Book Review: Art of the Grimoire by Owen Davies 

The Art of the Grimoire by Owen Davies, is as gloriously illustrated as any coffee-table book and revels in the visual media of magic books of many ages and cultures. Davies’ previous book on grimoires is a scholarly analysis of that genre of magic source material whereas this is a much lighter book, aimed at the interested or general reader whilst remaining scholarly with a wealth of imagery that can be used by students of magic at any level.

Admittedly the volume stretches the definition of grimoire (or book for that matter) to its limits. Papyrus scrolls, pottery incantation bowls, parchment rolls, woodcut prints and modern pulp magic books are included in this wide-ranging study. The locations of the magic books are as widespread as the eras they cover: Egypt, Greece, China, India, Europe, Japan and America are all featured. The time periods spread from ancient history through to modern times and even include fictional magic books such as the Necronomicon and props created for Hollywood films.

Davies’ prose is sparse compared to the illustrations but is concise and informative. However, there is no doubt that art is the main focus of the book. The wide span of material allows comparisons to be drawn comparisons between the art of different cultures (the circle always seems to be popular) and to see how magical texts have developed within the same culture over differing time periods.

At £19 this is a surprisingly affordable work considering the sheer number of full-colour illustrations and the scholarship of the texts. For those who wish to study the artistry and visual information held in grimoires and anyone who wants to trace magical diagrams or research magical symbols through different cultures and time periods, this book is a very useful addition to any library.

Art of the Grimore: An Illustrated History of Magic Books and Spells

Owen Davies

Yale University Press (10 Oct. 2023)

ISBN-10  :  0300272014

ISBN-13  :  978-0300272017

Pages – 256