This work is undoubtedly a milestone – one of the most renowned books of magic in Western civilization finally translated into English. Nonetheless, I have to say that I have some qualms about the book. I’m reluctant to speak out on this, largely because I don’t want to hold anyone accountable for ambiguities or uncertainties in the Arabic text, as I don’t know that language. Still, I have some reason for concern.
One is the frequent mistakes in the book. I know first-hand how nasty typos are to eradicate, and I’m willing to grant substantial leeway for small presses in that regard. Still, we have a number of non-spellcheck errors that occur throughout the manuscript. Among the more notable are “kneed” appearing for “knead”, “rap” appearing for “wrap”, and “veins” often being spelled “vanes.” One of the curious ingredients of a few recipes is “black anesthetic seeds.:” These are the more notable examples, and the sort that would be easily picked up with a reading of the manuscript.
I will also add that a number of the passages are impossible to decipher. Of course, texts of these period require some effort to understand, especially when of a theoretical nature, but I found myself baffled on many occasions by passages like this:
This kind get to envy a lot for every good thing they see, that is why we should bless every thing and be proud to do that as that comes from the first position commancing in astronomy and it could be inherited from mood commencement.
That does not stop some males from having mental reactions like females and some females have mental reactions like males and that is how we differentiate between males and females.
Contextually, it is often possible to figure out the approximate meaning of a passage via context, but one has to wonder just how accurate that understanding really is.
This is a shame, because there’s a great deal in this book with regard to talismans, spirit summoning, and other topics that could be of use to scholars and practitioners alike. Still, concerns about accuracy come foremost for me, and I’m not sure that’s what readers are getting.