On the Shelf Review – The Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy by Pseudo-Agrippa

The latest offering from Llewellyn is Donald Tyson’s The Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy, which I picked up a few weeks ago.  A companion volume to his popular annotated version of The Three Books of Occult Philosophy, this work reprints the six treatises translated into English and published by Robert Turner in 1655, including the Fourth Book itself, the Heptameron, and the Arbatel.

As there is already a modern printing of these works edited by Stephen Skinner, readers might ask what this edition brings to the table.  Tyson provides a great deal of information for the reader, including annotations of the more uncommon phrases, individuals, and concepts from the book, along with a section of analyses (which, in most cases, are actually summaries and explanations) for each of the sections.   These appear to be intended for a broad audience unfamiliar with the topics yet eager to find away to practice them.  Tyson largely succeeds in this goal, though some of the sections on geomancy and creation of sigils could have benefited from more examples.

The scholarship, in some places, isn’t quite up to what I’d like to see, especially in areas in which more recent work has been done – such as the new edition of Abramelin, or Carlos Gilly’s background work on the Arbatel.  For the most part, though, Tyson covers the bases.

If you’re already familiar with the Fourth Book, or the topic of Renaissance magic in general, or if you’re interested in it from a scholarly and not a practitioner’s perspective, this book might not be worth quite as much to you.  Those who fall outside that category will likely find this a valuable work.

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Published in: on November 10, 2009 at 11:25 pm  Comments (6)  

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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. To repeat the question I asked while we stood outside Treadwell’s looking at Skinner’s edition:
    Does Tyson try and explain the seals of good and evil spirits and also the material on astrological seals that precede this?

    As I said at the time, a few years ago I made a note in my copy of the Fourth Book about a “1725 MS” that applied the letters of the Latin alphabet to the 24 signs for the good spirits, an approach which works well and which I think was intended. However, I’ve since been unable to turn up my source, which is rally quite annoying…

  2. Phil,

    It does indeed. I’m not sure he comes to the same results you do, but the technique with regard to the characters of the good spirits sounds similar.

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