Friday, May 28, 2010

Demonic Manuscripts and Books in Human Skin


You'll remember perhaps how excited I was to find a copy of Maggs Bros. 1932 catalogue of "strange books and curious titles" called, Curiouser and Curiouser. I promised a return to its pages. Two books today which spring from the pages of the catalogue. The first is a manuscript in fact from c.1600, possibly owned by Dr Dee himself and described as follows:

[Demonology]. Book of Invocations of the Demons Vercan, Maymon, Suth, Samax, Sarabotres, Mediac or Modiac, and Arcan.

Manuscript in Latin written on 23 leaves of vellum by an English necromancer. On the first page is a roughly drawn crucifixion lettered "Tetragrammaton" enclosed within a circular inscription " Jesus Nazaranus Rex Judeorum, etc.," on the verso of the first leaf a drawing of the Almighty invoked by thefour evangelists, then follow 13 striking full-page representations (some coloured) of the demon Vercan, who is shown in various shapes and with various attributes; opposite each drawing a Latin invocation arranged in a circle within a circular inscription either in Latin or Hebrew, and 6 full-page drawings of the other demons mentioned above (Maymon, Suth, etc.), each with his invocation in Latin on the opposite page. [above].


In 1932 this was yours for a mere £275. The National Archives have a groovy little application called an
Historical Currency Converter which allows you to bump that price through the years to see what it's equivalent might be today. It shouldn't be any surprise to know that Maggs were asking in the region of £10,000 for this MSS.

The second book today is another of that curious breed which seems always to provoke internet interest, the book bound in human skin. I've written about such a book before which I found in the catalogues of Leonard Smithers. Unfortunately, Maggs Bros are a far more scrupulous company than Mr Smither's and so, from consideration to their readers, they did not include an illustration, however, it is described thus:

[LADMIRAL (Jan.)]. ALBINUS (Bernhard Siegfried). Dissertatio de arteriis et venus intestinorum hominis.
Together with:
ALBINUS (Bernhard Siegfried). Dissertatio secunda. De sede et causa coloris Aethiopum et caeterorum hominum.
Together with:
ICON durae matris in concava superficie visae, ex capite foetus humani octo circiter a conceptione mensium, desumtae.
Together with:
ICON durae matris in concvexa superficie visae, ex capite foetus humani octo circiter a conceptione mensium, desumtae.

Together with:

ICON membranae vaculosae ad infima acetabuli ossium innominatorum positae, ex puero desumtae.

Together with:

EFFIGIES penis humani, injecta cera praeparati exhibens inventa anatomica aliquot nova.


The set of Six Medical Tracts, each with an anatomical plate, printed in colours by Jan Ladmiral.

A REMARKABLE COPY, BOUND IN HUMAN SKIN, WITH A SILVER SKULL IN REPOUSSE IN CENTRE OF FRONT COVER.

4to. Leyden and Amsterdam, 1736-1741.


And this little number would have cost you £105 (aprox £3,900 in today's money - a bargain!)

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