400 Years of Mysticism: Selections from the Merle Bobzien Collection is one of the newest displays housed in the Frank Mt. Pleasant Library in Leatherby Libraries. This collection of sixteenth through nineteenth century books explores the topics of magic, sorcery, prophecies, witchcraft, apparitions, spirits, astrology, and physiognomy.

Curated by Merle Bobzien, a private Southern California collector who has spent more than fifty years adding to an already remarkable collection of books that range from the fourteenth through the early twentieth century, this selection showcases not only the aforementioned topics, but the books themselves, including their bindings, printing, illustrations, and paper stock.

“We are very fortunate that Merle Bobzien is so generous with is collection and is willing to share them with the Chapman community,” noted Rand Boyd, Coordinator of Special Collections and Archives.

Included in this exhibit of more than twenty books is Augustine of Hippo’s De civitate Dei (The City of God).  Originally written in the fifth century, this copy was published in 1489, a mere fifty years after the invention of the printing press. Considered Augustine’s most important work, it tackles philosophical questions of theology, such as the doctrine of original sin and the existence of evil.

Malleus Maleficarum (Hammer of [the] Witches), often attributed to Jacob Springer, is now believed to be written by Heinrich Kramer, a German Catholic member of the clergy. First published in 1487, Kramer explains his personal views on witchcraft, refuting arguments that witchcraft did not exist and, among other things, convincing magistrates to use his recommended procedures for identifying and convicting witches. Although the Roman Catholic Church condemned this manuscript, its use in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries fueled ongoing and often fatal persecution of alleged practitioners of witchcraft.

You’ll also see the first English translation of The True Prophecies or Prognostications of Michael Nostradamus, printed in London in 1672. Sixteenth century physician and reputed seer, Nostradamus, published his collections of prophecies that are still believed to be correct by many even today.  About the varying translations, however, Merle Bobzien writes, “. . . the translation is wildly different from the seventeenth century to the present, as is the associated explanation of each prediction. In fact, these predictions should have been written on rubber as they have been pulled and yanked to a plethora of explanations.”

The exhibit is open through May 1, 2016.

Exhibit Hours: Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Location: Frank Mt. Pleasant Library of Special Collections and Archives, Fourth Floor, Leatherby Libraries.