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Grimoires: A History of Magic Books [Kindle Edition]

Owen Davies
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

What is a grimoire? The word has a familiar ring to many people, particularly as a consequence of such popular television dramas as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Charmed. But few people are sure exactly what it means.

Put simply, grimoires are books of spells that were first recorded in the Ancient Middle East and which have developed and spread across much of the Western Hemisphere and beyond over the ensuing millennia. At their most benign, they contain charms and remedies for natural and supernatural ailments and advice on contacting spirits to help find treasures and protect from evil. But at their most sinister they provide instructions on how to manipulate people for corrupt purposes and,
worst of all, to call up and make a pact with the Devil. Both types have proven remarkably resilient and adaptable and retain much of their relevance and fascination to this day.

But the grimoire represents much more than just magic. To understand the history of grimoires is to understand the spread of Christianity, the development of early science, the cultural influence of the print revolution, the growth of literacy, the impact of colonialism, and the expansion of western cultures across the oceans. As this book richly demonstrates, the history of grimoires illuminates many of the most important developments in European history over the
last two thousand years.

Product Description


Excellent and nuanced volume. (Michael Ostling, History Today)

Anyone who is interested in...this subject will find this book an invaluable reference, and they will be entertained. (Alec Ryrie, Times Higher Education)

Erudite and entertaining addition to book scholarship. (Jad Adams, The Guardian)

'Grimoires' is a beautifully produced, surprisingly inexpensive book with black end papers and suitably antique illustrations. (Jad Adams, The Guardian)

This book is undoubtedly a necessary reference work for anyone with a serious interest in the history of magic. (Brian Gibbons, BBC History Magazine)

This is a very well researched book. (Noel Malcolm, Sunday Telegraph)

About the Author

Owen Davies is Reader in Social History at the University of Hertfordshire. He has written extensively on the history of popular magic, witchcraft, and ghosts.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2166 KB
  • Print Length: 380 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0199204519
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (26 Mar. 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #303,280 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A legacy revealed 17 Jan. 2011
Hardbound Copy 368pp, fully indexed with notes and central cache of illustrations

Davies announces in his Introduction that he considers Grimoires to be the `most dangerous books ever written.' He goes on to qualify that statement by extolling their role within and throughout History. He makes an excellent case for their immeasurable influences upon variant paradigms and events. As pivotal catalysts for change and innovation, these books are held accountable as tomes `feared and revered in equal measure.' Clearly, this book asserts itself, not as a critique of the contents of the considerable number of Black Books known to have graced the shelves of all levels of Occultists, but as a serious study of in exactly how history was molded by the dissemination of that knowledge.

Included within this comprehensive study of historical occult literature is a subtext explaining the chronological demograph of influence from the ancient Middle East through Europe and across into the New World. Davies sources their origins as books from within the French `Grammaire' traditions of rhyming Latin scripts, drawn mainly from religious volumes, including the Bible. Incantations and formulae derived from the countless verses and prayers therein are briefly exampled. Because popular belief assumed the removal of all magickal [and therefore all forms of self-empowerment] elements from these stalwart religious tomes, Davies affirms their usage as `an essential companion to the Bible.' Emphasis is stressed upon the legality of the written word over that spoken.

Political and religious considerations are given vent through topics that include the democratization of magic at the popular level and their subsequent usage by all manner of tradesman, apocatheries and cunning folk.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book covers the entirity of the written history of the book. Its examination of magic books includes investigation into the groups, societies, fraternities and religions that have been involved (pro or anti) with grimoires. It examines some of the sociology of who writes magic books, who buys them, why, what they do with them, and who tries to stop them.

Davies traces the history of modern magic books from the very first book-producers to the modern printing presses in a country-by-country, era-by-era way. In the process he brushes with many quacks, crazy men, religious zealots and the Inquisition. It is a great book for anyone interested in alternative religion, the dark ages, magic, superstition. The book provides enough background information to be readable to those who aren't history buffs, and enough detail and methodical evidence to be of use to those who *are* history buffs.

Like Professor Hutton, Own Davies sticks strictly to an evidence-first approach to history. At worst, the book the quite dry and dense. The author makes it clear that these magic books are often historical mistakes, but, in order to do so in a balanced way, the book is devoid of judgements, pronouncements and seemingly devoid of heartfelt conclusions. On the plus side, you can be assured that it is accurate and well-researched. There are a few pages about The Satanic Bible (about which I know a great deal), and I found that even in that niche Owen Davies had his facts right.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Educate Yourself! 7 May 2015
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Brilliant book, for those researching or interested in the topic of magic. It seriously opened my eyes, I had no idea that magic had such a realistic history. Honestly, a book that everybody should read and understand.
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13 of 20 people found the following review helpful
I thought that this review of the book by Mogg Morgan (I have permission) who is a publisher and expert in ancient magick might be of help.

Grimoires: A History of Magic Books /
by Owen Davies
ISBN 978-0-19-920451-9
Published by Oxford University Press
366pp / Hardback

*"The production of grimoires was an entrepreneurial enterprise that thrived wherever the influence of secular and ecclesiastical censors was restricted by geographical, educational or political factors. The opening up of America created just such an environment, and hucksters, quacks, astrologers, fortune tellers and occult practitioners of all shades thrived." p. 188*

Which may indicate that the primary audience for this book might not be the "hucksters, quacks, astrologers, fortune tellers and occult practitioners" some of whom might even read this newsletter. Owen Davies has built a strong reputation for himself as author of the groundbreaking /Cunning Folk: Popular Magic in English History/ re-branded with an eye to the MBS marketplace as /Popular Magic: Cunning-folk in English History. /Here again he has taken up a largely neglected topic with some verve and produced a page turning history of the grimoire.

OD's book is likely to be of special interest to those with some knowledge of the genre. Davies gives very few examples of a grimoire's actual content, so there is an assumption that the author has already read one or two. The small examples OD does give tend to underline his thesis that the grimoires are at best a debased form of ancient magick or worst cynical, gibberish.
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