Today’s offering is a relatively new offering from Abracax House – a translation of Johann Weyer’s Pseudomonarchia Daemonum, a list of demons taken from his work De praestigiis daemonum. So, how does The False Hierarchy of Demons measure up?
For those who aren’t familiar with this, Weyer (1515-88) was a former pupil of Agrippa who set out to write against beliefs in the witch-hunts and false magicians. This particular work is a compilation of spirits taken from a manuscript that he read. His goal in publishing it was to reveal the falsity and fraud of the magicians of the time. The list has a great deal of similarities to others in manuscript form, especially that which was eventually published as the magical manual the Goetia.
The book itself is quite beautiful, slipcased and bound in red and black, with plentiful color illustrations included. Each entry for a spirit consists of the name of the entry, the Pseudomonarchia‘s text in the original Latin and English translation, any relevant illustration from the Dictionnaire infernale, and the seals from the Goetia (and possibly other works, although I haven’t looked at all of them). All of this is quite attractive in presentation.
In my other reviews, I often say that I don’t feel confident enough in my grasp of other languages to critique a translation. My Latin could always be better, but having taken a brief look at some entries, I can make specific comments on some usages.
The spirit Marbas answers questions “plene,” which is translated as “truly” when “fully” would be better. Buer provides “optimos” familiars, translated as “good” instead of “the best.” The term “praeses” is translated in one entry as “president” and another as “master.” The entry for Gusion says he appears “in forma zenophali,” which the translator follows other readings in rendering “cynocephali.” Nonetheless, she states that the literal translation is “wild man” or “baboon with a dog-face,” when it should actually be “dog-headed [one].”
I won’t have time to check through the book comprehensively. Many readers won’t care about this sort of problem, but I’d suggest that any translated herein be double-checked before being quoted or used.
The English is also problematic at some points. For example, the English sentences are sometimes missing a subject, when the Latin clearly contains one. Sometimes articles are missing in the sentences as well. None of these obscures the meaning, I should hasten to add.
Also, it should be noted that the spirit seals are not present in the Pseudomonarchia, which might not be entirely clear from the introdcution.
If you’re looking for an impressive looking book for your bookshelf, this work certainly fits the bill. The text itself is not bad, but it might have benefited from the same meticulous attention that was put into the rest of the project.