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MSS Folger V.b.26 - ca. (1577-1583)

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MSS Folger V.b.26 Book of Magic, with Instructions for Invoking Spirits - ca. (1577-1583)

The Manuscript is owned by the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Talking with Asterion of an old manuscript (MSS Folger VB26) I am come to tell me that it would be good to do a little preview of this amazing document, ignored by many practitioners. After several searches on the net about this book, I stumbled upon a post ..IMO, A must to read to all people that are interested about the Folger V.b.26.. As you know I am very fond of Frederick Hockley documents. The Folger VB26 is the one who has captured my attention.. Handwritten, Colour Texts & Figures.A real pearl that contains very instructive and clear 'Modus Operandi'.. Circles figures has several similar points with circles such as depicted in the Heptameron..

Fol 68.

Fol 130.

Fol 188.

I quote: In, "solsticewooddragon" wrote:

I thought I'd list some of the related manuscripts (see my next post) that seem based on or copied from Folger MS VB 26 as well as a few that have similar catalogs of names.

Here we go...

Book of magic, with instructions for invoking spirits, etc., ca. 1577-1583, aka Folger Shakespeare Library MS. V.b.26

Digital copy on-line here:
Hamnet on-line catalog:

To clarify: V.b.26 contains most pages of an entire 16th century manuscript. The first fourteen pages are missing, and for several centuries they were divided into at least two parts which were rejoined by the Folger. How and why they were separated remains a mystery, though you can read the story of their reunion here:

Of the two manuscripts comprising V.b.26, the first-- V.b.26 (1)-- is by far the longer manuscript: 205 pages, of which the first 14 are missing. The name of the first known owner appears with a date on page 15: R.C.S., 1822" (the astrologer R.C. Smith aka Raphael). That suggests that the first fourteen pages were already missing when Smith owned it in 1822.

Frederick Hockley definitely owned at least the first and largest section of the manuscript. The second part of the manuscript, V.b.26 (2), adds an additional 29 pages, but it is not clear whether these were ever in Hockley's possession. However, some other works in his manuscript collection seem to come out of either this second part or someone else's copy of it (see discussion below
concerning a recently released Hockley manuscript, "Occult Spells.")

However, having only a copy of part of a manuscript can raise other interesting questions (see discussion below concerning yet another recently released Hockley manuscript, "The Offices of Spirits," and a several other Sloane library manuscripts which appear to be 17th century copies of the same "Book of Magic," aka Folger MS V.b.26.)

If you have ever tried to read John Dee's writing as digitized and made available through the auspices of the Magickal Review, you can imagine the difficulty one might have reading the above grimoire. If you could transcribe a page a day with any degree of accuracy, you'd be doing well. Several of us who have transcribed parts of it have compared our transcriptions with each other and they rarely match 100%. Later copyists also have inevitably added in errors: yet ALL of the recently released books and articles of course make this process much easier.

I can post three different versions of particular fairy spells associated with the manuscript later, if you want to see what I mean, though be warned: it isn't the most pleasant sort of fairy magic.

By the way, one of those versions (of spells involving fairies) comes from another Folger manuscript, Folger Shakespeare Library MS. Xd 234 (ca. 1600), a one page vellum manuscript listed as "Spell to bind the seven sisters of the fairies to you for ever."

That's on-line too, but *really* hard to read. Want to give it a try? It's

(Luckily Frederika Bain has trascnribed the whole thing in a recent article.)

OK… the longer manuscript aka "Book of Magic" is tentatively dated 1577-1583, mainly because that's the range of dates in the original writing. (The specific date May 8, 1577 is named on page 51.) Several names appear in the original text, ranging from Jesus and the apostles to Mary Magdalene to later alchemists. For some reason, the manuscript has been attributed to an unknown "John Porter,"
whose name appears as an anagrammatic cipher on page 135. The name "John Weston" appears in a modern hand on page 143.

For some reason, a "John Palmer" (who apparently was associated with the "Mercurii" and who Fred Hockley says copied part of the work in 1832), attributed it to this "John Porter."

I don't think an accurate lengthy description of its contents has yet been written mainly because it is so difficult to read. The Folger lists its scope as follows:

"An eclectic anthology of spells and invocations with charts, magic circles, and descriptions and drawings of spirits, angels, and demons. Draws on the Solomonic tradition, with traces of the Lemegeton (including the Goetia), references to "Friar Bacon" (Roger Bacon), and set within a Christian framework. Multiple spells relate to deterring or catching thieves and curing or preventing
sicknesses. Includes translations of Psalms 43, 47, 51, 54, 67, 121, 138, and 150 (p. 25-26)."

Some recent manuscripts, particularly several Sloane manuscripts, several from private collections, and several from other libraries, have portions that either appear to be copies of this manuscript or come from a common source. Many (such as some of the Wellcome manuscripts like 3203) are directly traceable to Hockley, but not all are.

The final group of spirits—including Fairy King Oberion/Oberyon--appear in other English writing and court records as early as the 15th century (where they're characterized as demons), but Oberion/Oberon as a literary character is much older than that. Probably the most well-known literary versions of Oberon are in the 13th century romance Huon of Bordeux, in William Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream and Ben Jonson's Oberon, the Fairy Prince.

Earlier in the manuscript and in many copies, we also find references to a Fairy Queen and her seven sisters. Elsewhere I've suggested that that Fairy Queen, variously called Micob, Mycob, Micol, or Myeob, could well be similar to Mauve or Mebh or Mab. Given the Celtic (Irish or Welsh) origin usually associated with Queen Mauve, Mebh, Mab, and given the southern French or even Persian
origin perhaps associated with Oberon, that makes for an eclectic combination

Recent books whose contents include at least in part a transcription of a manuscript that may be a copy of the above manuscript:

David Rankine's The Book of Treasure Spirits (Avalonia 2009): "Conjurations of Goetic spirits, old gods, demons and fairies are all part of a rich heritage of the magical search for treasure trove. Published here for the first time, from a long-ignored mid-seventeenth century manuscript in the British Library (Sloane MS 3824), is the conjuration said to have been performed at the request of King Edward IV, with other rites to reveal treasure, to have treasure brought from
the sea, and to cause thieves to bring back stolen goods."

Another review says, "This material forms part of a corpus of conjurations all written in the same hand and style of evocation, linking Goetic spirits and treasure spirits with the archangels and planetary intelligences (Sloane MS 3825), and demon kings and Enochian hierarchies (Sloane MS 3821)"

The Book of Treasure Spirits, incidentally, refers directly to the King and Queen of the Fairies and their seven sisters (see pages 109-110).

Rankine's The Grimoire of Arthur Gauntlet (Avalonia 2011) is also a copy of a seventeenth century manuscript, in this case a published version of Sloane 3851. Rankine notes that:

"[The] conjuration of Oberion at fo.115v-116 is clearly derived from material found in Folger Vb. 26(1). As well as having very similar conjurations, Vb.26(1) has two images of Oberion* (at fo.185 and fo.186) with the sun and moon on his right and left sides and the names of his four counselors around him (with their seals), Scorax, Carmelion, Severion, and Cabereon.These are the names subsequently used in the conjuration provided by Arthur Gauntlet in Sloane MS 3851."

Rankine, who has in the past been chided for not being aware of other manuscripts and making arguments that could be disproven had he looked for more information, in this case had the good sense to try to go back to the Folger manuscript and try to read the description of the Fairy King. He says:

"Reading the description of Oberion given in Vb.26(1) it is easy to see why a cunning-man would seek the assistance of the King of the Fairies: 'He appeareth like a king with a crown on his head, he is under the government of the (sun) and (moon), he teacheth a man knowledge in physick, and he showeth the nature of stones, herbs, and trees and of all metal. He is a great andmighty king, and he is king of the fairies...'" (19)

The Book of Treasure Spirits also appears as a downloadable .pdf at various places on the Internet, though I doubt Avalonia Press much appreciates that.

Another work which includes sections that appear copied from MS Vb 26—in this case, from the second part of it—is Occult Spells, compiled by Frederick Hockley with an introduction by Silens Manus, (York Beach, ME: Teitan Press, 2009). Manus was unaware of the source of this group of spells when he released the book, but Teitan has been kind enough to post on-line Addenda, mainly the research of Alan Thorogood, here:

Still another recent work which includes sections that appear copied from MS Vb 26 is this one:

Book of the Offices of Spirits: The Occult Virtue of Plants and Some Rare  Magical Charms & Spells Transcribed by Frederick Hockley from a Sixteenth Century Manuscript on Magic and Necromancy, John Porter, with an Introduction by Colin D. Campbell. Teitan Press, 2011. It too has an addendum by Thorogood connecting it to the Folger work.

This work, said by Hockley to be a copy of a copy by one John Palmer, is a very strange cut and paste done my someone (Palmer?) Its perhaps the most intriguing and disturbing of the various copies of copies now available, imho. Personally I think it was that person's guide for a rather unpleasant personal ritual and not one likely to have been done by Hockley.

I've looked more at how the above two works connect to MS Vb 26 here:

Another long-available transcription of a ritual involving conjuring Oberion/Oberyon is Don Karr's "Liber Lunæ and other selections from British Library Sloane MS 3826: 84r-100r." An alternate title directly refers to Bilgall, another of the spirits in V.b. 26. I don't think it has ever come out in book form but has been readily downloadable on the Internet, © Don Karr, 1997-8; material added, 2007-8.

For instance, here:

Finally (not because this is an exhaustive list but because I'm myself exhausted), there is a limited edition reproduction of some private Hockley papers just out, and it includes Hockley's drawing of Oberion. That would be: Hockley, Frederick (scribe and artist) Experimentum, Potens Magna, with an introduction by Dan Harms.

Other recent works out or forthcoming link V.b.26 with the work of "Dr. Rudd." I won't even try to summarize the debate about Dr. Rudd, Captain Rudd, Fred Hockley's version of Rudd, or Alan Thorogood's research connecting Rudd to John Heywood, except to say that it is fascinating and I hope someone else jumps in and continues the conversation.

The trickster concludes: maybe John Porter wasn't that Spanish fellow Juan Porter from Aragon after all, but John Heywood?



[UPDATE] JAN 26 / 2015 - Transcription 2015 by Joseph H. Peterson

Compare Ms Folger V.b 26 with 'The Offices of Spirits, excepted from Sloane 3853, Wellcome 110, and Ad. 36674' and 'Officiorum Spirituum', from Ad. 36674:

MORE Related Contents:

The Call of Bilgal one of the 7

An Experiment for a Fayry

(NB: This posts is subject to be updated.) 


- David Rankine -
- Folger Shakespeare Library -
- Solsticewooddragon / Terry (Thank you for your very good post !)
- Solomonic Yahoo Group -
- Teitan Press -