362J  James FISHER and  [Martha HATFIELD].

The wise virgin: or, A wonderfull narration of the various dispensations of God towards a childe of eleven years of age; wherein as his severity hath appeared in afflicting, so also his goodness both in enabling her (when stricken dumb, deaf, and blind, through the prevalency of her disease) at several times to utter many glorious truths concerning Christ, faith, and other subjects; and also in recovering her without the use of any external means, lest the glory should be given to any other. To the wonderment of many that came far and neer to see and hear her. With some observations in the fourth year since her recovery. She is the daughter of Mr. Anthony Hatfield gentleman, in Laughton in York-shire; her name is Martha Hatfield. The third edition enlarged, with some passages of her gracious conversation now in the time of health. By James Fisher, servant of Christ, and minister of the Gospel in Sheffield. 


LONDON: Printed for John Rothwell, at the Fountain, in Cheapside.  1656   $3,300

Octavo, 143 x 97 x 23 mm (binding), 139 x 94 x 18 mm (text block). A-M8, N3. Lacks A1, blank or a portrait? [26], 170 pp. Bound in contemporary calf, upper board reattached, somewhat later marbled and blank ends. Leather rubbed with minor loss to extremities. Interior: Title stained, leaves soiled, gathering N browned, long vertical tear to E2 without loss, tail fore-corner of F8 torn away, with loss of a letter, side notes of B2v trimmed.


This is a remarkable survival of the third edition of the popular interregnum account of Sheffield Presbyterian minister James Fisher’s 11-year-old niece Martha Hatfield’s prophetic dialogues following her recovery from a devastating catalepsy that had left her “dumb, deaf, and blind.” Mar tha’s disease, which defies modern retro-diagnostics, was at the time characterized as “spleenwinde,” a term even the Oxford English Dictionary has overlooked.

Her sufferings were as variable as they were extraordinary the young girl at one point endured a 17-day fugue state during which her eyes remained open and fixed and she gnashed her teeth to the breaking point. In counterpoise to the horrors of her infirmity, her utterances in periods of remission and upon recovery were of great purity and sweetness; it is this stark contrast that was, and is, the persistent allure of this little book. The Wise Virgin appeared five times between 1653 and 1665; some editions have a portrait frontispiece, and it is entirely possible that the present third edition should have one at A1v, though the copy scanned by Early English Books Online does not. Copies located at Yale, and at Oxford (from which the EEBO copy was made).

Wing F1006

Brit.Isles LinkOxford University Balliol College 
LinkOxford University, Bodleian Library 
N.America LinkYale University, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library