Review – The Complete, Illustrated Grand Grimoire, or Red Dragon, Interlinear Edition

The revolution in independent publishing through Amazon KDP and Lulu has led to a profusion of self-published re-releases of various grimoires. For the most part, I’ll be ignoring these; the price-conscious consumer can likely find legitimate free versions online, and usually the price for a more reputable copy is not so much more. It’s rare that one of them brings something else to the table – but it does happen.

Today’s offering is The Complete Illustrated Grand Grimoire or Red Dragon, Interlinear Edition, translated by Aaman Lamba and edited by Arundell Overman. Just to be clear, there is also an Illustrated Grand Grimoire from the same team, although it’s not immediately clear from the preview tables of contents as to how much overlap there is, save for one clear omission we’ll get to later. This review is based on a personally purchased copy of the longer edition. (Links to reviews of editions from other presses will appear below.)

I don’t usually comment much on the layout and organization of a book, but this one leaves me baffled. Sub-headings are lengthy and in a large font, sometimes taking up almost half a page. In the later section of the book – to which we’ll arrive – not only does each chapter not have a section header, but the text for each starts at the top of the page. The illustrations for the grimoires do not accompany the corresponding text, but instead appear as a group at the beginning of the main text. The table of contents lovingly describes every subheading of the introduction, while the texts themselves are broken down in a more perfunctory manner. This is somewhat ameliorated by the presence of an index, but the book could be improved fairly simply by more attention being paid to these issues.

The introduction attempts to encompass a history of magic from the dawn of time through the modern era. Although I found few inaccuracies, the scope is far too wide, and there are certainly better works covering each topic in particular. Following this is a section on the spirits from the book, featuring large illustrations of the seal and appearance of most of the spirits from the book, taken from other sources. I’m not sure how necessary this section is, but it might be of worth to readers more interested in the correspondences of demons between different grimoires.

Then we arrive at the text, which is indeed an interlinear text with the French or Latin in the left-hand column and an English translation on the right. This works fairly well, although it’s undercut by the fact that we don’t know what exact text was used as the original source. I really wish publishers would stop being coy on this particular issue.

Yet, how does it stack up against other translations? I picked up the two texts immediately on hand that are not A. E. Waite: Wentworth’s translation from Teitan Press, and Paul Summers Young’s from Black Letter. I did some brief comparisons among a few passages and gave a French dictionary a workout, and I’d have to say Wentworth came out ahead, but not by much. Unfortunately, Young’s edition just seems to have material… missing, like part of an incantation or one of the times of day the magician should eat during preparation. It’s not clear on what edition that one is based upon, so it’s hard to say where exactly those problems crept in.

If you want to hear more about the contents of the Grand Grimoire, my reviews of those other translations, or a glance at Waite, will probably satisfy your interests.

Yet Lamba does add something that I’ve wanted to read for some time: an edition of the Dragon Rouge, the novel with the same name as the grimoire. Fortunately I didn’t try to read it earlier. Our hero, Claude Michu, is duped by a local magician into performing an evocation from the magical Dragon Rouge, in the course of which the local skeptical community terrify him by pretending to be demons. He then takes their side, listens to a lot of lectures, gets electrocuted by his new friends, and then marries his local sweetheart, while the magician is eventually carted off to jail. It’s more of a tiresome moralizing tract than anything else, but it does provide a curious sideline to the history of the grimoires.

I’m somewhat torn as to whether to recommend this book. It is probably the best edition of the Grand Grimoire that I’ve seen in print, but I’d much rather have the Wentworth book if I had to choose. Also, I’m wondering if the book might not benefit from some tightening up of the layout and proofreading, and it might be good to wait to see if this occurs. Yet I can see what the author was trying to accomplish, and even if it was not all achieved, enough of it was to make this book worthwhile.

Published in: on July 24, 2020 at 8:36 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. […] Lamba has made Twitter comments on my review of the new Grand Grimoire edition, which I would recommend you read. He’s correct about my low-key check-in on translated […]

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