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Author Topic: Unlocked Books: Manuscripts of Learned Magic in the Medieval Libraries of Central Europe. Magic in History.  (Read 2868 times) Average Rating: 0
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« Topic Start: February 04, 2010, 02:02:44 pm »

Title: Unlocked Books: Manuscripts of Learned Magic in the Medieval Libraries of Central Europe. Magic in History.
Author(s): Láng, Benedek
Publisher: Pennsylvania State University Press
Publication Date: 2008
ISBN: 0271033770
ISBN-13: 9780271033778
Current Price and More Info from Amazon

From The Medieval Review:
There are three formal main parts to the book, but the first two are really one unit: "Magic" is a discussion of what it is and how magical works might be classified, and "Texts and Handbooks" looks somewhat at the manuscripts but more so at six classes or genres of texts (excluding astrology), with a chapter devoted to each. First is "Natural Magic," by which one can affect things through their secret but natural virtues because "different parts of the world are in occult correspondence with each other" (36). Láng describes the main lines of natural magic by means of the Experimenta Alberti, the Kyranides, and the Secreta secretorum, which circulated in manuscripts largely of medical and astrological interests. The technology of warfare also extended to magic, here illustrated by the Bellifortis of the German mercenary Conrad Kyeser, which mixes engineering and invention with rings, amulets, and invocations of demons.

Read the full review at The Medieval Review web site.

Additional Description:
During the Middle Ages, the Western world translated the incredible Arabic scientific corpus and imported it into Western culture: Arabic philosophy, optics, and physics, as well as alchemy, astrology, and talismanic magic. The line between the scientific and the magical was blurred. According to popular lore, magicians of the Middle Ages were trained in the art of magic in "magician schools" located in various metropolitan areas, such as Naples, Athens, and Toledo. It was common knowledge that magic was learned and that cities had schools designed to teach the dark arts. The Spanish city of Toledo, for example, was so renowned for its magic training schools that "the art of Toledo" was synonymous with "the art of magic." Until Benedek Láng's work on Unlocked Books, little had been known about the place of magic outside these major cities. A principal aim of Unlocked Books is to situate the role of central Europe as a center for the study of magic.

Láng helps chart for us how the thinkers of that day clerics, courtiers, and university masters included in their libraries not only scientific and religious treatises but also texts related to the field of learned magic. These texts were all enlisted to solve life's questions, whether they related to the outcome of an illness or the meaning of lines on one's palm. Texts summoned angels or transmitted the recipe for a magic potion. Láng gathers magical texts that could have been used by practitioners in late fifteenth-century central Europe.

Special Notes:

Legal Notes: Some description text and item pictures in this post may come from and are used by permission. The Cauldron is an Amazon Affiliate and purchases made through the Amazon links in this message help support The Cauldron.

Discussion and reviews of this book are welcome in this thread. If you've read the book, please tell us what you think of it and why.

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