Picatrix

Ghāyat al-Ḥakīm ( غاية الحكيم )

by al-Qurtubi, Kraków (ca. 1460)

BJ MS 793

Picatrix is the name used today, and historically in Christian Europe, for a grimoire originally written in Arabic under the title, Ghāyat al-Ḥakīm ( غاية الحكيم ), which most scholars assume was written in the middle of the 11th century, though a supported argument for composition in the first half of the 10th century has been made. The Arabic title has been translated as “The Aim of the Sage” or “The Goal of The Wise”. The original Arabic work was translated into Spanish and then into Latin during the 13th century. According to the Latin prologue, the word “Picatrix” is the name of the author: “One wise philosopher, the noble and honored Picatrix”

According to the prologue of the Latin translation, Picatrix was translated into Spanish from the Arabic by order of Alphonso X of Castile at some time between 1256 and 1258. The Latin version was produced sometime later, based on translation of the Spanish manuscripts. Traditionally, Gayat al-Hakim has been attributed to Abu ’l-Qāsim Maslama ibn Aḥmad al-Faraḍī al-Ḥāsib al-Maj̲rīṭī al-Qurṭubī al-Andalusī (d. 1007), the Madrilenian polymath, or alternatively to one of his disciples, under the name, Maslama ibn Ahmad al-Majriti (an Andalusian mathematician). More recently however, Maribel Fierro has argued for attributing the work to al-Qurtubi, an attribution that is accepted as most plausible. The Spanish and Latin versions were the only ones known to western scholars until Wilhelm Printz discovered an Arabic version in or around 1920. (Source: Dan Attrell)

Picatrix is a manual for constructing talismans, mixing magical compounds, summoning planetary spirits, and determining astrological conditions. It is possibly the largest and most extensive handbooks of magic, a cornerstone of the grimoire tradition. The work is partitioned into four books: The work is partitioned into four books:

  • Book I – “Of the heavens and the effects they cause through images made under them”
  • Book II – “Of the figures of the heavens in general, and of the general motion of the sphere, and of their effects in this world”
  • Book III – “Of the properties of the planets and signs, and of their figures and forms made in their colors, and how one may speak with the spirits of the planets, and of many other magical workings”
  • Book IV – “Of the properties of spirits, and of those things that are necessary to observe in this most excellent art, and how they may be summoned with images, suffumigations and other things”

This particular manuscript of the Picatrix is cataloged as, Biblioteka Jagiellonska MS 793. The origin of this version is debated, and the text breaks off abruptly in the second of four parts, but it is thought to have been created by a Polish scribe in Italy, or possibly in the region around Kraków. Its creation date is estimated to be in the mid-15th century, with a binding date around 1460 (B. Lang, Unlocked Books, 2010). Lang describes it as the only illustrated copy.

Facsimile Editions



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