The more I’ve examined nineteenth-century grimoires, whether originating with Hockley or with someone else, the more they come across as quirky, individual productions displaying the preferences and eccentricities of the creators. It’s too early for me to tell whether this is a characteristic of this particular period, or merely a result of my current focus on such material. Nonetheless, one of the key exhibits in this argument would have to be Manuscript 2000 at the library of the Wellcome Institute, a unique work known as the Grimoire of St. Cyprian or the Clavis Inferni. Now Golden Hoard has made a translation of this work available to the public for the first time. (I should note, however, that Caduceus Books did publish its own facsimile edition shortly before this one.)
Saint Cyprian was supposedly a fourth-century magician who used his spells to gain the love of a woman named Justina, failed due to her piety, and eventually converted to Christianity. Cyprian has largely taken the place of Solomon in the magical traditions of Scandinavia and the Iberian Peninsula as a source of magical knowledge and power. This slim work, however, seems to have little connection with those other traditions. Instead, it appears to have been a custom grimoire, possibly created for a baron, that incorporates elements of the Heptameron, the Faustian grimoires, and Kabbalistic lore regarding the angel Metatron.
Despite the impressive illustrations that Skinner and Rankine reproduce in full color, the grimoire content of the work seems to be quite stripped down. The book provides us with information on the demons of the four directions, a conventional arrangement of the princes of hell found in grimoires since the medieval period. This is followed with a series of conjurations, a binding, and a dismissal. The authors accompany this with extensive notes on the book’s history (as best it is known), its symbolism and origins, and the curious scripts used therein.
This is an intriguing manuscript on which much work remains to be done on its origins, and Skinner and Rankine are to be credited for bringing this work to the public.