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An Excellent Booke of the Arte of Magicke by Phil Legard and Alexander Cummins

by: Watkins Books




An Excellent Booke of the Arte of Magicke: The Magical Works of Humphrey Gilbert and John Davis, transcribed from British Library Additional manuscript 36674, edited and introduced by Phil Legard, with supplementary essays by Alexander Cummins, and a foreword by Dan Harms.

The first part of the book, Texts, opens with a colour facsimile of ff.47r–62v from Add. ms. 36674, known as the Excellent Booke and Visions, followed by modernised and diplomatic transcriptions.

The magical experiments conducted by Elizabethan explorer, soldier and courtier Humphrey Gilbert, along with his scryer John Davis, during the spring of 1567 are notable for their forceful methods and stripped down Protestant ritual. The spirits are called into a ‘crystal stone’ by way of a large number of conjurations, charges, constraints, curses and bonds. The work includes the practical conjuration of Bleth, Aosal, Assassel (Azazel) and the four demon kings of the winds, namely Oriens, Amaimon, Paimon and Aegyn. It is evidently based on an older text or texts, adapted to the Protestant outlook of the period, and has also been supplemented with revelations and guidance received first-hand by Gilbert and Davis over the course of its composition. As such, the texts are a rare example of the poiesis, or coming-together, of a ritual magic book. The texts attest to the continuity of medieval ritual magic into the early modern period.

Visions is a record of visions in the crystal, detailing events which took place before, during and after the composition of the Excellent Booke. In the course of this work, the master – Humphrey Gilbert – and scryer – John Davis – converse with a wide-range of spirits as well as religious and occult personalities, including Assasel, Solomon, Roger Bacon, Cornelius Agrippa and four angelic evangelists. The pair experience a series of remarkable sights concealed behind the seven-keyholed door of the house of Solomon. On occasion the visions bled into the waking world in encounters with great demonic dogs and the physical manifestation of the prophet Job.


Limited Hardback edition.