Thomas Perks and His Circle

  • Jonathan Barry
Part of the Palgrave Historical Studies in Witchcraft and Magic book series (PHSWM)


This chapter uses Arthur Bedford’s letter to reconstruct what Thomas Perks of Mangotsfield might have tried to do, as a mathematician, astrologer and a conjurer of spirits in 1690s’ Bristol. It establishes some biographical facts about Perks and his family. It considers the magic books (Agrippa, Scot) Perks might have used, and the naming of his familiar spirit.


conjuration mathematics astrology books of magic familiar spirits 


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  1. 1.
    Historians of Mangotsfield (e.g. A.E. Jones, Our Parish Mangotsfield (Bristol [1899]) have largely ignored the story. The Perks family only merit two brief mentions (giving Thomas’s age wrongly as ‘about forty’) in Patricia Lindegaard’s invaluable biographical notes on Kingswood people, available at, while Dorothy Vinter’s summary of this ‘particularly pleasant’ story as ‘The Haunted Forest’ in Stories of the Kings Wood (Kingswood, 1950), pp. 3–5 is inaccurate (Bedford is said to be writing to his bishop for advice on how to act).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    BRO EP/J/4 1699/21; Elizabeth Ralph (ed.), Marriage Bonds for the Diocese of Bristol, 1637–1700 (Gloucester, 1952), pp. 231, 315Google Scholar
  3. J.S. Moore (ed.), Goods and Chattels of Our Forefathers (Chichester, 1976), p. 217; Jones, Our Parish, p. 192.Google Scholar
  4. 8.
    Simon Schaffer, ‘The Show That Never Ends’, British Journal for the History of Science, 28:2 (1995), 157–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 9.
    John Silvester, Astrological Observations and Predictions for the Year of Our Lord 1691 (1690)Google Scholar
  6. Silvester, Astrological and Theological Observations and Predictions for the Year of Our Lord 1700 (Bristol [1699])Google Scholar
  7. Bernard Capp, Astrology and the Popular Press (1979), pp. 26, 37, 44, 139, 379; Bod. MS Gough Somerset 2, James Stewart, ‘The History of the Famous City and Port of Bristol’.Google Scholar
  8. 10.
    Jones, Our Parish; Robert Malcolmson, ‘“A Set of Ungovernable People”’, in John Brewer and John Styles (eds), An Ungovernable People (1980), pp. 85–127, 326–33Google Scholar
  9. Samuel Rudder, A New History of Gloucestershire (Cirencester, 1779, 1782), p. 537Google Scholar
  10. 12.
    Introduction by Joseph H. Peterson (2000), available at; Kathleen Briggs, ‘Some Seventeenth-Century Books of Magic’, Folklore 64:4 (1953), 445–62CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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  12. Owen Davies, Grimoires (Oxford, 2009), pp. 50, 52, 66, 69–70; id., Cunning Folk (2003). pp. 124–9.Google Scholar
  13. 14.
    Henry Cornelius Agrippa, His Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy (1655 and second edition corrected and enlarged 1665), pp. 44, 54–5, 62–3, 85Google Scholar
  14. Reginald Scot, The Discovery of Witchcraft… in Sixteen Books by Reginald Scot, Whereunto Is Added an Excellent Discourse of the Nature and Substance of Devils and Spirits, in Two Books (1665), pp. 215–16 (of Discovery) and pp. 60–1 (of Discourse)Google Scholar
  15. Simon Davies, ‘Reception of Reginald Scot’s Discovery of Witchcraft’, Journal of the History of Ideas, 74:3 (2013), 381–401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. E.M. Butler, Ritual Magic (1949), pp. 281–3 argues that Perks’s conjuration is drawn from the information in Weyer’s ‘Pseudomonarchia Demonum’, as printed in Scot.Google Scholar
  17. 15.
    MS Rawlinson D253, catalogued in William D. Macray (ed.), Catalogi codicum manuscriptorum Bibliothecae Bodleianae partis quintae fasciculus tertius, viri munificentissimi Ricardi Rawlinson (Oxford, 1893), and discussed in Davies, Cunning Folk, pp. 140, 144.Google Scholar
  18. 16.
    Butler, Ritual Magic, pp, 281, 311. Diane Purkiss, Troublesome Things (2000)Google Scholar
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  21. 18.
    Emma Wilby, Cunning Folk and Familiar Spirits (Brighton, 2005).Google Scholar
  22. 20.
    ‘Index of angel names, magical words and names of God’ by Joseph H. Peterson (1998), available at nameindx.htm; Richard Kieckheffer, Forbidden Rites (Stroud, 1997)Google Scholar
  23. Claire Fanger (ed.), Conjuring Spirits (1998)Google Scholar
  24. Davies, Grimoires. George Lyman Kittredge’s Witchcraft in Old and New England (Cambridge, Mass., 1929), pp. 310, 520, suggests that it derives from ‘Andrew Malchus’ a spirit invoked in treasure-hunting in 1528, which he in turn relates to Adrammelech, a heathen God in 2 Kings, but Barbara Mowat’s ‘Prospero’s Book’, Shakespeare Quarterly, 52:1 (2003), 1–33 (at n. 50) suggests a corruption of Andromalius’ in the Legemeton, who is able to discover hidden treasure.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 21.
    Gary Taylor and J. Lavagnino (eds), Thomas Middleton and Early Modern Textual Culture (Oxford, 2007), pp. 157, 397, 690; id. (eds), Thomas Middleton: The Collected Works (Oxford, 2007), pp. 1152, 1170.Google Scholar
  26. 22.
    Arthur Bedford, A Serious Remonstrance in Behalf of the Christian Religion (1719), pp. 19–21, 24, 28–30.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Jonathan Barry 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jonathan Barry
    • 1
  1. 1.University of ExeterUK

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