University of Virginia Library


How The Wonders of the Invisible World came to be written we have already seen.[99] Its author had “a talent for sudden composures.” We have seen what a scrap-bag was his Memorable Providences; and the pigeon-holes of his desk must for months have been gathering materials that could now be put to use. What these materials were is suggested by his title-page; but the title-page description is not exact. There is first an essay, entitled “Enchantments Encountered,” on New England as a home of the saints and the plot of the Devil against her, especially as revealed by the witches now confessing; next an abstract of the rules of Perkins, Gaule, and Bernard for the detection of witches. Then follows “A Discourse on the Wonders of the Invisible World, uttered (in part) on Aug. 4, 1692.” It is a sermon on Rev. xii. 12, depicting in apocalyptic phrase the Devil's wrath and its present manifestation. Next comes “An Hortatory and Necessary Address, to a Country now extraordinarily alarum'd by the Wrath of the Devil” — this, too, doubtless written for a sermon. “Having thus discoursed on the Wonders of the Invisible World,” says then the author, “I shall now, with God's help, go on to relate some Remarkable and Memorable Instances of Wonders which that World has given to ourselves.” Yet he still inserts “A Narrative of an Apparition which a Gentleman in Boston had of his Brother,” before proceeding to those Salem trials, the kernel of his book, which are reprinted below.

Doubtless these were meant, as the title-page suggests, to form a part of the “Enchantments Encountered,” but failed


to arrive in time. Mather had long been begging them from Stephen Sewall (brother of Judge Sewall), the clerk of the court; but the clerk was then very busy. On September 20 Mather wrote: “That I may be the more capable to assist in lifting up a standard against the infernal enemy, I must renew my most importunate request.” What he asks is “a narrative of the evidence given in at the trials of half a dozen, or if you please, a dozen, of the principal witches that have been condemned.” He pleads not only Sewall's promise, but that “his Excellency, the Governor, laid his positive commands upon me to desire this favor of you”; “and the truth is,” he adds, “there are some of his circumstances with reference to this affair, which I need not mention, that call for the expediting of your kindness.” He wants also some of the clerk's “observations about the confessors, and the credibility of what they assert, or about things evidently preternatural in the witchcrafts”; but, “assure yourself,” he concludes, “I shall not wittingly make what you write prejudicial to any worthy design which those two excellent persons, Mr. Hale and Mr. Noyes, may have in hand.” But the clerk took counsel before he acted. His brother's Diary records, on Thursday, September 22, that “William Stoughton, Esqr., John Hathorne, Esqr., Mr. Cotton Mather, and Capt. John Higginson, with my brother St., were at our house, speaking about publishing some Trials of the Witches.” These had been received and utilized by early October (see p. 247), and the book, thus far complete, could before October 11 be laid before the judges (see p. 251) and by the 12th could furnish material for the governor's letter (see p. 195).

Before the book was out of press there was time to add the narrative of the Swedish witches and the sermon on “the Devil discovered”; but these could not seriously have delayed the printing, for the book, complete and printed, must have gone to London by the same ship which in mid-October took


Sir William's letter. A copy of the book was doubtless sent, with this letter, to the home government; and it was perhaps precisely for this use that the volume had been hurried into existence and into print. What is certain is that such a copy had before December 24 reached the hands of John Dunton, the London publisher; for on that day he announced its speedy publication, and by December 29 it was already in print, though with “1693” on its title-page.[100] A “second edition,” much abridged (though not by the omission of the Salem trials), he issued in February 1693, and reprinted it as a “third” in June.

The news-letter, with imprint of 1692, calling itself A True Account of the Tryals... at Salem, in New England... in a Letter to a Friend in London and signed at end “C. M.” is only a bookseller's fraud, compiled from the Wonders by some hack (who has not even taken the trouble to imitate its style) and printed in 1693.

The Wonders was reprinted at Salem in 1861 (with Calef's More Wonders), by Mr. S. P. Fowler, in a volume called Salem Witchcraft; but, alas, from the abridged “third edition” and with serious further abridgment. In 1862 the first London edition was embodied in a volume of John Russell Smith's Library of Old Authors (cf. p. 149, note 1); and in 1866 the work was again reprinted, and with much more exactness,[101] as


no. V. of the Historical Series of W. Elliot Woodward (Roxbury, Mass.), being again coupled with Calef's More Wonders (forming nos. VI., VII., of the same series) under a common title, The Witchcraft Delusion in New England, and a common editor, S. G. Drake, who contributes elaborate introductions and notes. An alleged reprint by J. Smith, London, 1834 (and again by H. Howell in 1840), as an addition to Baxter's, Certainty of the World of Spirits is not Mather's Wonders at all, but only the witchcraft pages of his Magnalia.



See pp. 194-195.


That this London edition was printed, not from a manuscript copy, but from the printed Boston edition, broken up for the compositors, is clear to any printer who compares the two. See, for details, a paragraph in the N. Y. Nation for November 5, 1908 (LXXXVII. 435), or the descriptive note of G. F. Black in the New York Library's List of Works relating to Witchcraft in the United States (Bulletin, 1908, XII. 666). All extant copies of the Boston edition seem to have the title-page date “1693” (an alleged exception proves to be a myth); and this probably means that till January, at least, the book was withheld from circulation. As to all the early editions, see Moore, Notes on the Bibliography of Witchcraft in Massachusetts (American Antiquarian Society, Proceedings, n. s., V.), and the New York Library's List, as above.


The type being set from the first London edition, but the proofs read by the Boston one. (See Drake's preface, p. vii, and his postscript, p. 247.)