The earliest texts in this comprehensive collection on witchcraft date from the 15th century and the latest are from the early 20th century. The majority of the material concerns the 16th to 18th centuries, the so-called "classic period." In addition to these classic texts, the collection includes anti-persecution writings, works by penologists (those who administered torture), legal and church documents, exposés of persecutions, philosophical writings and transcripts of trials and exorcisms.
Although the emphasis of the material is on the theological question of witchcraft as Christian heresy, the collection also follows the history of Europe through the Age of Enlightenment and traces the trends and events of the early years of Colonial America. A whole culture is uncovered, revealing the social, religious, and intellectual conditions that fostered the witchcraft hysteria and allowed the deaths of a quarter of a million people.
Of 1,045 carefully selected texts, most were ultimately drawn from the holdings of six major libraries: Cornell University; Henry Charles Lea Library of the University of Pennsylvania; Yale and Harvard's various libraries; Peabody Essex Museum at Salem, Massachusetts; and the Harry Price Library of Magical Literature at the University of London Library. The majority of texts are in Latin, English and German, although there are also selected documents in French, Italian, Portuguese, Danish, Dutch and Spanish.
A printed guide accompanies the collection.