News From The Invisible World: A Collection of Remarkable Narratives On The Certainty of Supernatural Visitations From The Dead To The Living; Impartially Compiled From The Works of Baxter, Wesley, Simpson And Other Writers Of Indisputable Veracity


Ottway, T [Thomas]; Richard Baxter [1615-1691]; John Wesley [1703-1791; David Simpson [1745-1799]

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Ottway, T [Thomas]; Richard Baxter [1615-1691]; John Wesley [1703-1791; David Simpson [1745-1799]. News From The Invisible World: A Collection of Remarkable Narratives On The Certainty of Supernatural Visitations From The Dead To The Living; Impartially Compiled From The Works of Baxter, Wesley, Simpson And Other Writers Of Indisputable Veracity. London: Barr & Co., 1844. pp. viii 408. 16mo. Stamped cloth with floral decoration and gilt lettering to spine and boards. Engraved frontispiece depicting two young girls and the other (presumably) depicting the author. Extremities are worn with fraying to the spine ends, period ink name to ffep, tide-marks to the upper corners of the frontispiece. Overall, the text-block remains clean and unmarked with sound binding. Good+. Scarce. A particularly unusual title this work appears to derive much of its’ content from earlier stories of apparitions by Daniel Defoe [1660 – 1731], namely, ‘An Essay on the History and Reality of Apparitions’. Published in 1727 it contained what went on to become the most famous ghost story of the 18th century: “A True Relation of the Apparition of One Mrs. Veal the Next Day after her Death to One Mrs. Bargrave at Canterbury the 8th of September, 1705”. At time of cataloguing WorldCat indicates the presence of two distinct editions of this title in various institutions with no physical copies with the publication date of 1844 or by this publisher (Barr & Co.). A microfiche edition is available from the Wellcome Collection.

The publication history is most unusual; J. Barry in News from the Invisible World: The Publishing History of Tales of the Supernatural c.1660–1832 writes:

“It was also a very substantial work, at over 400 pages of closely printed duodecimo, which effectively brought together in one compendium most of the classic stories from the seventeenth-century authors with a host of new eighteenth-century material, much of it from the Arminian Magazine. This was News from the Invisible World: or Interesting Anecdotes of the Dead. Containing a particular survey of the most remarkable and well-attested accounts of apparitions, ghosts, spectres, dreams and visions, with some valuable extracts from the works of the Rev. John Wesley, the Rev. David Simpson and others … the whole forming a series of useful and necessary information for the support of our faith and practice (Burslem, undated, c. 1800). A standard preface defended the reality of the spirit world, though in cautious (largely biblical) terms, and promised extracts from the ‘expensive and voluminous’ works of the ‘most learned and judicious authors’ ‘with all precision possible’ but leaving the reader ‘to judge for himself whether they are natural or miraculous events’ (ii). The editor and publisher was a former Wesleyan lay preacher from Cornwall, John Tregortha (d.c. 1821), who had settled at Burslem near Stoke by 1796 as a printer and bookseller, publishing editions of religious classics such as Bunyan, his own complete family Bible with commentary, works of Methodist history and other texts defending the reality of divine providence, as well as chapbook publications like Mother Bunch’s Closet Newly Broken Open and A History of Richard Whittington. The book had a complex publishing history, going through editions with the same core title but varied subtitles, usually with the same preface but then with the stories in varying order. Editions are recorded in 1808, 1812, 1813 and 1814 at Burslem, plus an undated ‘new and improved edition’ there, then (after his death and the bankruptcy of his son John junior in 1822) at Manchester in 1827, 1828 and 1835. By the 1813 edition the reference to ‘support of our faith and practice’ had been dropped (but the Hobson story by Wesley was brought to the start), while the last Burslem and later editions modified the subtitle, offering instead ‘a number of well attested facts; showing their power and influence on the affairs of mankind; with several extracts and original pieces from the writings of the best authors. The whole designed to prevent infidelity, show the state of separate spirits and evince the certainty of the world to come.’ Then, at least by 1836, the title (and some of the content) was taken over by an otherwise unknown author called (from 1843 onwards) ‘T. Ottway’. In his first London edition, printed for Joseph Smith at 3s in 24mo, it had the slightly amended title The Spectre, or News from the Invisible World, a collection of remarkable narratives on the certainty of supernatural visitations from the dead to the living etc; impartially compiled from the works of Baxter, Wesley, Simpson and other authors of indisputable veracity. But by 1840 ‘The Spectre’ had been dropped, and, with some editions reprinting Tregortha’s preface, readers could reasonably have assumed they were reading the same book, but they were not, as it contained a different selection of stories, which also varied between the 1840 and 1843 editions, but then remained constant in later editions (some in London, some in Halifax) in 1844, 1848, 1853, 1860 and finally in 1870 (when the author’s name also changed to ‘T. Charley’!).” Hardcover. (#707) $195.00