Early Modern Supernatural
The Dark Side of European Culture, 1400–1700
by Jane P. Davidson
January 2012, 248pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-0-313-39343-3
$75, £58, 66€, A103
eBook Available: 978-0-313-39344-0
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

In this purported age of technology, science, and reason, many people still believe in ghosts or the concept of the Devil, while the widespread popularity of vampire- and werewolf-themed books and movies evidence our continued fascination with the idea of nonhuman creatures. Not surprisingly, the supernatural represented a topic of great interest for Europeans in the early modern period as well.

Devils, ghosts, poltergeists, werewolves, and witches are all covered in this book about the "dark side" of supernatural beliefs in early modern Europe, tapping period literature, folklore, art, and scholarly writings in its investigation.

The dark side of early modern European culture could be deemed equal in historical significance to Christianity based on the hundreds of books that were printed about the topic between 1400 and 1700. Famous writers and artists like William Shakespeare and Albrecht Dürer depicted the dark side in their work, and some of the first printed books in Europe were about witches. The pervasive representation of these monsters and apparitions in period literature, folklore, and art clearly reflects their power to inspire fear and superstition, but also demonstrates how integral they were to early modern European culture.

This unique book addresses topics of the supernatural within the context of the early modern period in Europe, covering “mythical” entities such as devils, witches, ghosts, poltergeists, and werewolves in detail and examining how they fit in with the emerging new scientific method of the time. This unique combination of cultural studies for the period is ideal for undergraduate students and general readers.


  • Illustrations from rare books on witchcraft and demonology
  • An annotated bibliography of primary and secondary sources
  • Appendices address early modern supernatural art and artists who depicted the dark side as well as important historical individuals
Jane P. Davidson, PhD, is professor of history of art at the University of Nevada, Reno, NV. She earned her doctorate in history of art and also holds a graduate degree in United States history. She is the author of numerous articles and books on Flemish 17th century painting, the history of paleontology, and the history of witchcraft iconography in art. Her published works include A History of Paleontology Illustration; The Bone Sharp: The Life of Edward Drinker Cope; The Witch in Northern European Art 1470–1750; and David Teniers the Younger.
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