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The Transformations of Magic

Illicit Learned Magic in the Later Middle Ages and Renaissance

By Frank Klaassen

Publication Year: 2012

Published by: Penn State University Press

Series: Magic in History

Cover Front

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p. 1-1


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pp. 2-7

Table of Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

Manuscripts of illicit magic present considerable methodological challenges for modern historians. While they may communicate in excruciating detail their constituent operations, they simultaneously give little explicit information about their authors, scribes, and collectors. ...

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pp. 1-12

This book is about illicit learned magic in England and the ways in which it was transformed between 1300 and 1600. It concerns the changes, sometimes subtle and sometimes dramatic, that took place each time a medieval author, scribe, or collector set out to understand and practice learned magic, and then to copy the associated texts or write new ones. ...

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Part I: The Apothecary’s Dilemma

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pp. 13-16

The story goes that the thirteenth-century astrologer Guido Bonatti took pity upon a poor apothecary with whom he used to play chess: “Guido gave him a wax image of a ship, telling him that if he kept it hidden in a box in a secret place he would grow rich, but that if he removed it he would grow poor again.”1 ...

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Chapter 1: Magic and Natural Philosophy

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pp. 17-32

In his Dialogue on Miracles, the late twelfth- and early thirteenth-century Cistercian Caesarius of Heisterbach relates the story of a group of German students studying necromancy in Toledo. After several months of intense study, they had seen no concrete results. ...

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Chapter 2: Scholastic Image Magic Before 1500

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pp. 33-56

The idea of magic is inextricably bound up with the issue of representation in spoken words, visual signs, or physical gestures. In the sense that magical practices employ representations or apparent representations—and even divination may be said to enact the process of fate to predict a future event—all magic is image magic. ...

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Chapter 3: Some Apparent Exceptions: Image Magic or Necromancy?

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pp. 57-80

In the preceding chapter, I described the common patterns of scribal interest associated with texts of astrological image magic. Scribes regarded these texts as belonging to the broad category of naturalia, and many evidently regarded image magic as a legitimate part of that library. Like the Magister Speculi, the scribes appear to have made a distinction between this sort of magic, ...

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Part II: Brother John’s Dilemma

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pp. 81-88

Brother John of Morigny thirsted after enlightenment.1 But its pursuit by necromantic means filled him with dread and fear for his soul. He unburdened himself to Jacob, a doctor friend, who suggested that the Ars notoria was his best alternative, since it employed angels instead of demons. ...

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Chapter 4: The Ars Notoria and the Sworn Book of Honorius

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pp. 89-114

The Ars notoria ascribes its authority to Solomon. It elaborates upon the account in 2 Chronicles 1:9–12 and 2 Kings 3:5–14, where God appears to Solomon in the night. Among other things Solomon has asked for, he is granted sapientia, scientia et intelligencia. That a wider group of people might expect such gifts from God is suggested by Daniel 1:17, ...

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Chapter 5: The Magic of Demons and Angels

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pp. 115-156

Necromancy is one of the more peculiar progeny spawned in the rich, turbid waters where Jewish, Greek, Arabic, and other ancient literature flowed together in twelfth- and thirteenth-century Latin Christendom. Its manuscript children often give the impression of Frankenstein’s monster, stitched together from whatever varied and improbable parts came to hand. ...

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Part III: Magic After 1580

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pp. 157-160

These words, which conclude Thorndike’s volumes on the sixteenth century, epitomize a perspective on the historical relation between early modern magic and science from which later scholarship has not radically deviated. They also reflect a common assumption about the distinctiveness of the sixteenth century. ...

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Chapter 6: Sixteenth-Century Collections of Magic Texts

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pp. 161-186

If we date the beginning of the “magical renaissance” to the publication of Ficino’s De vita coelitus comparanda and Pico’s Oration on the Dignity of Man, 900 Theses, and Apology in the 1480s, the new era they inaugurated does not appear to have had a significant impact upon the traditions of ritual magic. ...

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Chapter 7: Medieval Ritual Magic and Renaissance Magic

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pp. 187-218

Surviving sixteenth-century manuscripts of illicit magic betray no dramatic changes in ritual magical traditions following the publication of works by Pico, Ficino, and Agrippa. The few changes that the library of ritual magic underwent in the sixteenth century were, in almost every way, natural continuations of transformations already under way during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. ...


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pp. 219-248


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pp. 249-266


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pp. 267-280

Cover Back

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p. 292-292

E-ISBN-13: 9780271058290
E-ISBN-10: 0271058293
Print-ISBN-13: 9780271056265
Print-ISBN-10: 0271056266

Page Count: 280
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Magic in History