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Superstitions are surprisingly enduring. Even in an age of relentless scientific advances, it is remarkable how many survive intact. From crossing one's fingers to an aversion for meetings on Friday the 13th, we are all a little superstitious. This book reproduces one of the earliest collections of superstitions, compiled by the antiquary Francis Grose, whose intention was to give a systematic overview of the superstitious beliefs of his day and those that had been held by previous generations in Britain. Responding to the growing interest in British history and driven by a desire to make it more easily accessible to ordinary readers, Grose toured the country for many years, making sketches and collecting lexicographical data. Drawing on decades of fieldwork, he published in 1787 a disparate collection entitled A Provincial Glossary, with a Collection of Local Proverbs, and Popular Superstitions. In his introduction to the collection of superstitions he wrote: I shall arrange my subject under the following heads: Ghosts- Witches, Sorcerers, and Witchcraft-Fairies -Corps, Candles, &c.-Second Sight-Omens -Things lucky and unlucky-Spells, Charms, and other fanciful devices...-Superstitious Methods of obtaining a Knowledge of Future Events- Sympathy-and Miscellaneous Superstitions. Grose's Popular Superstitions are reproduced here under their original headings, with an introduction by John Simpson, setting the superstitions in their wider context and drawing attention to their historical, cultural, and lexicographical significance. The resulting collection is a delightfully quirky guide to traditional sayings and beliefs, some archaic and surprising, some still in use and recognizable today.
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About the Author

John Simpson is the Chief Editor of the Oxford English Dictionary.


'A delightful glimpse into enduring English folklore and beliefs. Written in the latter part of the eighteenth century, the book delves into matters natural and supernatural to explain why ghosts never appear on Christmas Eve and the magical power hidden in ordinary toads. A charming and illuminating read that is surprising in its detail and satisfying in its scope.' Deborah Harkness

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