This section contains important manuscripts primarily from the pre-modern era. They are included in this section because the physical manuscripts require study and not just the content within them. Many are purported to be based on ancient or older texts, have pseudepigraphic authors, or are unique in one way or another. While modern manuscript studies can reveal more detailed information about when and where a text was created, the fictional providence of occult texts many times has a powerful effect on how it was received and viewed. Aside from physical evidence (age and composition of ink, paper, velum, etc) linguistic analysis can also reveal the likely origin and composition of purportedly ancient texts.
Physical books and manuscripts often play a central role in the occult. Whether this be in the form of an ancient (or an ostensibly ancient) manuscript that is said to contain hidden secrets from the past or a more modern grimoire or book of shadows that is purposefully imbued with power based on physical ingredients or special rituals, the physicality of books can be as important as their content.
The items listed here are by no means exhaustive. While many prominent manuscripts have been fully digitized and are readily available online, many more appear only as catalogue entries. Instead of attempting to aggregate every single occult related manuscript available, a task which may very well take a lifetime to complete, I’ve attempted to present the most interesting or notable individual texts as well as large collections specifically related to occult topics.
Manuscripts attributed or related to the biblical figure Solomon:
Mellon MS 1 – Ars notoria, sive Flores aurei- A beautiful manuscript from the Beinecke Digital Collections, it contains a number of diagrams in dramatic red ink. It is categorized under “Alchemy” but the description states that it is, “A text in which a direct approach to knowledge is sought by means of incantation.” This would imply that it is better described as theurgic or ritual magic. While is attributed to Apollonius of Tyana, it is closely related to the Solomonic text “Ars Notoria” and is part of the same Solomonic tradition. (Latin, circa 1225)
Harley MS 5596 – Book on magic and divination including fragments of the “Testament of Solomon” (Ancient Greek, 15th century)
Manuscripts that may be the source of later magical treatises and compilations:
Lansdowne MS 1202 – Les vraies Clavicules du. Roi Salomon. Par Armadel (French mid-18th century)
A book on magic with illustrated talismans which has not been digitized.
Picatrix (Ghāyat al-Ḥakīm) – Early Manuscripts and Related or Source Texts
Opera medica, astronomica et astrologica – Jagiellonian Library in Cracow, Poland
Or 9861 – An abbreviated hebrew version of the Ghāyat al-Ḥakīm or “Picatrix”
Mysterious and Untranslated Texts:
The Voynich Manuscript
Book of Soyga
Other Interesting Items:
The Munich Manual
The Oera Linda – Nazi Occult
Book of Magical Charms – Latin, 17th century, no other known copies exist
Cases of Conscience Concerning Evil Spirits by Increase Mather
The Book of Secrets
Naometria – Latin, 1604
A numerological prophecy book with illustrations and diagrams
Libraries with a number of occult and occult related manuscripts:
Sloane manuscript collection at the British Library – This massive collection of over 4,000 items is not exclusively esoteric or occult but there are a number of iconic texts on the subjects of alchemy, magic, astrology, and related topics.
Digitized highlights from this collection include:
Sloane MS 1712 – Ars Notoria
Sloane MS 3191 – John Dee’s notes on ceremonial magic
Sloane MS 3983 – Liber astrologiae
The Paul and Mary Mellon Collection of Alchemy and the Occult – Housed at the Yale University Library’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, this collection is designated by the call numbers starting with “Mellon MS“. The Beinecke Library has other manuscripts on related topics, some undigitized or only partially digitized, but the Mellon collection stands out as especially notable.
US National Library of Medicine in Maryland
The page on Islamic manuscripts hasn’t been updated since 2014. Several interesting manuscripts that relate to the occult, astrology, and magic are catalogued but not digitized.
The National and University Library of Iceland
Their site has a number of “magic books” listed in their catalog including manuscripts with magical staves. Most appear to be digitized but they are difficult to navigate unless you know Icelandic:
The library also has digitized manuscripts on astrology:
And a host of other interesting topics.