were also stimulated to write accounts of second sight, notably John Fraser, Dean of the Isles, and the Highland minister, Robert Kirk (1644-92), in his famous work, The Secret Commonwealth. These and other texts are included in this book, making available crucial information about belief systems which might otherwise never have been recorded, and illuminating changing contemporary attitudes towards the relationship between the natural and the supernatural. Contents: TEXTS An Interview with Lord Tarbat, 3 Oct 1678 (Robert Boyle) A Collection of Highland Rites and Customes The Secret Commonwealth (Robert Kirk) Letter to Joh Aubrey on Second Sight Letter to Samuel Pepys on Second Sight Second Sight (John Fraser) Questionnnaires and Responses (Edward Lhuyd and Robert Wodrow, John Fraser and John Maclean) Introductory material (33pp) by Michael Hunter MICHAEL HUNTER is Professor of History, Birkbeck College, University of London.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Superb collection of original materials related to the 'strange reports' of the indidence of 'second sight' in Scotland. JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY (US) As a text compilation it is a very interesting and worthwhile addition to a very understudied area. Hunter should be applauded for calling our attention to these often-overlooked and significant texts. JOURNAL OF AMERICAN FOLKLORE Hunter is adept at identifying and interweaving the scientific, hermetic, evangelical, and Anglo-Scottish dimensions of the story... If the history of the transformations of witchcraft belief has absorbed an enormous amount of scholarly attention, this valuable assemblage of texts allows us to pursue related questions in a new and parallel way. ENGLISH HISTORICAL REVIEW The texts represent some of the contributions made y Scottish and English savants to a late 17t-century debate on the preternatural... A very useful contribution to the study of both early modern science and religious controversy. SCOTTISH ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL HISTORY Hunter is to be applauded for exposing new and exciting lines of potential reseach in the history of early modern science. BJHS
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780851158013
  • Publisher: Boydell & Brewer, Limited
  • Publication date: 3/29/2001
  • Edition description: REV
  • Pages: 255
  • Product dimensions: 6.42 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 0.95 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction 1
Introductory Notes on the Texts 33
1 Robert Boyle's notes on his interview with Lord Tarbat, 3 October 1678 51
2 'A Collection of Highland Rites and Customs' 54
3 Robert Kirk's The Secret Commonwealth and his 'A Short Treatise of the Scotish-Irish Charms and Spells' 107
4 James Garden's letters to John Aubrey 118
5 Samuel Pepys's collection of letters on second sight 160
6 John Fraser's [actual symbol not reproducible] 187
7 Edward Lhuyd's and Robert Wodrow's questionnaires and the responses of John Fraser and John MacLean 205
Textual Notes 217
App Quotations of biblical passages cited in the texts above 229
Bibliography 233
Glossary 238
Index 241
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