What is a grimoire? The word has a familiar ring to many people, particularly as a consequence of such popular television dramas as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Charmed.
But few people are sure exactly what it means. Put simply, grimoires are books of spells that were first recorded in the Ancient Middle East and which have developed and spread across much of the Western Hemisphere and beyond over the ensuing millennia.
At their most benign, they contain charms and remedies for natural and supernatural ailments and advice on contacting spirits to help find treasures and protect from evil.
But at their most sinister they provide instructions on how to manipulate people for corrupt purposes and,worst of all, to call up and make a pact with the Devil.
Both types have proven remarkably resilient and adaptable and retain much of their relevance and fascination to this day.
But the grimoire represents much more than just magic.
To understand the history of grimoires is to understand the spread of Christianity, the development of early science, the cultural influence of the print revolution, the growth of literacy, the impact of colonialism, and the expansion of western cultures across the oceans.
As this book richly demonstrates, the history of grimoires illuminates many of the most important developments in European history over thelast two thousand years.