An indictment laying out the charges against one of the suspected witches in the 1692 Salem witch trials has been purchased for $26,000 by a Massachusetts collector.
The winner, who bid by phone, beat out two other bidders vying for the document, according to Swann Galleries in New York City, which facilitated the auction.
Margaret Scott was accused of “certaine detestable arts called witchcraft and sorceries” in the indictment. She was later hanged as part of the last group of executions during the fabled witch hunt. Ultimately, 19 people accused of consorting with the devil were hanged.
“These things are extremely rare,” Richard Trask, the archivist for the town of Danvers, which was known as Salem Village in 1692, said Wednesday. “In my whole professional life, which goes back to the late 1960s, I’ve only seen two documents like this that weren’t in institutions come to light.”
The indictment won’t shed any new light on the trials, Trask said, because he discovered a copy of the document about 20 years ago in a history of the nearby town of Rowley published in the 1840s.
“It doesn’t tell us anything new that we didn’t already know,” he said Wednesday. “But as an artifact of the period and for the rarity of it, it is important as an artifact of the event.”
The buyer paid a total of $31,200 for the document, including the buyer’s premium to the auctioneers, Swann Galleries said.
Colin A. Young can be reached at email@example.com.