iPad Book Review: Library of Witchcraft and Magic for iPad Reviewed by Guy Dayen
The Historical Library of Witchcraft and Magic app give readers easy access to a large collection of documents related to the world of witches throughout the ages. Fiction and Non-fiction are both well represented in the collection, which encompasses a wide variety of genres. You'll find short stories and novels, poetry, essays, diaries, historical treatises; a cornucopia of fascinating stories about witchcraft and those who practice the art. The works featured in the collection were written mainly in the 19th and early 20th century. They are a great way to learn about a part of cultural history that is rarely explored in mainstream history books.
There are works on astrology, hypnotism, gypsy folklore, witch trials, as well as works treating the history of witchcraft in many countries and in many times. Readers can delve into the traditions of the Celtic, Hindu, Egyptian and English peoples as they have evolved through the ages. There is a wealth of material here for anyone interested in magic and the supernatural, as well as for students of history. The different collections include: “Ancient Traditions”, “History of Magic”, Stories and Poetry”, “Treatises on Witchcraft” and “Witches in History”. There is enough material here to keep one busy for months, if not years.
One section of particular interest is devoted to the Salem Witch Trials. The documents make a great read in preparation for a trip to old Salem, and provide fascinating insight into the mindset of the American Puritans of the late 17th century. Scholars of colonial America will find invaluable information in this collection.
I mentioned students and scholars deliberately, because it should be said that most documents in this collection are not light reading. They are serious scholarly texts, and they take a bit of work to plow through. The language of the times was dense, and some of these books offer challenging reading. Even the fictional works demand a lot from the reader. If you are considering purchasing this app because it might be a fun Halloween read, you’ll most likely be disappointed. But if you have a serious interest in occult history, you will find much of value here.
It should be said that many of these works can be found on the Internet, in one form of other, but the appeal of the Historical Library of Witchcraft and Magic lies in the fact that the editors at BiblioLife have clearly spent a lot of time seeking out the most interesting and unusual documents, and grouped them in themed collections for easy research and reading. The hard work of weeding out poorly written or poorly documented works has already been done, leaving the reader to concentrate on the content and substance of the works.
Readers should be aware that the books in the collection are reproductions, presented as they were printed by the original publishers. Readers should not expect the pristine epub look, such as is seen on iBooks. There are sometimes blemishes, lines, or words that have been smeared in the printing process. Readers can zoom in on the text, which really helps when the text is a bit blurry or muddy from smudged ink. Despite the occasional imperfection, I found the pages to be clear and very easily readable on the iPad. One request might be to provide the option of sepia tone, to enhance the illusion of reading a rare old book. There are plenty of illustrations and maps to be seen. You will also sometimes find notes handwritten in the margins or in the text, which can shed even more light on the subjects being discussed. (And it’s kind of cool to see what people back then were thinking as they read these books in the real world…) Still, it is as close as many people will come to actually holding these old rare tomes in their hands. If you can get past the imperfections on the page, you will be rewarded with a great reading experience.
It should be noted that the app is a shell, a virtual bookshelf if you will, and that the books themselves still need to be downloaded for reading. Downloads can take a few minutes in the case of larger files, but most books will come down in a minute or two. The shelf is limited to twenty books at a time, and works can be placed in the favorites category for easy retrieval. There is also a “Recents” category, so you can easily access the latest books downloaded. Info about the books you are reading can be shared with friends via email or Facebook right within the app, which also features a nice search function. This is very useful when you want to hone in on a specific subject, rather than browse the various collections.
All in all, I am really impressed with the organization and content of this app, the second available from Bibliolife, following their first collection of antiquarian books, which was a more generalized collection. Anyone with an interest in the occult or in cultural history will be extremely happy with the books to be found here. The reading is not light and casual for the most part, but it is very interesting and those who undertake the explorations of these old texts will be well rewarded. And who knows, you might learn a good spell or two!