The Greater Key of Solomon: Including a Clear and Precise Exposition of King Solomon's Secret Procedure, Its Mysteries and Magic Rites : Original Plates, Seals, Charms and talism (Anglais) Broché – 1 juillet 1999
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The Key of Solomon is the most famous and important of all Grimoires, or handbooks of Magic. As A.E. Waite has stated (BCM 58) "At the head of all, and, within certain limits, the inspiration and the source of all, stands the Key of Solomon. ... Mr. Mathers' presentation of the Key of Solomon, which is still in print, though the work of an uncritical hand, must be held to remove the necessity for entering into a detailed account of the contents of that curious work. ... The Key of Solomon can scarcely be judged accurately in the light of its English version, for the translator, preternaturally regarding it as a highly honourable memorial of lawful magic, has excised as much as possible the Goëtic portions, on the ground that they are interpolations, which is of course arbitrary."
Mr. Waite's harsh criticism is hardly justified. In fact, Mathers excised very little. Actually, three of the four significant excisions are operations dealing with love magic (Colorno, chapters 11-13: The experiment of Love, and how it should be performed; The experiment or operation of the Apple; Of the operation of love by her dreams, and how one must practice it. The fourth large excision is chapter 14: Operations and experiments regarding hate and destruction of enemies.) He also omitted one paragraph from the chapter dealing with the use of blood. Mathers also substituted Hebrew for the Latin biblical passages on the pentacles.
It is true that the Mathers edition would not be considered critical by modern standards of scholarship (but Waite's editions of various esoteric texts leave far more to be desired than Mathers'). Especially wanting are a proper critical apparatus, an analysis of the relation between manuscripts, and better utilization of the Latin and Italian manuscripts. Nevertheless, this edition has stood the test of time.
Mathers' translation is almost entirely dependant on French Colorno manuscript exemplars dating 18th century. Abraham Colorno, a Jewish engineer of Mantua (fl. 1578-1598) apparently translated it from the Italian. Mathers was well qualified to translate French texts, but it is not clear how proficient he was in the other languages represented. In the introduction he acknowledged Westcott's help with the Hebrew.
Also heavily used by Mathers was LES VÉRITABLES CLAVICULES DE SALOMON, Traduites de l'Hebreux en langue Latine Par le Rabin ABOGNAZAR (Lansdowne MSS 1203.) Its inclusion by Mathers is puzzling because it is utterly different in content from the other manuscripts (aside from a few of the pentacles at the end of the manuscript) and really should stand alone as a separate text.
Since Mathers' edition was published, many more manuscripts have been uncovered, including several English manuscripts, three Hebrew manuscripts (including one published by Gollancz, 1914), and a Greek manuscript which may be the prototype of the entire genre. The English ones represent a very different manuscript tradition, and have strong Christian elements not found in the Colorno class of manuscripts. I doubt Mathers would have made much use of them even if he had been aware of them. Of course, none of the manuscripts used by Mathers qualify as "ancient" or even "medieval"; the oldest is probably 16th century. There are however precedents going back further, on which see Richard Greenfield's Traditions of Belief in Late Byzantine Demonology.
I cannot begin to convey my contempt for L.W. de Laurence and his bootleg edition of this work, which he retitled The Greater Key of Solomon (Chicago, 1914). Besides taking credit for Mathers' work, he has made many alterations to the texts in order to promote his mail-order business. Beware of it!
The page formating is also very off. Chapters starting on the bottom half or a previous page. etc.