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A Chicago Library Needs Help Transcribing 17th-Century Spellbooks

Michele Debczak
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Interested in dabbling in 17th-century witchcraft in your spare time? The Newberry Library in Chicago could use your help. As Quartz reports, the independent research library is calling on citizens to translate and transcribe three books dealing with spells and witches that date back to the 1600s.

The manuscripts—The Book of Magical Charms, The Commonplace Book, and Cases of Conscience Concerning Witchcraft—have been scanned and uploaded to the library's open transcription portal. Consisting of archaically spelled English and Latin text handwritten on yellowed, water-stained pages, the content is difficult for most modern-day readers to make sense of. But those who can decipher it will be treated to such eye-opening passages as a remedy for nosebleeds, a reflection on the ethics of witch hanging, and one medicinal use for a dead man's tooth.

Pages from the texts are available to view online with text boxes below for readers to contribute their transcriptions and translations. Several portions have already been decoded, like a section on activating a magic seal ("write in virgin parchment the blood of a lamb") and tips for conjuring ("work should be with a crescent moon"). Once transcriptions have been written and reviewed by the library, they will be added to the institution’s digital collection. There anyone will be able to browse through centuries-old advice on dealing with menstrual pain and contacting the dead, even if they can't understand centuries-old English.

[h/t Quartz]

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