Today, Swann Galleries in New York will be offering an original manuscript from the Salem witch trials as part of the Eric C. Caren Collection auction, entitled 'How History Unfolds on Paper'. The manuscript is the court indictment of Margaret Scott, a widow in her 70s who was accused and found guilty of "certaine detestable arts called witchcraft and sorcery." Scott was one of the last eight residents executed for crimes of witchcraft during the Salem witch trials. She was hanged on September 22, 1692.
The pre-auction estimate for the manuscript is $25,000-$35,000, a figure that Richard Trask, a leading expert on the trials, says is too low. Trask has been in the field since 1963 and says that he has "only seen witchcraft documents sold twice during professional life." He continues, "They are very valuable, and this is an indictment — it's an important document. ... This kind of document comes along so infrequently." Rick Stattler, Swann's Director of printed and manuscript Americana, agrees about the rarity of the manuscript—no similar items have come to auction since 1983. Trask is town archivist for what was formerly Salem Village, and laments that he will be unable to procure the manuscript due to budgetary restrictions. "Anybody who has money could buy it," he said. "The problem with these documents is they're really public records. They should be in a public institution." The auction will take place today at 1:30pm.