What is a Grimoire?
A grimoire (/ɡrɪmˈwɑːr/ grim-WAHR) (also known as a “book of spells”) is a textbook of magic typically complied by a practitioner of the magical arts as personal log or journal. The exact types of magic recorded in a grimoire can vary greatly from glossaries of spells to entire systems of magic. Common themes can include instructions on how to craft magical objects like talismans and amulets, how to prepare formulas and spells, techniques for evocationary scrying, and how to conjure or invoke unseen entities such as angels, spirits, and demons.
The word grimoire originated from the old French word grammaire, which was used to describe all books written in Latin. By the eighteenth century, the word gained its now common usage, referring exclusively to books of magic. I presume this is because magic manuscripts, no matter their language, almost always contain conjurations in Latin.
While the word grimoire is originally European, similar books can be found all across the world. In Norway, they are referred to as Svartebøker. An Iceland a book of magic is called a Galdrabók. In Germany, the word Zauberbüch is used to describe textbooks of magic. In Taoist sorcery, a book for crafting talismans is known as a Fang Shu or Book of Results. Pustaha is the word used to describe North Sumatran magic books. In Thailand, magical manuscripts are called pap tup and in modern witchcraft (or Wicca), the term, Book of Shadows is most popular. The list goes on.
In many cases, the books themselves are believed to be imbued with magical powers, although in many cultures, other sacred texts that are not grimoires (such as the Bible) have been believed to have supernatural properties intrinsically. For this reason, manuscripts, as opposed to printed books, are considered superior. A practitioner might inherit one along with its imbued powers or craft one from scratch in a ceremonial manner.
Since at least the Middle Ages, grimoires have been considered dangerous, indexed as forbidden and if found, destroyed or hidden away. “No books have more feared than grimoires: then again, no books have been more valued and revered.” (Davis, 2009). With that in mind, let us now discuss where one might procure a ‘grimoire.’
Where do I find Grimoires?
Many of you have asked where I get the books in my collection and where you can buy books like them. In addition to the items aviable here at Books of Magick, there are a number of resources available in the digital space. I have created a list in five categories:
- Digital resources. These are websites, like my own, that have digital copies of grimoires and the academic study there of.
- Antiquarian books. This is a list of online dealers that have a focus in books of an esoteric nature and tend to have original edition and manuscript grimoires in stock on a regular basis.
- Modern Fine Press books. These are boutique publishing houses that specialize in finely bound, limited edition esoteric books for discerning bibliophiles , some of which utilize the aesthetic of Renaissance bookmakers.
- Auction houses. These are some auction houses that auction books of an occult or an esoteric nature more frequently than others.
- Cheap Copies. These are some hot spots for your basic trade or mass market paperback editions. If you just looking for a cheap copy of a grimoire to read, these are some good spots to pick up a title.
Joseph H Peterson has been studying esoteric texts for decades and has translated many religious and esoteric texts. After years of collecting and digitizing rare texts for his own research, he created Esoteric Archives to share them with a wider audience.
One of the best grimoire Manuscript resources on the web. Its also has a section on Magical Tools and news well as a shop where he sells transcriptions and translations of obscure german grimoires.
Studies on Magic
Mihai Vârtejaru’s personal blog dedicated to the academic study on magic. His site includes first draft translations of magical texts, projects and articles.
The Alchemy Website
This site is organised by Adam McLean, the well known authority on alchemical texts, author and publisher of over 80 books. It has a ton of online information on alchemy divided into over 2700 separate topics and providing tens of thousands of pages of text, over 3000 images, over 300 complete alchemical texts, extensive bibliographical material, and more. It also contains a comprehensive List of Solomonic manuscripts.
Steganographia: A new translation with interactive resources by Alexander Boxer. Although never completed, its a great tool for understanding how the Trithemius’ cryptographic conjurations function.
Erik Zink Livres Anciens
The LivresAnciens.com site is the sales site for the Eric Zink Livres Anciens bookstore. They sell all types of rare books with a specialty in occult, and alchemical texts as well as the history of science and ideas. If you are looking for French grimoires, this is a great place to look.
Specializes in rare, old and curious books on ancient and human sciences, occult, and more particularly alchemy, magnetism, freemasonry, philosophy, fantastic, sects, utopia, psychiatry, medicine, criminology, conjuring, games and oddities. They tend to have a regular stock of grimoires.
Specializes in german occult books. They have a nice collection of rare books on alchemy, astrology, witchcraft, and magic. They tend get thier hands on really tough to find german grimoires, alchemy tomes, and latin texts that were originally printed in Germany.
This is the best search tool on the web. It aggregates results from every seller in every country on the internet. You can also add “Wants” for unavailable titles and the site will notify by email when a title is becomes available on the internet.
Founded in 2007 by Alkistis Dimech and Peter Grey, Scarlet Imprint is at the forefront of modern occult publishing. They publish work that inspires our contemporaries and supports the ongoing resurgence in magic and esotericism.
An independent publishing house largely supported by readers who appreciate not only the importance of classic texts but also the various crafts associated with book arts. The press works with scholars, translators and artists to produce fine books in the field of Western Esotericism. Texts are classics in their field and often are presented in their first English translation.
Enodia Press is an independent publishing house established in 2016. It came into the world with the first English translation of the Magia Naturalis et Innaturalis, the famous work attributed to Dr. Johannes Faust. Since then, it has remained the only publishing house dedicated to releasing scholarly works on the Faustian magical literature that emerged in Germany during the 17th Century.
This is a great tool for finding items via auction. Many auction houses list their sales here. Some list on Sales Room only and other larger houses might list on their own site as well as this sites an others here to extend their reach. You can bid on items digitally (i.e. absentee bids) or bid live similar to eBay. You can also add items you are looking for to the “Watch List” and the site will notify by email when a title is becomes available on the internet.
Invaluable is truly the worlds premiere online auction platform. Bid online in live auctions from all over the world. Browse fine Books, manuscripts, art, collectibles, and more. Most auction houses use this platform and therefore a great resource for finding rare antiquarian grimoires and books / manuscripts on witchcraft, alchemy, exorcism, and other esoteric topics.
This is a great tool for finding items via auction especially French titles. Many auction houses list their sales here, many being French houses. You can place an absentee bid or bid live via Drouot LIVE, a platform similar to eBay.
Lulu is a self publishing house and retail distributor used by many new grimoire authors. They also have a shop with over 200 grimoire and occult texts published under Lulu at affordable prices. Maybe they even turn out to be your publisher.
Established over 100 years ago, Watkins is one of the world’s oldest and leading independent bookshops specializing in esoterica. They have a wide choice of new books and latest releases, as well as some rare and antiquarian titles, plus, a collection of hand made statues and personal talismans, crystals and tarot that will make for a perfect present! Fun fact: They published the first edition of S.L. MacGregor Mathers “The Book of the Sacred Magic” in 1898. Although this is just a theory, This might just be where Aleister Crowley excised the Moina Mathers illustration from 3/4 of the fist edition copies.
Treadwell’s has become the beating heart of modern esoteric study. It offers a carefully curated selection of both old and new books; all are chosen with the experienced occultist, the curious academic, and the young student in mind. Take a look!