Scottish History and Witchcraft: The Dr. George Fraser Black Collection

Dr. George Fraser Black, a librarian for the New York Public Library and later the Associate Director of the Scottish National Museum of Antiquities in Edinburgh, was a distinguished researcher who was active in the late 1800s until his retirement in 1931. During this time, he researched and published on several topics, most notably Scottish history. His works include a history of Scottish Clans, several bibliographies on Scottish history, and an examination of the Romani language.

Dr. Black
Dr. George Fraser Black

Much of Dr. Black’s research is devoted to looking at how modern Scotland formed and the influence of the Scottish people. A huge topic of interest within the realm of Scottish history was the poet Robert Burns. Among the materials are copies of Burns’s work, photo references, and images inspired by Burns’s poems.

Burns Images
Images inspired by Robert Burns’s works.

Dr. Black compiled most of his research in a series of scrapbooks that included newspaper articles, photocopied book excerpts, and handwritten notes that he found relevant. The collection contains over 30 of these scrapbooks on a variety of topics from folklore to the history of Scottish Clans arranged alphabetically. Perhaps his most intriguing research involved witchcraft. Seven of the scrapbooks in the collection contains detailed information on trials, rumors, and myths surrounding witches and mythical creatures. These scrapbooks hold newspaper articles detailing witchcraft trials as late as the 1920s in the United States while also covering famous accounts from the Spanish Inquisition.

The Witches
Image found in the Witchcraft Scrapbooks of the George Black Collection

This collection is currently still being processed by the Special Collections & Archives team, but it will be available for the public to view soon.

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