The Grimorium Verum: How Many Editions?

In response to my vague Grimorium Verum announcement, Venus Satanas (um, no relation?) asks:

I’m wondering, how many different [published] editions of the Grimorium Verum are there?

Well, Venus, the only correct answer is “a number different from whatever I’d give,” so I have to beg off a precise number. All that my discussion will reveal is just how confusing these sorts of questions really are.

As if that would stop me.

We can be certain that the Grimorium Verum was first published in the ruins of Memphis in 1517 by Alibeck the Egyptian, unless someone was lying.  That’s the most plausible scenario, given that we haven’t found any editions that date back that far and the small market for French books on demon-summoning in Egypt.  At least one authority (I don’t have exactly whom) dates the book to 1780, but it’s more likely that it dates to the 19th century, after Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt excited the European imagination about that land and its antiquities.  Some date this edition to 1817, assuming it must have been back-dated 300 years from the stated publication, but from what I’ve seen of grimoires, that’s by no means certain – the publishers seem to make up dates at random.  So, the first editions appeared in the early decades of the 19th century.

It’s unclear whether there was just one publication of this book or many.  Grimoire publishers often used fake names and dates, so there’s no telling how many editions appeared under the Memphis-Alibeck-1517 label.  Joe Peterson notes one printed by the notorious publisher Blocquel in 1830.  Later, we have Italian translations from an unknown publisher in Milan (1868), from Amato Muzzi in Firenze (1880), and from Illensub Oirelav in Milan (1880s). In the latter days of the twentieth century, the matter becomes even more confused, with editions appearing in French, Italian, and German.

What about English translations, you ask?  We have the segments translated in Waite’s Book of Ceremonial Magic and Idries Shah’s Secret Lore of Magic, of course, neither of which Peterson treats as particularly reliable.  The first book-length edition I’ve heard about appears from Acorn Press somewhere in the United States in 1979.  Further, I’ve never run across a copy of it, and the only information I have is that it combines the 1672 and 1861 editions, which is most likely a lie as well.  I didn’t take good enough notes to identify where I saw that information, which should be a lesson to all of you.  Well, mainly to me.

We also have the Trident Books edition of the Grimoirium [sic] Verum, issued in 1994 in hardback and 1997 in paperback.  My overall impression, based on what I’d read from the English, is that the Trident edition is a remarketing of the Shah material, and that it doesn’t constitute an independent translation in its own right.  It does have a joke reference to the Pnakotic Manuscripts, however…

Finally, we have Joe Peterson’s edition, which is excellent, and the forthcoming small-press edition, to be announced officially at – some point.

So, thanks for your question, Venus, even though I didn’t actually answer it.

UPDATE:  I’ve also found that a variant copy of this book appears as the third “Key” in Skinner and Rankine’s The Veritable Key of Solomon, thus proving that I was absolutely right about me being wrong.

Published in: on February 22, 2009 at 9:59 pm  Comments (6)  

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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. NICE ESSAY! Catch you later 🙂

  2. Adelung (1732-1806) in his /Narrheit/ (1788, pp 347 ff) quotes from a 152-page Latin manuscript of GV in quarto, circa 1688. That’s the oldest reference I’ve seen. He worked in Erfurt, Leipzig, and (in 1787) Dresden (the latter probably too late to influence /Narrheit/). I was disappointed to not find the manuscript he referred to as “exemplar 1” in the uni-leipzig, even though his exemplar 2 certainly is.

    “The University Library of Leipzig was established in 1543. It is one of the oldest German university libraries and it serves as a source of literature and information for the University of Leipzig as well as the general public in the region. Its extensive historical and special collections are nationally and internationally recognized.”

    • Joe,

      Many thanks! Eventually I’ll get to those copies of Adelung. It would appear, from what I can see, that this work was presented as a straight Key of Solomon (if such a thing ever existed). Thus, the GV pre-existed the Napoleonic campaign, but the Alibeck-Memphis attribution did not.

  3. You did answer this question very well; i have no doubt that the GV could have a history that is obscure like other Grimoires. an 1800’s edition sounds more plausible.

  4. Just a brief note, as we are the small press publishing a version of the Grimorium Verum.

    Pre-publication details can be found here:

    Those who have not joined our list are welcome to email if they are interested in pre-ordering this title.
    The public release of the True Grimoire will be in April.

    Fascinating blog by the way.

    Our best,

    In Nomine Babalon

    Scarlet Imprint x

  5. […] dug up another post by Necronomicon expert Dan Harms containing a brief overview of the editorial history of this true […]

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