Review: The Black Pullet (Black Letter Press Edition)

During Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt, a French soldier sent to survey the pyramids fell victim to an ambush. An old man emerged from a secret door to rescue him, bringing him inside and initiating him into the secrets of occult philosophy. By making colorful talismans and magical rings, all manner of powers could be obtained – and a black chicken could find one buried treasure galore. The old man died after admonishing the soldier that only the most virtuous might obtain this art. The soldier returned to France, and apparently decided to publish the exalted art in cheap chapbooks for a popular audience.

The Red Dragon and Black Pullet from Black Letter PressSo goes La Poule Noir, or The Black Pullet, an early nineteenth-century book capitalizing on the European craze with Egyptian culture to legitimize its magic. We’ve seen various English translations of the book, with this one from Italy’s Black Letter Press being one of the most handsome.

I should state that this press also produced an edition of The Red Dragon, and I’d send you to that review for some important caveats regarding this work and its editor.

The book is a pleasant small work with cloth binding and bookmark. I usually don’t discuss the binding, as I feel that often distracts from the content. In this particular case, though, the design of black text on a dark purple background leads to a book that is more dull in appearance and, along with its size, could easy get lost on a bookshelf. Given the expertise displayed here, I think Black Letter won’t make this mistake again, though.

As for the text itself, it begins with an introduction by the editor Paul Summers Young, which is a nice mix of the scholarly and the entertaining – but I’ll get back to this in a moment.  The translation of the book follows, generally with each talisman and ring pair receiving its own illustration. Young also supplements this with additional material taken from the Black Pullet‘s sister text, Le Trésor du Vieillard des Pyramides, or The Treasure of the Old Man of the Pyramids, that expands and provides helpful instructions for using the talismans within, along with a reading/advertising list at the end of that text, followed by an extract from Le Comte de Gabalis. (Although advertised as such on the website, it does not include Le Chouette Noir, or The Black Screech-Owl.)

Overall, this edition is very much geared toward collectors who want a nicely-bound edition of the classic grimoire in an English translation (which I should add I do not feel qualified to judge). You won’t find any notes, or the French text, or a bibliography.  Young states that he assembled the book out of three different texts and gives general indications of what sort of work he’s done in the introduction, including that some sections have been truncated. On the other hand, he gives no indication of what editions were used to assemble it, which I think should be an expectation for any published grimoire going forward.

Don’t get me wrong on this last point – there is certainly a market for editions of books that are good quality reprints of classic books that are available in many cheaper editions. Yet I think that this book could reach beyond that to appeal to those who want better-quality content, and doing so would take little effort beyond what has already been expended here.

 

Published in: on January 28, 2020 at 12:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Update: Tea Drunk, Grimoires Received, Writing Progress [?], Georgian Occult Book Collection Catalogues, Arthurian and Slavic Gaming, and Holiday Commercialism

I’m hiding out at Crazy Wisdom Bookstore in Ann Arbor, which has a great selection of books and a lovely tea room.

  • I’ve received an electronic copy of Jose Leitao’s Opuscula Cypriani, which will receive a quick semi-review soon. I just reviewed a 650-page book here, so I think making a thorough reading of a 900-page book would undo me. I’ll still report in on it.
  • Also arrived are the Black Letter Press edition of The Black Pullet, and the Golden Hoard edition of the Ars Notoria. I intend to get to both of them soon.
  • I’ve temporarily stopped correcting the text in Douce 116, in order to work on this presentation at the BSECS in January. I might base the whole piece on the title page of the book, which is surprisingly rich in content describing how Thomas Harrington, a late 18th century author, tried to legitimize a late 17th-century magical miscellany.
  • As for Harrington, I’ve paid for Harvard to digitize the catalog of the 1806 posthumous sale of his library of works on music, magic, ad witchcraft, among others. They’ve put it online, so you can see it as well.
  • I’m running Pendragon for a small group, including at least one Papers reader. Having reviewed my strengths as a game master, I think this is a very good system to my proclivity for enabling characters’ poor life choices. In Dungeons and Dragons, this generally leads to strife among characters and players; in Pendragon, it’s fun storytelling.
  • My Dungeons and Dragons game (Rules Cyclopedia) is coming to a close, with characters having ascended from first level to levels 8 and 9. We still have a couple of modules to tackle before we’re done.
  • I’m also working on and off on a pseudo-Slavic hexcrawl hack of 1981 Moldvay Basic/Expert D&D, with lots of which I’m not sure what to do with.
  • Here’s the obligatory link to a page of my books for sale. Also, the excellent Cambridge History of Magic and Witchcraft in the West: From Antiquity to the Present is now available in paperback for $41.
Published in: on December 21, 2019 at 8:52 pm  Comments (5)  

Palgrave Sale on Books about Magic

I’m almost done with my review of Johnson’s Svartkonstbocker, but I have an announcement for anyone who likes academic books of magic courtesy of Chas Clifton.

Until December 3, Palgrave has put all of its books on sale. Most of their titles should be on sale for $9.99 with free shipping – both physical copies and ebooks. As many of them will run you around $100 otherwise, this is a great deal. I believe the price in euros is similar for European readers. You can click on the link on the main site page for the code.

So, blog readers…

Knowing Demons, Knowing Spirits in the Early Modern Period, featuring my article on fairy magic? Was $119.99, now $9.99.

Bellingradt and Otto’s Magical Manuscripts in Early Modern Europe (my review)? Was $54.99, now $9.99.

Dillinger’s Magical Treasure Hunting in Europe and North America (my review)? Was $119.99, now $9.99.

Ohrvik’s Medicine, Magic and Art in Early Modern Norway, dealing with the “black art books” of that country (my review)? Was $99.99, now $9.99.

Chess and Newsom’s Folklore, Horror Stories, and the Slender Man (my review)? Drops from $69.99 to $9.99.

How about Davies and Matteoni’s Executing Magic in the Modern Era? That’s a trick question, because it’s open access, but you can get a print copy for $9.99 anyway.

I would also recommend Young’s A History of Exorcism in Catholic Christianity, Ostling’s Fairies, Demons, and Nature Spirits, and Hutton’s Physical Evidence for Ritual Acts, Sorcery, and Witchcraft in Christian Britain, The whole Historical Studies in Witchcraft and Magic series is probably worth a look, although at least one title is bugged so it’s not priced properly. 

I hope many of my readers are in a position to take advantage of this.

 

 

Published in: on November 22, 2019 at 11:46 pm  Comments (1)  

Review: The Red Dragon / Dragon Rouge

The winner of my recent Twitter poll for what review I should conduct next was the Black Letter Press edition of the Dragon Rouge, or Red Dragon, the successful outcome of the publisher’s recent IndieGogo campaign. According to the publisher’s website, the volume is sold out, although they’re taking pre-orders for an English translation of The Black Pullet, so this may simply be of interest for second-hand buyers.

If you want some background on this book, along with a comparison of other English editions, including the Grand Grimoire from Trident and the Red Dragon from Teitan, I’d suggest looking here.

Before I begin a review, I like to divulge any conflict of interest that I might have when it comes to a book. This is particularly difficult here, as the editor and translator, Paul Summers Young, was the former moderator of a Facebook group that I left due to what I viewed as his inappropriate language to other members, with the same being directed at me after I left. I personally don’t feel that it will affect the review, but you should aware of it as a possible influence.

Further, as I’ve admitted in the past, my French is nowhere near as good as it could be, but having an original text on hand is important when reviewing such a work. This is complicated due to the existence of several Dragon Rouge texts of various sorts in French. In the end, I looked quickly over the French Dragon Rouge text from Joe Peterson’s CD-ROM, which I recommend to anyone who hasn’t purchased it yet, and the Trident and Teitan Press editions.

(I also turned up this 1846 manuscript digitized from Porrentruy’s Bibliothèque Cantonale Jurassienne, N.C.1. It’s released under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial license, so have fun.)

First, let’s take a quick look at the cover:

Red Dragon

The brief introduction covers the history of the work and plays up the book’s status as a “work of outsider art”. If you want to learn what version of the book this is based upon:

This English translation aims to capture the tone and substance of the 2019 Black Letter Press Italian edition with close reference to the 1823-ish French edition, which is commonly spoken of as the earliest extant under the name ‘Red Dragon…’

I’m not sure how exactly to read this, but it sounds as if the primary source was the Italian translation rather than the French original, with the latter being checked as Young went. We’ll get back to this later.

The centerpieces of the Red Dragon, as with other editions, are two sets of procedures intended to bring the magician into a pact with a spirit – with the preferred one in both cases being Lucifuge Rofocale, one of the chief servants of Lucifer. The first one is more involved, including the creation of a magnetized “blasting rod” and a kid-skin circle, while the second does not require these accoutrements but provides fewer protections for the would-be magician.

The IndieGogo campaign page notes that much research was done to ensure that the Italian edition from which this was taken was “new and more complete,” Comparing this one to Peterson and the Teitan text, however, shows that the Black Letter edition is missing some of the short operations – such as the creation of the Hand of Glory in the French version, or the meeting with the three spirits at evening in the Italian. The work might have come from a text to which I don’t have access, or the editor may have taken elements from both texts and combined them. I’d be interested to know the answer.

We might be able to answer these questions if the book provided either the French or Italian texts, but neither are present. The text also lacks most of the rest of the other apparatuses some seek in these texts, such as bibliographies, notes, and translations for the Latin passages. I don’t think this will bother most readers, however.

As all three English translations are currently unavailable, that places them at about the same level of accessibility for potential buyers. Personally, I think that the Black Letter edition has the most impressive presentation, but I’d prefer the Teitan Press edition for its content, despite my concerns that the editor might actually be Simon. I think there’s certainly room for a publisher to come out with a beautiful critical edition of this text.

Published in: on September 26, 2019 at 2:18 pm  Comments (1)  

Review – Making Magic in Elizabethan England

We’ve had some interesting grimoire releases over the past year, and I’ve been remiss in reviewing them. I’ll see what I can do to catch up, beginning with Frank Klaassen’s Making Magic in Elizabethan England: Two Early Modern Vernacular Books of Magic, which is part of their Magic in History series. This is particularly welcome, as it is the first set of longer texts published by Klaassen, who is an associate professor at the University of Saskatchewan and one of the few academics working on early modern magical texts.

The main body of the book consists of transcriptions of two books. The first, Bodleian MS. Additional B.1., is a late sixteenth-century text, with most of its contents being shorter charms dealing with healing, protection, and theft detection. The second, British Library Harley 2267, was completed in 1600 and includes more material about summoning spirits, synthesizing and expanding upon information from Agrippa’s Three Books, the spurious Fourth Book, the Heptameron, and other sources, all of which were not printed in English at the time.

The first text includes extensive passages in Latin, which are provided in columns with the translation thereto. The original spelling has been preserved, which will make the book more appealing to scholars and students but may make for a more difficult read for laymen. Each is extensively annotated – with endnotes, unfortunately, instead of footnotes which could be referred to at the same time as the text. The illustrations within the text are redrawn in the same way as my readers have seen in Oberon and Of Angels – even James’ choice of font seems to have been used here. Both works are prefaced with an insightful introduction and notes on the manuscript and followed with a table giving the sources of Harley 2267 and a bibliography.

I’d like to share with you one of the passages from the second text dealing with the terrifying illusions spirits will show the magician, which gives you as accurate a depiction of the text as WordPress options allow:

Also many tymes horribles sightes will apeare to feare ye from thy worke, as to see thy father or mother slayne afore thy face, or to thinke ye waues of the Sease shoulde droune the, Or Serpentes, lyons, bulles, beares, or dogges to deuour the, Sumtyme ye judge of mayor of ye Toune to cum vnto the, all which are but illusyons… (pp. 110-111)

I find the notes to be particularly illuminating, even though we are sometimes interested in different aspects. For example, Klaassen places more emphasis on the liturgical connections of the text, and I certainly feel this is a direction I want to pursue more in my future works.

On the other hand, he does not always emphasize the elements that I might. There’s nothing wrong with this at all, but it’s worth noting. For example, the first manuscript begins with making two wax images for catching thieves – similar rituals appear in Of Angels and my new Bellhouse book. The introduction notes that this is probably adapted from astrological image magic works, to which I would add that it is quite a robust and enduring operation. Further, the rite includes the names of two suspected thieves, suggesting that the copyist (or that of a previous manuscript in the tradition) was oriented toward practice rather than simply curious.

I do have one reservation for recommending this book: the price. The work is $89.95 for 150 pages of content, so this is priced for libraries more than casual readers. Further, the use of parallel texts may mean that the work cannot be converted to a cheap e-book format, as was done with Klaassen’s previous work, The Transformations of Magic. I can certainly hope that a cheaper, paperback student edition will be available soon, so more people can appreciate just how good this work is.

 

Published in: on September 10, 2019 at 1:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

Review – Faust’s Key of Necromancy,

Enodia Press of Mexico has continued to put out many editions of the German literature attributed to the magician Faust, much of it translated into English for the first time. The most recent of these is a two-part work, the Key of Necromancy, Volume 1 and Volume 2. (Volume 1 is currently out of stock.)

The Key is derived from three different works, likely of the eighteenth century: the Nigromantisches Kunst-Buch,  Der Schlüssel vom der Zwange der Höllen, and Cornell’s 4620 Bc. MS. 19. Content from the three of them has been melded together to make a single text, although variants are noted – especially in the spirit lists, which we’ll certainly get to.

A few notes on the physical books. The first volume is bound in red, and the second in black. Both are impressive, but it’s unusual to bind a two-volume work as such. The first volume often does not indent or space between paragraphs, which makes it slightly harder to read. This is rectified in the second volume, and perhaps this will be corrected if the first volume is re-released.

The first book begins with a brief introduction that delves into the spirituality of the magician, with special emphasis on alchemy.  I’m somewhat skeptical about how much our present-day emphasis on the spiritual qualities of alchemy really carries over into the era in question. Certainly, I’d like to see it better supported than what’s been done here – then again, that’s not what it’s here for, right?

The first of the two books is a single long operation, requiring the consecration of the book, a magical rod, and other tools, along with a circle and multiple conjurations. This is mostly complete, although what constitute the sigils of Solomon are not clear in any of the books consulted. The overall goal of the operation is to call a spirit into a bottle to be questioned, and also to gain control over two subsidiary spirits who can perform rituals at their superior’s direction.

If part of the thesis of your experiment is to trap a spirit in a bottle where it can’t do much, you’re going to want a good selection of spirits to summon. This is an interesting list, because it starts very similar to the list popularized in the Book of Oberon – three kings (Lucifer, Beelzebub, and Satan), then four kings corresponding to the directions, and then subsidiary spirits with different functions. Nonetheless, the list itself diverges quite a bit from Oberon, and it also includes sigils for many of the spirits. This is the section that includes the greatest reassembly of material from all of the manuscripts.

The second book is devoted to a selection of shorter miscellaneous rituals. There’s a conjuration of treasure to come to the magician, with minimal involvement from other spirits. A conjuration of the spirit Waran or Floron invokes not only with the names of God, but by seasons, landscape, flora, and fauna as well. The magician can create candles for mystical operations, or speak to the spirit Sybilla (which is labeled as male in the original German and female in this book). I regret that the operation for the pygmies wasn’t included as well, even if it is present in Magia Naturalis et Innaturalis. Still, those who like these shorter operations should be very happy with the book.

The books are also provided with explanatory endnotes – though not always as comprehensive as I would like – and bibliographies, but no index. The lack of a shared index or table of contents makes finding particular sections and operations somewhat unwieldy, which can be difficult when working with two volumes of nearly four hundred pages total. Also, to be clear, the German text is not provided, but if you check the links above, you can obtain most of it with little effort.

I wouldn’t say The Key of Necromancy was my choice for someone’s first Faustbook. (Come to think of it, having a ‘My First Faustbook’ board book for infants sounds like a horrible idea waiting for an enterprising publisher.) I’d say Magia naturalis et innaturalis or the Mightiest Sea-Serpent might be better selections in this regard. The content will be much appreciated by those who already have those volumes and wish to explore the Faustian tradition.

Unfortunately, the release of two volumes means that the overall price bumps up to $134 plus shipping, which seems quite expensive for what is presented. I’d like to see a combined edition at a cheaper price, but many collectors will be happy with this nonetheless.

Published in: on May 3, 2019 at 6:51 pm  Leave a Comment  

Review – The Clavis or Key to Unlock the Mysteries of Magic, Part 4

Over the past three installments, (part 1, part 2, part 3), we’ve discussed all the different aspects of the Golden Hoard edition of the Sibly Clavis. Now would I recommend it, especially with the Weiser Peterson-edited edition also released that might ? That’s an excellent question, especially as the retail price for both works is comparable.

Once again, I’ll reiterate my point about the binding – I hope the examples I’ve seen are anomalies. Beyond that…

Completists: You’re going to buy both anyway.

People interested in exploring the Key of Solomon tradition: It depends on what aspects you’re interested in, I suppose. Both of them are nineteenth-century examples created for a collector’s market, so you’re not going to get into any antecedents of the tradition. If you really want to examine all of the different aspects of the Key, you should have both texts – and both introductions – handy.

People interested in art and magic: Definitely the Golden Hoard edition.

People who want a greater amount of magical material: Golden Hoard again.

People interested in reading about nineteenth-century occultism: Both, as one may cover the gaps in the other.

People interested in magical diagrams: It may surprise you, but sometimes people interested in practicing magic read this blog. For those interested in practical applications, you’ll probably want the Weiser edition, with its easier-to-draw illustrations.

If you fall into multiple categories, I think you’ll have to make a choice. Or purchase both.

I hope this has helped. I’ve got a few other grimoires to write about, but my read of the Picatrix is going slowly at the moment. I think I may dip into The Key of Necromancy from Enodia Press next.

 

 

Published in: on April 24, 2019 at 7:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

Review – The Clavis or Key to Unlock the Mysteries of Magic, Part 3

In our last installment, I promised some thoughts on the Clavis’ introduction. Let’s begin with some personal observations.

Skinner and Clark note regarding The Book of Oberon that “[t]he name change from ‘Oberion’ to ‘Oberon” was a bit of artistic license by the publishers in an effort to make a Shakespearean connection.” (p. 304) This was actually a bit of literary sleight of hand on my part in order to make it clear that the book did include as a major draw rituals calling upon a spirit who was identified therein as the King of the Fairies and had a name very similar to Oberon. I wouldn’t have made the same call in other manuscripts including Oberion, in which his ties to the fairy realm are much more tenuous, as I’ve learned since. Plus, if I’d called it The Book of Oberion, I’d be getting constant messages from people on the Internet asking if it was a typo.

With regard to the list of Clavis manuscripts in both Peterson and Skinner and Clark, I should note that Skinner and Clark omit a manuscript included in Peterson that I eventually tracked down. Of course, I haven’t talked about that and they couldn’t have known that, but it does illustrate that a researcher into these manuscripts will want to have both works on hand for consultation.

Both of the above should not be held against the book, as the authors do not have access to my mind. What troubles me more some egregious errors perpetrated in the introduction. For example, Skinner and Clark discuss the Society of Esoteric Endeavour edition of the Clavis, the original of which bears the date 1868:

On this we are in agreement with Ben Fernee… who also believes this manuscript was more than likely commissioned by Denley… (p. 322)

I can’t speak for Ben, but Denley passed away in 1842, twenty-six years before the date the manuscript was copied.

Elsewhere, the introduction states that Abraham Yahuda’s Clavis, the gorgeous one reproduced within, “may have even been part of the Isaac Newton auction. We can only speculate at this time, but Newton’s manuscripts did contain texts on alchemy, so why not one on magic?” (p. 325) It’s not clear whether the implication is that Newton might have owned a manuscript transcribed approximately a century after his death; I certainly hope this refers to the collection.

We have another oddity in the discussion of the manuscript’s English sources. As readers may know, Reginald Scot’s Discoverie of Witchcraft (1584) was re-released in 1665, well after his death, with additional magical procedures added by the publisher. Skinner and Clark provide a list of five items from that book, ending with the statement that “Scot would have been appalled.” Without any unholy necromancy, I can say that he definitely would not – everything on that list also appears in the 1584 edition.

I also find the material on Sibly to be problematic, based upon Susan Mitchell Sommers’ expensive but excellent work, The Siblys of London: A Family on the Esoteric Fringes of Georgian Britain. Skinner and Clark do use it considerably, but sometimes particular points are elided over. For instance, Skinner and Clark mention how Sibly “adroitly and profitably used his knowledge of Masonic careers to further the career of a local politician” in Ipswich (p. 338). What is not stated is that Sibly started a Masonic charitable institution and absconded from town with the collected funds intended for the destitute. To me, this is a key point in Sibly’s life necessary for the assessment of his character.

A more troubling omission from the Clavis is Sommers’ take on Sibly as an author. Skinner and Clark state that the preface is “probably originally written by Sibley” (p. 281), that the translation of the Clavis “was done (or caused to be done) by Ebenezer Sibley” (p. 309), and the footnotes later in the transcript are often ascribed to him (e.g., pp. 400-1). Yet how much credit can we give Sibly for this book? Sommers provides the following important context:

A page-by-page analysis of the fourth part of An Illustration, as well as of two of his longer works, the 783-page Culpeper’s British Physician with its attached The Medical Part, and the nearly 400-page A Key to Physic suggests Sibly was actually the author of only a fraction of those 4,000 pages, perhaps as little [sic] 10 or 20 percent. Further, much of what is clearly original composition is transitional material, included to join more substantial borrowed sections. (p. 157)

So, let’s put some caveats on this. All of us acknowledge that Sibly did not write the Clavis – and neither did Solomon – and the material included in these manuscripts is clearly a compilation. We can’t really give him too hard a time for reprinting Culpepper, so perhaps that should be removed from Sommers’ assessment above. Still, Sommers found Ebenezer’s borrowing so pervasive that she dedicates an entire chapter of her work to just that topic.

I’d like to tie this together with my previous concerns about “Doctor Rudd.” To be clear, I see nothing inherently wrong with assuming Sibly had this Clavis translated and compiled, or that “Doctor Rudd” really did come up with the magical system in the Goetia appearing under his name. What is problematic is that work clearly taken from other sources appears under both author’s names, and that proponents of Rudd and Sibly rarely engage with such evidence when asserting their positions. Let’s talk about the borrowing in these cases, and then give reasons for or against whether it happened in the other material for which these authors take credit.

Next time – my recommendations.

Next time – my recommendations.

Published in: on April 13, 2019 at 12:19 pm  Comments (1)  

Review – The Clavis or Key to Unlock the Mysteries of Magic, Part 2

Last time, we looked at the physical design and illustrations of the new Golden Hoard Clavis, in comparison with other publications of Clavis materials likely originating in John Denley’s shop. Next, we should cover the content, looking mainly at the Golden Hoard edition in comparison to Joseph Peterson’s Weiser edition.

The two books start out in quite a similar fashion. Following the prefaces, we have complete editions of the Clavis, with full instructions on how to consecrate planetary talismans with planetary timing, tools, circles, and incantations. Next come descriptions and illustrations of talismans for each of the seven planets, as well as spiritual experiments to summon Birto, Vassago, Agares, and Bealpharos. The Wheel of Wisdom is a chart of planetary correspondences, and both volumes add thereafter a copy of A Secret and Complete Book of Magic Science, a book that Hockley seems to have claimed credit for creating.

At this point, the manuscript reproduced in the Weiser edition ends, but the Golden Hoard version continues. We have a treatise on crystallomancy, which should be familiar to readers of The Rosicrucian Seer. We have two compilations of miscellaneous magical procedures, including the ever-popular raising of the spirit Oberion. This material often reflects what’s in the Experimentum – although it doesn’t cover everything therein. It certainly doesn’t follow the same order as the Experimentum, and we also see additional material, such as elaborate love talismans and a procedure to make a magical bell, added. It also adds a treatise on geomancy, probably taken from Heydon’s Theomagia, and some magical tables showing the correspondences of the numbers one through eight. The table for number nine is drawn but blank, raising some interesting questions as to the creation process for this book.

I hesitate to call this a more “complete” Clavis, as this implies a thematic unity which I think is not present here, but Skinner and Clark’s book contains a wonderful selection of occult treatises from material. If you regularly buy Teitan and Caduceus Books, much of it will be known to you already, but it still has items you won’t see elsewhere. If you aren’t in that position, this will catch you up on most of it.

Following this is the introduction, which is placed after the text for reasons that remain unclear to me. Skinner and Clark provide us with a commentary on each section of the manuscript. Next to be covered are brief notes on the French and English sources for the document, and then a more-or-less thorough list of the manuscripts discovered from the tradition.  This follows the same order as Peterson provides in the introduction to the Weiser edition, making it easy to see where further research has revealed more information on the same works. Biographies of Sibley, Denley, Robert Cross Smith (the first “Raphael”), Hockley, F. G. Irwin, and Robert Thomas Cross round it out.

I have several comments on this section, which will follow in my next installment.

 

Published in: on April 4, 2019 at 11:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

Review – The Clavis or Key to Unlock the Mysteries of Magic, Part 1

(Before I begin, it’s important to note a potential slight conflict of interest. I have tried from time to time to get one of the beautiful Sibly Claves – the one at the Senate House Library, from which my Experimentum was extracted – published. It’s never gotten beyond the “hey, I think this would be neat” phase with any publishers, but I’ll let readers decide whether this is important as the review progresses.)

Golden Hoard has just released its latest work, The Clavis or Key to Unlock the Mysteries of Magic. The work is a reproduction of the National Library of Israel’s MS Yah. Var. 18, an early nineteenth-century Key of Solomon and product of the manuscript workshop of London bookseller John Denley. Previous editions, reproducing manuscripts from private collections, have been issued, one from Ben Fernee’s Caduceus Books, and the other from Weiser edited by Joseph Peterson. I’ve also published a segment of one of the more elaborate ones as the Experimentum.

In this review, I’ll be talking about what makes the Peterson and Golden Hoard editions different, and give an assessment of each. (I’ll set aside the Caduceus Books, as they are long out of print.)

First, though, we need to talk about the binding.

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.

(Also, to be clear, my copy has the standard binding, and not the special leather-bound editions that are sold directly from Golden Hoard, which I have not seen.)

As for the art… this is a stunning book. The previous Keys published are visually impressive but still workmanlike, with the emphasis being on penmanship and accuracy. What the Golden Hoard edition presents instead is what must have been the deluxe version, with copious use of multicolored inks, elaborate illustrations to the point of gaudiness, and pages upon pages of additional content. We have two such manuscripts so far, the one at the National LIbrary of Israel and another in the Harry Price collection of the Senate House Library (the basis of the Experimentum).

I’m going to be reproducing (badly) some illustrations from different editions, to give you a better idea of what to look for. First, let’s look at “The Magic Ring” in the Weiser edition:

 

Weiser The Magic Ring Diagram

Here’s the same diagram in the Golden Hoard:

IMG_7219

Let’s look at the pentacle (actually a repurposed magic circle) for Friday, first from Weiser:

IMG_7215

Now from the Golden Hoard edition:

IMG_7216

You’ll note that the illustrations in the latter obscure the origin of the piece in a standard Heptameron-style magical circle, and that it is incorrectly labeled as being the seal from Thursday there. Thus, occasional inaccuracies worked into the deluxe edition.

How does this compare to the Senate House version – at least to what’s published in the Experimentum? Let’s take a look. Here’s the Knot of Hercules from Caduceus:

IMG_7222

And now from Golden Hoard:

IMG_7221

Yah. Var. 18 does appear to be in better condition, as you can see. Also, it’s not clear as to whether one of these is more “accurate” than the other, although the one from Experimentum does appear somewhat more like a traditional magical diagram.

Next time, we talk about the manuscript’s content.

Published in: on March 29, 2019 at 9:03 pm  Comments (1)