Picture of Frank Klaassen

Frank Klaassen B.I.S., M.A., Ph.D.


Faculty Member in History

Arts 718

Research Area(s)

  • Magic
  • Gender
  • Manuscripts
  • Pre-Modern Lay Piety
  • History of Science

About me

Frank Klaassen is author of The Transformations of Magic: Illicit Learned Magic in the Later Middle Ages and Renaissance (Penn State University Press, 2012), winner of the Margaret Labarge Prize, Making Magic in Elizabethan England (Penn State University Press, 2019), The Magic of Rogues: Necromancers and Authority in Early Tudor England (Penn State University Press, 2021), and the forthcoming Everyday Magicians in Tudor England (the last two co-authored with Sharon Wright). His numerous articles (see Publications) concern various aspects of magic in the late middle ages and early modern period, focussing in particular on manuscript evidence. In recent years he has engaged in various forms of public history including several museum exhibits and historical games. In 2020 he was awarded the Medieval Academy of America Teaching Prize. His poetry has appeared in numerous international literary journals.




The Transformations of Magic: Illicit Learned Magic in the Later Middle Ages and Renaissance. University Park: Penn State University Press, 2012.

Making Magic in Elizabethan England. University Park: Penn State University Press, 2019.

Co-authored with Sharon Wright. The Magic of Rogues: Necromancy and Authority in Early Tudor England. University Park: Penn State University Press, 2021.

Co-authored with Sharon Wright. Everyday Magicians in Tudor England. University Park: Penn State University Press, forthcoming.



"English Manuscripts of Ritual Magic 1300-1500: A Preliminary Survey." In Conjuring Spirits: Texts and Traditions of Medieval Ritual Magic, edited by Claire Fanger, 3-31. University Park, Pa.: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1998.

"Medieval Ritual Magic in the Renaissance." Aries 3, no. 2 (2003): 166-99.

"Magical Dream Provocation in the Later Middle Ages." Esoterica VIII, (2006): 120-47.

With Chris Phillips, "The Return of Stolen Goods: Reginald Scot, Religious Controversy, and a Late Sixteenth-Century Manuscript of Magic." Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft 1, no. 2 (2006): 135-77.

"Learning and Masculinity in Manuscripts of Ritual Magic of the Later Middle Ages and Renaissance." Sixteenth Century Journal 38, no. 1 (2007): 49-76.

"Three Magic Rituals to Spoil Witches." Opuscula: Short Texts of the Middle Ages and Renaissance 1 (2011): 1-10. 

"The Middleness of Ritual Magic." In The Unorthodox Imagination in Medieval Britain edited by Sophie Page. 131-65. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2011.


"Unstable Texts and Modal Approaches to the Written Word in Medieval European Ritual Magic." In Orality and Literacy: Reflections across Disciplines and Cultures, edited by Keith Thor Carlson, Kristina Fagan and Natalia Khanenko-Friesen. 217-43. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2011.


"Ritual Invocation and Early Modern Science: The Skrying Experiments of Humphrey Gilbert." In Invoking Angels, edited by Claire Fanger. 341-66. University Park: Penn State University Press, 2012.


"The Subjective Experience of Medieval Ritual Magic." In Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft Volume 7:1 (2012): 19-51.

With Katrina Bens. "Sex with Fairies and Invisibility." Opuscula: Short Texts of the Middle Ages and Renaissance  (2013).

“Curious Companions: Spirit Conjuring and Alchemy in the Sixteenth Century.” In Michelle Brock, Richard Raiswell, and David Winter (eds.), Knowing Demons, Knowing Spirits, 145-170. Palgrave Macmillan (2018).

“Necromancy,” in Sophie Page and Catherine Rider (eds), The Routledge History of Medieval Magic. Routledge (2019). 


with David Porreca. Magic Ancient and Modern: Materials and Imagination. An exhibit mounted at the Museum of Antiquities, University of Saskatchewan (March 2017) Western Michigan University (May 2017), and University of Waterloo (Fall 2018).

with students in Hist 498.3 Magic and Kabbalah: An Eighteenth-Century Manuscript in the Murray Library. Murray Library (December 2016-January 2017).

Blog Posts, Videos, and other Non-Peer Reviewed Publications:

“Manuscripts at Teaching Tools.” Societas Magica Newsletter 12 (2004): 4-5.

“Notes on the Sworn Book of HonoriusSocietas Magica Newsletter 7 (2001):6.

"Fabian Humphrey’s Prayer Book and the Trappings of Magic: The McGill Cipher Manuscript (Montreal, McClennan Library (McGill University), MS G 177)." Blog Post, Societas Magica Blog (http://www.societasmagica.org/blog?arc=05-2014), May 2014.

“Recipes for Magic.” Blog post, Recipes Project (https://recipes.hypotheses.org/9095), February, 2017. (Reposted on the Societas Magica Blog, February 2017.)

“Molybdomancy,” Youtube video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AzzQhJlk64o), February, 2017.

“Holy Almandal,” Youtube video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EUxWw_BBRKE), February, 2017.

“The Magic of Love and Sex.” The Conversation: Canadian Edition. (https://theconversation.com/the-magic-of-love-and-sex-91749), February 2018.

"Goodbye Enlightenment, Hello Magic and Witchcraft." The Conversation: Canadian Edition (https://theconversation.com/hello-magic-and-witchcraft-goodbye-enlightenment-105720), October 2018.

"A New Board Game to Teach the Old Rules of Masculinity." The Conversation: Canadian Edition, January 2019.

Poetry (selected):

"Martyr's Mirror" and "Unless You've Walked for Water." Five Points (forthcoming).

"The Sudden Door" Painted Bride Quarterly (forthcoming).

"The lure," Columba Issue 8 (Summer 2021) (https://www.columbapoetry.com/klaassen-312977.html).

"My Raven." Fresh Voices 21 (2020) (https://poets.ca/2020/12/07/fresh-voices-21/).

"The business of the grass." Canadian Literature 241 (2020): 16-17.

"Waiting Stitches." Dalhousie Review 99:2 (Summer 2019): 253-54. 

"Beefheart", "The Skryer", and "Cunning Man." Stand 223, 17(3). September - November 2019.

Furunculus meus—My little thief,” The Malahat Review 202 (Spring 2018): 64.  

“Salamander,” in Oxford Poetry XVI.i (Winter 2015-16): 27.  

“Carpenter Moon” and “My Love I Just Can’t Bake that Pie”, in Poetry Salzburg Review, 29 (Summer 2016): 106.

“Boys in Ontario.” in The New Quarterly, Issue 11 (Winter 1984).

“At the Hospital.” in The New Quarterly, Issue 4 (Spring 1982).

“Water.” in The New Quarterly, Issue 2 (Summer 1981).

“Two Poems.” The New Quarterly, Issue 1 (Spring 1981).

Teaching & Supervision


CMRS 111.3 Medieval and Renaissance Civilization

CMRS 333.3 Introduction to Pre-Modern Manuscripts

HIST 155.3 Magic, Superstition, and Rationality in the West

HIST 223.3 The Age of the Renaissance

HIST 307.3 Abelard and Heloise (CMRS Biographical Seminar)

HIST 331.3 Magic, Science, and Religion before the Scientific Revolution

HIST 441.3 Gender and Masculinity in Medieval Europe



I am interested in hearing from students wishing to pursue an MA on topics in the Late Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Reformation and from  PhD students working on topics relating to magic and superstition prior to 1650, but also book history, history of science, and gender history, particularly in Britain.


Book History Gender and Masculinity History of Science Magic Manuscripts Palaeography and Codicology

History of Learned Magic, History of Science, Book History, Gender, Codicology and Palaeography

Education & Training

B.I.S. University of Waterloo

MA University of Toronto

PhD University of Toronto

Awards & Honours

  • Margaret Wade Labarge Prize for the best book in Medieval Studies, awarded by Canadian Society of Medievalists January 2020