Skip to main content

Can you help transcribe a 17th century witches’ spell-book?

By July 11, 2019Language, News

Newberry Library in Chicago is home to over 80,000 documents spanning the late Middle Ages to the start of the Industrial Revolution. Among the library’s extensive collection of rare Bibles and Christian devotional texts are a series of manuscripts that would scare the socks off any devout 17th century Christian. The manuscripts are full of magic- literally -from healing and helping the village, to casting charms and conjuring spirits, and the Chicago library is asking for help translating and transcribing.

Head on over to Transcribing Faith if you can read Latin or English and check out the documents, help with translations, transcriptions, and corrections.

Coordinator of the project and a fellow of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Christopher Fletcher, told the Smithsonian online:

“You don’t need a Ph.D to transcribe. It is a great way to allow the general public to engage with these materials in a way that they probably wouldn’t have otherwise.”

Check out some pages below to see if you could help transcribe the ancient texts.

For cramps and period pains

For excessive bleeding at the nose.

Take a few drops of the parties bloud

in herds or in a linen cloth, burne

alltogether: Et fecit.

Pro eodem

Drye a little of the Pacients bloud

on a fireshovel over the fire, blow it

with a Quil into his nostrills.

This seldom or never fayleth.

To stop the bleeding of a wound.

the dried bloud of the partie applied

therunto doth it when all other faile.

To help the Crampe.

Take a piece of Parchemint as much

as will goe about your legg in the

gartering place; write theron theis

folowing words Gut + Gut +

Egul + Getaul + and weare it

next your bare leg. It will help.

For toothache

Fryer Bacons Charme

against the Toothache.

Fl. ha, hab, hur. hurs; geball. etc.

Pro eodem mordo.

Fl. A. Ab. hur, hus, gebal gamarita

The name of the partie diseased is to be

written right against the Charme upon

the other Side. Prik all the vowells. Et

fiet per Gratiam Dei.

For the Toothache

Take a tooth out of a deadmans skull

and hange the same about the partie’s neck,

till the payne cease.

for the Toothache.

Write theis words upon a Paper. Aligat [cross]

Galis [cross] Aualis [cross]. Hang it about the

parties neck: et Sanus erit.

For ‘scabbie hands’

For Sore Fingers Ends

Take hony and wheatflower, make therof

a plaister lay it on the fingers ends

It will doe good, and make the nailes

to grow agayne faire


for Skabbie hands

Take the juice of Celendine and red

nettles with May Butter and Wax,

Mingle it Wel, and anoynt the hands whole


To slay a sheplouse in ones eare

Take the juice of hemlok into the eare


For a scaldhed.

Bray white mallowes and rootes

of red docks with May butter and

anoynt the Hed therwith.


To know the dropsey

If one be first Swoln in his feet

and after if draw upwards It is

the hot dropsey. Yf it begin in the

face and so downward, the cold dropsey


For one that is speechles

Dip 5 Sage leaves in mustard, lay them

under his tong, closing his mouth agayn.

This will cause him to speake; except

death be upon him.

To make a key

To make a Key

Take the Iron that is found unlooked for

make therof a key in the day and hour

of Venus the moon increasing; and when

the Key is made, put it at night wth

the Sacrifice of a white Cock in a

quadrangle way : Saying O Yee Spiritts

Naylon Achalaz, Receive this Sacrifice

that no Creature may resist against me

or this key, and that where this key is

put, or before what locks soever it be

turned about, I may prevaile and fulfil

my will. This sayd, write upon the Key

this figure [Image: ~ with two lines attached to the bottom as if it were a “F” where the prongs are facing downward] wth the bloud of the

same cock: Let it be there 3 dayes and

3 nights. Then in the third day before

the Cock crowe Take it out, and when

thou goest by any City Town or howse

Gates or dore Turn him from the left

parte and from the West to the East,

as yf you would open a lock,

[_____] Speculo magno exemplorum • [??] [Z?] Tih. Incamlaho. Exemplum [?] guomodo g[???] Juvanis yer prefermi IS quani[??]m Insemoho soferaras claus[??]as ex perfora apern[??] [snas?] postea aperr[?]e m[?] pofuis .

Leave your vote

Add to Collection

No Collections

Here you'll find all collections you've created before.