Saturday, 22 March 2008

The Vampire: His Kith and Kin

Back in the Eighties and into the Nineties it was almost impossible to obtain a copy of Montague Summers's The Vampire: His Kith and Kin. For some reason, the follow up volume, The Vampire in Europe, was reissued a couple of times, but Summers's first book on the subject was extremely hard to find. Not so now, as it has been reissued and even first editions are available on ebay, but you can also read it online courtesy of Forgotten Books. OK, the Greek quotes look strange, but most modern day readers will probably skip them on their initial reading anyway.

6 comments:

Anthony Hogg said...

I should take this opportunity to make some comments about the reproduced version of Summers' The Vampire: His Kith and Kin (1928) that you discuss in this blog.

Forgotten Books has clearly published a reproduction of the text available from The Internet Sacred Text Archive (TISTA). Indeed, the brief, opening biography is the first giveaway, as it cites the website in question.

What it neglects to name, is the author of the bio: John Bruno Hare, TISTA's webmaster. This will become much more significant shortly.

The most important giveaway comes via a bibliographic entry in the Forgotten Books edition.

If we turn to page 301, we come across a reference to a rather unusual book:

"ERAH, J. Onurb. Key to Vampyrology, Witchcrafte & Dæmonologie for Guidance of ye Slayers. The Watchers' Society, Cambridge, 1751."

It also appears in TISTA's version of the text (See: "Bibliography").
Alarm bells should be ringing already.

If they aren't, then try reversing the spelling of the author's name...

For readers interested in a facsimile edition of Summers' 1928 book, I'd advise purchasing the (unfortunately retitled, but still reliable) Vampires and Vampirism (Mineola, New York: Dover Publication, Inc., 2005).

Michael Pickering said...

This was an interesting little mechanism that I came across last year as well! I actually sent an email to Hare, since the same reference appeared in the bibliography of the online version of Margaret Murray's book on European witchcraft. Personally, I don't know why anyone would bother spending too much time on either book (online, in hardcopy, or written in magic marker on a bathroom wall!). Especially Summers' book. While it is necessary to examine it from an historiographical point of view, it is not serious scholarship. Harry Senn's 'Were-wolf and vampire in Romania' is much better.

Niels K. Petersen said...

Obviously, I didn't pay much attention the online edition that I referred, just thought of how different the situation is nowadays compared to just a few years ago. Anyway, thanks for the appropriate comments.

As for Summers, I agree - and I think it should be apparent from several posts on this blog - that his works are not as useful today as they are often considered to be. However, whereas you can easily neglect his works on witchcraft these days, his two books on vampires and the one on werewolves are still used by so many writers and people interested in this subject, that I think you do have to spend some time on commenting his writings and correcting his errors in order to put his 'authority' into a more correct perspective.

Senn's books is certainly an interesting study, but for a more historical approach I would recommend some of the books by German and French writers and researchers that are, unfortunately, not available in English.

Niels K. Petersen said...

And I did of course mean Senn's book, not books, as I am not aware of more than one book by him on the subject.

Anthony Hogg said...

Hi Michael,

Yeah, I e-mailed Hare about it a few years ago myself. Especially after I saw it appear as an untraceable reference in an early, online draft of Jason Nolan's "Translating Medieval Vampires: Walter Map’s De Nugis Curialium and William of Newburgh’s Historia Rerum Anglicarum".

Nolan's draft is no longer available online, but click here for a reference to it.

Just like Nolan, I had never heard of Key to Vampyrology, Witchcrafte & Dæmonologie for Guidance of ye Slayers myself, but clues like "ye Slayers" in the title, in conjunction with "The Watcher's Society" as its publisher, made me suspicious.

Then, I gave more thought to the author's name, and bam! It hit me.

Hare confirmed that he had deliberately inserted the fake text into the bibliography for his transcription of Summers' work.

Forgot his exact reason, but I think it had to do with replicating a similar trick employed other transcribers, to waylay lazy scholars.

I then e-mailed Nolan to inform him of the deception, and suffice it to say, he wasn't pleased.

Either way, it was amusing to see Forgotten Books reproduce the erroneous entry.

Though, worrisome too.

All said, the impact and influence of Summers' work on vampires can not be underestimated, regardless of its errors. Though, I also believe closer scrutiny needs to be made of his work.

I've still yet to read Senn's work myself, mainly because it isn't an easy title to come across...and also extremely expensive to purchase.

Nonetheless, I'm sure both you and Niels are validated in your praise.

Niels K. Petersen said...

Senn's work is based on field work in Romania in the 1970'ies. Senn collected folk-tales, and was surprised to find that the majority were about werewolves and revenants.

Unfortunately, it is, as you say, hard to come across and for that reason quite expensive, so it's one of those books you have to borrow and make copies of relevant portions.

In general, there are so many books to explore that you simply can't afford to have them all...

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