Sunday, 13 November 2011

Historical Library of Witchcraft and Magic

As this app is so far only available for the iPad, and I do not own one, I am unable to tell you how this app really works. But according to this favourable review, it works very well as a 'virtual book shelf'.

The Historical Library of Witchcraft and Magic app is made by Bibliolife, and includes a number of out of print and obscure books on the subject of witchcraft. According to Bibliolife's own promotional material, the texts include The Magic Staff: An Autobiography of Andrew Jackson Davis, The Witch, The Magic of Jewels and Charms, Modern Magic, A Short History of the Salem Village Witchcraft Trials, Mysticism and Magic in Turkey, and many more, probably including a number of those available from Bibliolife subsidiary Bibliobazaar.

It looks like an interesting app, and possibly a brilliant ressource of a mix of fictional and non fictional books on the subject that may be worth reading or at least having at hand if you are particularly interested in older books on the subject. In that respect, I suppose it could be very interesting if a similar app was made that included various books and texts relating to the subject of vampires, e.g. the rarely seen first English translation of Calmet's Dissertation which is available as a print on demand book from Bibliobazaar.

However, if the library app does not include any current information on the books and the subject, I am somewhat worried that the casual reader will be more misinformed than informed on the subject. This is apparently still a relevant issue in certain circles that have a particular interest in the subject, as a so-called 'Neopagan' writes in an interesting essay on Recent Developments in the Study of the Great European Witch Hunt:

‘We Neopagans now face a crisis. As new data appeared, historians altered their theories to account for it. We have not. Therefore an enormous gap has opened between the academic and the “average” Pagan view of witchcraft. We continue to use of out-dated and poor writers, like Margaret Murray, Montague Summers, Gerald Gardner, and Jules Michelet.

We avoid the somewhat dull academic texts that present solid research, preferring sensational writers who play to our emotions. For example, I have never seen a copy of Brian Levack’s
The Witch Hunt in Early Modern Europe in a Pagan bookstore. Yet half the stores I visit carry Anne Llewellyn Barstow’s Witchcraze, a deeply flawed book which has been ignored or reviled by most scholarly historians.

We owe it to ourselves to study the Great Hunt more honestly, in more detail, and using the best data available. Dualistic fairy tales of noble witches and evil witch hunters have great emotional appeal, but they blind us to what happened.’

I heartily welcome any new technological advance in making books and information easily available, but at the same time I find it paramount to stress how important it is that outdated information and views are not presented as if they are still valid. The easier it gets to find all sorts of old books and material, the more important it is to be able to view this material in a contemporary and informed perspective.


Nicolas Barbano said...

Step by step, reality is catching up with Gene Roddenberry's vision.

steward said...

Although it is a nice collection, the catch is that even after paying 9.99 for it (a rather high price as apps go), you can only download 20 books at a time. As the iPad is designed to store very large quantities of data, and as one may not always be in a place with good data reception (like a Witch festival out in the woods somewhere), this limitation - not stated before buying the app - is something to take into consideration before purchasing.

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