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Windsurfing Witches: The Weird News Beat During The English Civil Wars
Thomason Tracts 1641-1643
Between 1640 and 1661, George Thomason of London collected over 22,000 books, pamphlets, and tracts, recording them as entries in his catalog. It is a key primary source for understanding the moment when the printing press was turned loose on the English speaking world with cannon blasts.
Troubled times make for troubled people. Witch hunts flared up in England during the Civil Wars and supernatural stories proliferated. Signs and wonders were everywhere. Puritan expectation of Judgment Day was everywhere. Going through the catalog for a completely different reason, I found a few entries that belong in the Weird News category. They were interesting, but not what I wanted, so I set them aside. I now present them here with the original spellings intact, for your amusement.
Nov. 15.—Most fearefull Newes from the Bishoppricke of Durham, being a relation of one Margaret Hooper of Edenbyres, who was possesssed and tormented with a devil. Printed for John Thomas.
Nov. 21. —The Wonderfull Works of God, declared by a strange Prophecie of a Maid in Nottingham-shire, who departed this life 21 Nov. Printed for John Thomas.
[Dec]—A Relation of a strange Apparition in an ale-house next doore to the White Horse against Sommerset House, where a company of Papists were at their exercises, as is conceived the Devill in an ugly shape disturbing them. Printed for Richard Smethrust.
Feb. 8. —Strange Newes from France, or, the copie of a letter [signed : P. Riville] sent unto his Majesty who lyes in Lincolnes Inne Fields, 8 Feb. Wherein is set down a true relation of an Apparition seen upon a mountain in Province, 4 Feb. Translated into English by W. V. Printed for John Thomas.
June 13.—Strange and miraculous Newes from Turkie of a woman which was seene in the Firmament at Medina Talnabi. Printed for Hugh Perrey.
July 15.—A Relation of a terrible Monster taken by a Fisherman neere Wollage, and is now to be seen in Kings Street, Westminster, the shape whereof is like a Toad. Whereunto is added a relation of a bloudy encounter betwixt the Lord Faulconbridtre and Sir John Hotham [at Hull] wherein the Duke of Richmond is hurt. Printed for Nath. Butter.
Aug. 23.—A Strange Accident that happened lately at Mears-Ashby of one Mary Wilmore, who was delivered of a childe without a head and credibly reported to have a firme crosse on the brest. For Richard Harper and Thomas Wise.
Oct. 30.—A wondfull Miracle. Declaring how Andrew Stonesby, a Cavalier at Listelleth, dranke a health to the Devill; also how the Devill appeared to him at that instant, so that he was distracted and died raving. Printed for Henry Hutton.
Nov. 14.—A Blazing Starre seene in the West at Totneis. Wherein is manifested how Ralph Ashley, a deboyst Cavalier, attempted to ravish a young Virgin; also how at that instant a fearfull Comet appeared; likewise how he, persisting in his damnable attempt, was struck with a flaming sword so that he died. Printed for Jonas Wright and I.H.
March 7.—A briefe Relation of a bloody Plot against the City of Bristoll, hatched by the Malignants of the said City, Prince Rupert, George Lord Digby, and their fellow Cavalliers, to have massacred all that had not the mark of the Beast upon them; happily discovered, 7 March. Printed for Richard Bishop by Lawrence Blaiklock.
Sept. 28.—A most certain, strange, and true Discovery of a Witch, being overtaken as she was standing on a small planck board and as sayling on it over the river of Newbury. Printed by John Hammond.
Dec. 7.—Horrid and Strange News from Ireland; being a true relation of what happened in Munster at a Castle called Ballimarter, wherein there were very strange Apparitions. By Henry Lovel, an Eyewitnesse. Printed by Thomas Harper.
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