Cyprianus, Key to Hell, Society of Esoteric Endeavour, Numbered limited edition of 60 copies. 40pp, (9ins x 6ins) including two foldouts, not including blanks. Facsimile with English translation. There is a long tradition of grimoires being black books, or dark. This manuscript is not part of that tradition. Thee original manuscript was bound in scarlet velvet This facsimile reprint is likewise bound in red velvet. Please note, the vast majority of “velvet” nowadays are made from cotton or synthetic modern fibres. This is bound in real velvet made from real silk. The difference is in the feel and in the shimmer that the upstanding fibes give when viewed from different angles. It is probably the shimmering effect that the original binder sought, as on the pastedowns he used a green silk. The crossing fibres creating an “interference” pattern. This has been reproduced in this edition but with two layers, to maximise the shimmering effect. The pages of the grimoire are a riot of colour and the glimmer of real gold.
A description of the pages of the grimoire follows:-
It has two sections:-
A facsimile of the original manuscript. Wherever the original was illuminated with gold leaf, this is reproduced using genuine gold. The irregular cutting of the page edges of the original is reprodued, as are enigmatic slits in two of the leaves. This section has the following pages:-
Foldout showing four diagrams around a crowned ouroboros serpent which encirlces a magic circle in which are placed words of power written out in the “Passing of the River” script given by Agrippa in Three Books of Occult Philosophy and reproduced in Barrett and elsewhere. Within this is Latin script and at the centre of the circle a decorative cross. The cross, words of power and crown of the serpent were, in the original manuscript, portayed using gold leaf. In this reprint they are likewise defined with genuine gold (not the gold coloured metallic foils often used, but real 22 carat gold),
Page featuring astrological signs and planteary sigils. The original had two slits towards the botton of the page, reproduced here. Tis may have been so that a piece of folded paper can be inmserted to carry a name so that the grimoire can be personalised when being used.
Page featuring umerous sigils and words of power written in Malachim (a related magical sript given in Agrippa and elsewhere). These surround an image of the figure described in the Book of Revelations I 17 – 19 ie. Sword emerging from mouth, gold stars, gold candlestick, golden halo and feet etc. The significance was that Christian powers now held the keys to Hell and are here invoked to command infernal beings to attend to the magician’s desires.
The title page which carries (in a curious form) the date 1717. Dates of Grimoires are usually deliberately misleading mind.
The talisman page. Aside from black borders the page comprises a slab of gold upon which are magical sigils, Hebrew words of power, some Latin letters and with a triangular design within a circle, these in two shades of red.
Two pages illustrate the infernal kings of the four directions. Each is accompanied by a symbol which relates to the foldout frontispiece They are portayed as blackmen wearing rich, gold embellished robes, jewels and wands. For one the original scribe gives the images the folds of gold cloth by means of “scraffito”, whereby the gold foil was scratched away at some points. This has been reproduced. Each king is accompanied by a beast:- a gold crowned Ouroboric winged serpent; a bear (brute animal nature?); a hoopoe (a bird thouight to live in dung); a “pard”, the imagined black parent of the leopard, the other parent being “leo” the lion. They were considered aggressive, and this one is portayed with claws and, to emphasise ites demonic nature, horns. Curious to find an image of an anomalous black cat in a centuries old manuscript – nowadays we hear about sightings of them in the news! Two pages, the reverse of the above, give the titles of the illustrations overleaf.
Coloured illustration with text, gold embellished, of cross with serpent entwined atop an upright trianle with symbols of death (accia and skull) plus sword and above a white, gold crowned, winged serpent is swallowing a black lizard/serpent. The white serpent has wings an, in the original, these were embnellished with “shell gold” which was gold dust held in gum arabic to which water was added and then it was applied to a surface. Genuine shell gold is used in the facsimile.
Nine pages of latin text with numerous symbols etc. Sigils on one page become quite idiosyncratic, with simple faces delineated
A page with a pentagram design and astrological figure.
Is likewise a facsimile of the same manuscript. However the gold is not reproduced so that the appearance of the original can be appreciated. For instance in the talismanic page the gold leaf has either worn or never took in places, unrelated text peeks through! However, the Latin and occasional Greek of the original is translated into English and, in this section, the English translation is written, by a very skilled calligrapher, in a hand that accords with the original and yet is also highly legible. The original sigils, symbols and Hebrew words of power are retained.
We find that some parts of the original text were written backwards. This was probably done so that the scribe, when writing the manuscript, does not by that act perform the ritual, conjouring the beings concerned into his presence. Where Latin words were spelt backwards, so the English script does in the second section.
As in the original all the pages are irregularly cut and the pages are bound into the book using a thick gold coloured thread.
The intent has been to present the illustrations and text, with an English translation, in a manner which preserves, recaptures and extends the point of view of the original scribe. Anything that distracts from this viewpoint is kept to an absolute minumum. Hence, there is no introduction or commentary and publication details are kept to a minumum. The original manuscript is, in places quite marked, these marks are deliberately reproduced. There is a golden opportunity for reasearching the words of power, scripts, sigils and symbolism, both in terms of sources and significance. A small handmade paper label in the second section gives the necessary copyright and publication details, together with the limitation and the number of the copy in hand.
This project will be the subject of a lecture to the U.K. Society of Bookbinders in May 2010, to be given by myself as publisher, the binder and the calligrapher
Images of the book can be found here:-
Cyprianus, Key to Hell, Ltd. Ed. Of 60 copies is available at 150 UK Pounds plus postage by special delivery at cost