Compendium Rarissimum is the quintessential black magic grimoire, containing 31 Gothic illustrations of named demons, lesser evil spirits, rituals, tools and sigils. Inscribed in Latin and German, it provides instructions for signing a blood-pact with the Devil, the construction of a magic mirror, and the use of psychoactive plants to aid in summoning Hell’s denizens and bending them to your will. Its title page reads in full, “Compendium rarissimum totius Artis Magicae sistematisatae per celeberrimos Artis hujus Magistros, Anno 1057. Noli me tangere,” or “Most rare Compendium of the entire Magical Art put together by the most famous Masters of this Art. Year 1057. Do not touch me.”
Textual references fix the actual date of the manuscript to no earlier than 1792. It is believed to be of Austrian origin, and to derive from a family of treasure-hunting grimoires, called Höllenzwang, that promised the magical tools to uncover vast riches that had been hidden from marauding armies during the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648). Its provenance before 1928 is unknown, when it was sold to London’s Wellcome Library by Viennese antiquarian bookseller V. A. Heck.
Credit Line: Image by the Wellcome Library, London (CC BY 4.0).