A grimoire is a book of spells and incantations, ways of making talismans and charms and methods of summoning spirits. There are a number of famous ones, listed below. Some grimoires are true relics of ancient civilizations, including the cuneiform tablets of the Akkadians and Graeco-Egyptian spells written on scraps of papyrus, which are often called grimoires, but most date from the late medieval period. “Grimoire” is a Old French word, denoting a work book or textbook – a reference and book of instructions.
Mephistopheles gives Faust a Book….
“Doctor Faustus living in all manner of pleasure that his heart could desire, continuing in his amorous drifts, his delicate fare, and costly apparel, called on a time his Mephostophilies to him: which being come, brought with him a booke in his hand of all maner of diuelish and inchanted artes, the which he gaue Faustus, saying: hold my Faustus, worke now thy hearts desire…” (Faust Book)
The identity of the true author was commonly hidden to protect them from prosecution, and to give the texts more weight and honour or to pay respect. They were instead attributed to ancient patriarchs and notorious sorcerers such as Faust. Since even being in possession of a grimoire was illegal, one did not want to be found either writing or printing heretical texts or practising black magic. The true nature of a grimoire may be disguised or protected by encryption.
Handmade manuscripts at first, they were rare and expensive. Since about the eighteenth century there’s been a trade in selling printed grimoires to the general public, though often sold surreptitiously because they are still inescapably associated with witchcraft and the demonic and may promote illegalities.
Undoubtedly, a primal human attraction to dark and mysterious powers ensures their continuing popularity. The Necronomicon is an example of a modern grimoire written largely to satisfy popular demand for the imaginary Necronomicon of H. P. Lovecraft’s fiction.
Going back much further—to the late 16th century publication of the first Faust books or before and associated with John Dee—the Voynich manuscript, though still un-decoded, might be a grimoire created for sale as a curiosity, possibly created for sale to Rudolf II1.
Faust used magic books. In the books they’re how he tries to summon Mephistopheles and how he hopes to protect himself from Mephistophele’s powers. The real Faust did not likely author any grimoires, but several are attributed to him. One, the Black Raven, is available through the links below.
Grimoires Associated with Faust:
(Leo Ruickbie’s Faustus (Amazon Link) lists grimoires attributed to Faust in the Appendix.)
- The Black Raven (The Threefold Coercion of Hell). Attributed to “Doctor Johannes Faust,” but that’s unlikely. Unknown date (claims 1469). See it at: https://web.archive.org/web/20110714020438/https://www.magick7.com/FreeBooks/0021/Hell.html or https://www.scribd.com/document/39293648/Grimoires-Black-Raven.
- Magia naturalis et innaturalis, oder dreifacher Höllenzwang, letztes Testament und Siegelkunst – Part I. See it at Google Books https://books.google.com/books?id=WpE5AAAAcAAJ
- Magia naturalis et innaturalis, oder dreifacher Höllenzwang, letztes Testament und Siegelkunst – Part III. See it at Google Books https://books.google.com/books?id=kCUdwQEACAAJ
- Magia naturalis et innaturalis, oder dreifacher Höllenzwang, letztes Testament und Siegelkunst – Part IV. See it at Google Books https://books.google.com/books?id=4ZA5AAAAcAAJ
- Doctor Faust’s großer und gewaltiger Höllenzwang. Can’t see much at: https://books.google.com/books?id=6w8OcAAACAAJ
Some famous grimoires:
Many of the grimoires listed can be found via a Google search. Many are available in occult collection bittorrents.
- Picatrix (Ghâyat al-Hakîm fi’l-sihr). An 11th century(-ish) Arabic compilation of earlier magic and astrology that was highly influential in Renaissance Europe from the 13th century. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Picatrix.
- Cyprianus (the Black Book). A common or traditional name in Scandanavian regions for a collection of spells, prayers and remedies. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyprianus.
- Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses. 18th century northern European popular subsequently among spiritualists in America and Africa. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sixth_and_Seventh_Books_of_Moses.
- The 8th Book of Moses. Fourth-century Greek papyrus found in Thebes in the 19th century and published as part of the Greek Magical Papyri See:
- The Black Pullet. Probably French, 18th century. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Pullet.
- Key of Solomon. Attributed to King Solomon, dates from the 14th or 15th century. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Key_of_Solomon.
- The Lemegeton, or, the Lesser Key of Solomon. A mid-17th century compilation or synthesis of older works of magic. A demonology – lists of demons and ways to conjure them. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lesser_Key_of_Solomon.
- Liber Juratis, or, the Sworn Book of Honorius. Possibly 13th century, it is described as a compilation of material created by a body of magicians to protect and preserve such knowledge. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sworn_Book_of_Honorius.
- Necronomican. Twentieth century. With the popularity of H. P. Lovecraft’s horror stories referencing the fictitious Necronomicon of the “Mad Arab” Abdul Alhazred, it was inevitable someone would satisfy all those who thought it was real. Not created by Lovecraft. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Necronomicon
- Petit Albert. A popular 18th century book of magic and domestic handbook. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petit_Albert
- The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abra-Melin the Mage. Possibly German early 17th century tale of the travels of Abraham of Worms who meets Abramelin the Mage and learns his magic. He then teaches it to his son. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Book_of_Abramelin.
- A collection of grimoires at https://www.sacred-texts.com/grim/
- Grimoires at http://www.hermetics.org/library/Library_Grimoires.html
- Twilit Grotto: Archives of Western Esoterica at http://www.esotericarchives.com/esoteric.htm