On the Shelf Review – Solomon’s Clavis

Having mentioned the Caduceus edition of the Key of Solomon yesterday, I made a valiant effort and finished off the book today.

To summarize the material at the previous link, the book seems to have been translated into English from French by Ebenezer Sibley or Sibly (depending upon your source), a late 18th century occultist best known for A New and Complete Illustration of the Occult Sciences (1787), part of which is reproduced here.  It then passed through the shop of our favorite bookseller John Denley, who had several copies made, possibly by the crystal-gazer Frederick Hockley.  This particular book reproduces a copy from the library of Hockley’s friend, Francis G. Irwin, who also owned that Grimoire of Honorius that Caduceus previously published.

First, I should note that it is truly as beautiful as it’s described at the above link, and the reproduction thereof is wonderful.  Even the few pages at the end of the notebook that bear no writing are faithfully reproduced, down to the lines and foxing.  It’s simply an amazing piece of work.  There is a trade off here, as there was with the previous edition of the Grimoire of Honorius, in that no prefatory material or background is actually included with the text.

The book’s main focus is the creation of planetary talismans, to be placed on parchment or metal, that embody the energy of each planet for particular purposes.  The book also includes instructions for creating a ring to attract the same planetary forces, four different operations intended to call up individual spirits – Bael, Vassago, Agares, and Bealphares – and the Wheel of Wisdom, a diagram intended to show how the various planets correspond to other aspects of creation.

In terms of quality, the copyist was not as careful as he could have been.  At one point, the Olympian spirit Phul from the Arbatel has been rendered as “Ugh.”  Another talisman, as Phil pointed out to me, guards against the “assaults of treasures.”  This, of course, raises questions as to just how faithful the talismans themselves are to the originals, for those among my readers who care about such matters.

The obvious question for many, especially in the present economy, will be how this pricey edition of the Key differs from Skinner and Rankine’s own pricey edition of the Key (both of which were around $180 last I checked).  All in all, Skinner and Rankine’s work covers considerably more ground; the Caduceus edition covers only the first ten chapters of the first of three Keys in the other, and the scholarly apparatus in the Golden Hoard edition is significant.  On the other hand, the Golden Hoard edition isn’t a facsimile, it doesn’t link up with Sibly, Denley, and Hockley, and it doesn’t include the rites following  (though it might have the ring ritual, and I think the Wheel appears in a book by Waite).   The selection of planetary talismans is similar in both, though both have particular ones not present in the other.

As usual for my reviews, by now you know whether you want to buy this, but remember that previous books from Caduceus have sold out quickly.

Published in: on January 17, 2009 at 8:19 pm  Comments (4)  

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  1. Ben of Caduceus pointed out the “assaults of treasures” error to me, which was very helpful of him (although now we know the correct reading of the text). I notice that the name of the spirit for Saturn (Aratron) is missing too. It occurred to me that “Ugh” could be “Phul” in an approximation of mirrored writing, although why I’ve no idea (- save that the moon reflects the sun’s light).

    I must say that I find the Wheel of Wisdom section rather intriguing: what I’d anticipated as being a fairly benign little text calls for sacrifice a pigeon and the use of the operator’s own blood. IIRC Waite excises the ritual element, only discussing the wheel itself. There are some mistakes here I notice – the epithet for Gabriel is missing, while Saturn’s angel is just listed as “The Glorious” with no name!

    These mistakes raise some questions about the circumstances of the copying of this text. As pointed out on the Caduceus page it’s dated “RC 1868”. I know Hockley often complained that staying up late after work, reading and copying mss. was having a bad effect on his eyesight and the amount of sleep he got…

    A wonderfully produced volume – a fitting end to a year full of great books!

  2. I haven’t seen the Caduceus facsimile so I don’t know how accurate the publisher’s identification of the hand as Hockley’s may be: the single page reproduced on the website doesn’t offer much help. But Phil’s mention of the note ‘RC 1868’ is intriguing. Though I can’t be absolutely certain without comparing other samples of the handwriting I would like to offer an alternative identification of the copyist ‘RC’: Robert T. Cross (1850-1923), who in 1876 became the sixth astrologer to use the name ‘Raphael.’

    In 1879 Cross (as Raphael) wrote a work entitled ‘The Art of Talismanic Magic; Being Selections from the Works of Rabbi Solomon, C. Agrippa, F. Barrett etc.’ published as a mimeographed faux manuscript the following year. The first section of ‘The Art…’ is taken ‘From the Clavis of Rabbi Solomon’ and although there are certain material differences between this and the copy of Sibley’s Clavis I have seen, I would be interested to compare ‘The Art…’ with the Caduceus facsimile.

    I’m reasonably certain there are similarities in the handwriting and will check the image reproduced on the Caduceus site against the corresponding page in Raphael’s ‘Art…’ later today. Hopefully then my identification of ‘RC’ as Robert Cross will be a little less tentative.

  3. I happened to have both texts here, so I took a look. The overlap in content is definitely there – but I’m not so certain about the hand. For instance, the lower-case “p” looks quite different between the two – Raphael often omits the circle entirely, while the Clavis transcriber includes it each time. Anyone else want to take a look?

  4. […] there’s some overlap here with the Caduceus Press edition of Solomon’s Clavis (reviewed here) and Teitan’s Complete Book of Magic Science (reviewed here).  I don’t think I’m […]

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