Why You Should Ignore the Advertising Copy for The Clavis or Key to Unlock the Mysteries of Magic and Buy It

Skinner Clark ClavisJust announced via Llewellyn is the forthcoming Golden Hoard release edited by Daniel Clark and Stephen Skinner, The Clavis or Key to Unlock the Mysteries of Magic. Let me quote from the marketing –

No. I’m not going to quote from the marketing material. With all due respect to my colleagues at these presses, nothing that they’ve said distinguishes this book from the previous Keys of Solomon copied by Frederick Hockley and later published by Weiser and Caduceus, which have been in circulation for years. That’s a shame.

This book is one of the deluxe manuscripts that Hockley (and presumably others) turned out while working for the bookseller John Denley.  I don’t know which manuscript they used, but I have had the privilege of viewing one and publishing a small part as the basis for my book Experimentum. It’s a visually stunning work – if you squint when you look at the cover page in the link above, you can get an idea of the care and beauty found on almost every page of the manuscript that I viewed. Plus, there were additional talismans for each of the planets, as well as treatises not found in the hitherto published versions.

If I have a concern about this work, it would be as to the quality of images used. After preparing Experimentum, Ben Fernee of Caduceus viewed the original manuscript. He was struck by how much more vibrant it was than the printed version – the reproduction we made could not do justice for the sections with gold and silver ink, for instance. What I’ve seen of the illustrations so far is impressive, however.

Thus, even if you own a past edition of a Hockley Clavis, this is worth checking out. If you haven’t bought any of them and can only buy one… Let’s see. The Caduceus edition is out of your price range. If you want an art book, this is probably the one. If you want one for scholarly reference, it may come down to the quality of the annotations in Skinner and Clark against that of Joe Peterson’s in the Weiser edition. I’ll give it a look when it comes out and let you know.

Published in: on November 10, 2018 at 4:36 pm  Comments (7)  

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  1. I know of three ‘deluxe’ copies of the Clavis, two of which I’ve been fortunate enough to examine at first hand and the third in reproduction, so I share your concerns. They are visually stunning and quite a contrast to many of the manuscripts I’ve studied. The cover and description indicate Clark and Skinner are working from the Jerusalem copy. Apart from the section on geomancy, there’s nothing radically different in terms of textual content, so it is all about the images. I understand this MS is of the same fairly large dimensions as the other copies, so in terms of reproduction any full-page images would need to be reduced to fit the 8×10 printed volume. I’ll be interested to see what the quality is like.

  2. Its great i came across this post, i was wondering myself if it was worth it. I own the peterson clavis, ill be waiting to hear your critique and recommendation

  3. Hello

    Wondering if you could tell me what is the better version between this and Peterson’s, and if, indeed, Skinner’s is so much more complete and the ideal version, as the Golden Hoard website affirms.

    I am a bit concerned after reading a thorough critique concerning his and Rankine’s scholarly standards on their Practical Angel Magic of Dr. John Dee’s Enochian Tables. I have also listened to Mr. Skinner talk about ceremonial magick, including his personal experiences practicing it, and he seemed very enthusiastic and wellspoken.

    If you could give me your perspective and suggestions, I’d greatly appreciate it. Thanks.


  4. Really didnt know abut that.

  5. I sprang for a copy. It is very sumptuous; however, it is printed entirely on coated paper which makes it difficult to handle. The binding is terrible. The boards are thin and I cannot tell exactly but it looks like the pages were perfect bound then cased in. If the signatures were sewn, the binder did a terrible job. It is very fragile (so handle with care), and likely will not win any prizes on book design. The boards are thin over lain with a thin fabric and offer little support or strength for the book as a whole. It is a heavy tome a consequence of the paper stock. The is no indication the paper is acid free. I would be leery of the “collector” editions, I think one would only be paying for the binding. Most of the book largely follows standard practices in design, however for some reason Skinner’s transcription deviates having practically zero margins framing the text. It looks like a typewritten transcript bound in as an afterthought.

    It is definitely not a critical edition, but more diplomatic in its scope. Skinner lumps print versions along with manuscripts (known at present), however he raises some good points in his descriptions. As for Skinner’s his commentary it should be read carefully as he tends to engage in much specious and tangential speculation, much of it ungrounded in facts. To his credit it appears he made some use of Susan Somer’s study of Ebenezer and the Sibly family (The Siblys of London, OUP, 2018), which, has a substantial chapter on Sibly’s “library”. I believe the Manley Palmer Hall collection has some mss attributed to or once owned by Sibly. Hall’s collection is posted on line at the Getty website and downloadable.

    One of the reasons for buying it is it offers the only readily accessible copy of the NLI mss; which in terms of aesthetics is, in its own right, very unique. NLI used to have their ms posted on line and was once downloadable, I do not think that’s the case at present. So, Skinner is the only gateway to this ms.

    That being said, both efforts have a role that should be considered. I am not saying one is better than the other. Despite my critique I am not disappointed with Skinner’s effort. I think there is only one other print edition, however I have not been able to see it. But I have been able to spend a lot of time with one of the other Sibly/Hockley ms described by Peterson and Skinner. It is similar to Peterson’s edition, but similar is not the same.

    • My bindings on the first copy were… not so great. The replacement seems to be fine.

      I’ll be getting to this one soon – I just dipped into the introduction this morning.

  6. […] Josiah Bacon mentioned in the comments that his copy came with serious damage to the binding. Sadly, mine did as well, with the book block tearing away from the cover even before I opened the package. I was able to replace it through Amazon with a copy that is holding up better. I also looked at a copy at Enchantments in NYC that was in good shape. My recommendation is to check any copy before you purchase it in a store, or order from sellers who have clear return and replacement policies. […]

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