Forthcoming – Lecouteux’s The Book of Grimoires

One book that I’ve never had the time to sit down in read is Claude Lecouteux’s Le Livre des Grimoires.  This book has apparently gone through three editions and includes an impressive collection of all manner of magical operations, defined by topic.

As it turns out, Inner Traditions is translating and publishing a good number of Claude Lecouteux’s works.  I’ve got two works right here in front of me – Phantom Armies of the Night: The Wild Hunt and Ghostly Processions of the Undead, and The Tradition of Household Spirits.   I’ve read the first and I’m starting on the second, and I’m quite impressed with both.  I wish the footnotes were slightly – and I’d like to emphasize “slightly” – more rigorous at times, to facilitate the discovery of particular sources, but I’m quite happy with both purchases, even if they’re not quite on my usual topics.  You can read an interview with Lecouteux on the first book here.

Inner Traditions will be issuing his grimoires book in December as The Book of Grimoires:  The Secret Grammar of Magic.   Here’s some key lines from the publisher’s blurb:

Drawing on his own private collection of grimoires and magical manuscripts as well as his privileged access to the rare book archives of major European universities, Claude Lecouteux offers an extensive study of ancient books of magic and the ways the knowledge within them was kept secret for centuries through symbols, codes, secret alphabets, and Kabbalistic words…  Lecouteux provides exact reproductions of secret magical alphabets, symbols, and glyphs with instructions for their use as well as an illustrated collection of annotated spells, rituals, and talismans for numerous applications including amorous magic, healing magic, and protection rites. The author also examines the folk magic that resulted when the high magic of the medieval grimoires melded with the preexisting pagan magic of ancient Europe.

I think this should make an interesting read; certainly putting as much grimoire material in print is crucial for a serious study of the topic.

Published in: on October 19, 2013 at 12:16 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. I have the french edition of Lecouteux’s book. It is a nice survey of medieval magic in its variety. It contains a lot of illustrations (seals, talismans, magic circles) and a few comments from the author. There is an introduction that briefly summarizes the history of magic books, and then it quickly moves to the examples organized into divers chapters (names and signatures of demons, healing charms, image magic, love magic, magic circles, etc.). It draws both from printed sources and manuscripts, the main sources being the pPicatrix, Ghent MS1021 (a manuscript found in an old mental institution along with magical tools during renovation. Yes it does actually happens!) and a MS from the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana (Plut089supp38), one of the most complete collection of image as well as necromantic experiments I’ve ever seen and that would deserve a full analysis on its own.
    Having said that, Lecouteux is not exactly a scholar on magic (he is Prof of german medieval Literature and civilisation at La Sorbonne, Paris), so he doesn’t have the expertise of an Owen Davies or a Frank Klaassen, and there are some flaws too (I can’t believe his mention to Lovecraft’s “Necromanticon” (sic!) survived the 3 editions). There are maybe a bit too much of popular charms and not enough of the more elaborate necromantic genre, but his book is definitely a must have for those interested in the subject, sitting nicely between Owen’s book and Thompson’s mysteries and secrets of magic. The second edition added some material from scandinavian magic, and the third edition provides a translation of the “Herpentil” (for some reason without the seals).
    Finally, you’ll be happy too see that there are many footnotes and comprehensive references to the original MSS / books.
    Have fun reading it!

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