Grimoires: A History of Magic Books Hardcover – 26 Mar 2009
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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.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
Grimoires: A History of Magic Books /
by Owen Davies
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A good book for only wise experienced and skilled magician and occultists...!!
This book is not for beginners...!!! Read more
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