A grimoire is a book of black magic, a book on which a wizard relied for all the necessary advice and instruction on raising spirits and casting spells. However, grimoires are weighty and nearly impenetrable books, usually written in dead languages and filled with arcane lore. To be effective, the wizard should be initiated in the art of recitating the formula and following the rituals that are associated with the spells. Some superstitions claim that Grimoires must be in manuscript and in red ink, bound in black or in human skin.
Two of the most famous of grimoires are the Key of Solomon, or Greater Key, and the Lesser Key of Solomon, or The Lemegeton. Some people believed these were written by King Solomon himself, whereas others believed they were written by demons and given to the king. Solomon has been widely acclaimed as a great wizard in his time and he was a master in the art of commanding demons. Some experts pretend that the many versions all derive from an original written by the Rabbi Abognazar.
Another grimoire is the Grimoire of Honorius, a catalogue of fallen angels and how to raise them. This book was credited to Pope Honorius III, who succeeded Pope Innocent III in 1216. The Grimoire of Honorius was full of Christian benedictions and formulae. "It not only instructed priests in the arts of demonology but virtually ordered them to learn how to conjure and control demons, as part of their job." It was recommended that the sorcecer wrote the grimoire with his own hand to obtain the power of the spells.
Both books made a great use of pentagrammes that have to contain the hidden names of the creator : Tetragrammaton, Eheyt, Eloha, Adonaï to name a few.
Made of a strange blending of jewish, roman and christian formula, these books gave birth to a great number of secondary grimoires that were widely distributed in during the XIXth century thanks to the development of the printing industry. The most well-know are “Le Dragon Rouge” (The red dragon), “La Poule Noire” (The black chicken), “The Greater Etteila” and “Le Grand Albert” et “Le Petit Albert” (the greater and the lesser Albert). They are full of stupidities such as “how to make girls dance without shirts”.
In 1801, Francis Barret who greatly inspired Eliphas Levi wrote “The Magus” which contains also a great number of magica formula.
Last but not least, Lovercraft issued some 30 years ago, “ The Necromicon”, a book supposed to have been written by the black wizard Abdul Al-Hazred who lived at Sanaa in Yemen 700 AC.
The book which has been translated by John Dee is also known as Al Azif or the whispers of demons. Today most agree that The Necromicon is a compilation of spells, recipes and other texts taken from older grimoires as The Key of Salomon or the Kitab al Uhud from Araby which were among the famous magic library of Assurbinapal.
Other volumes, less well known, but just as ominous in content, are De Vermis Mysteriis (Mysteries of the Worm), by Ludvig Prinn and Unaussprechlichen Kultin (Nameless Cults) by von Junzt. The authors of the two volumes both met terrible fates, as did Alhazred. The mad Arab was devoured by an invisible monster in broad daylight in Mecca. Ludvig Prinn was burned at the stake, and von Junzt was strangled by a hideous monster when he was alone in a locked room.
A few other works worth mentioning are The People of the Monolith, a book of disquieting poetry written by Justin Geoffrey, who died screaming in a madhouse, and often quoted by Robert E. Howard; Cthulhu in the Necronomicon, a scholarly work by Dr. Laban Shrewsbury, the main character in Derleth's five-part novel "The Trail of Cthulhu;" and an unnamed book written by the previously mentioned von Junzt. This last mentioned work is no longer in existence. Von Junzt was working on the manuscript when killed by some nameless entity. The book was found torn to shreds next to the German's body. A close friend pieced together the work, read it, burned it, and then committed suicide!
In Neo-Pagan, the Book of Shadows is the personal hand-written book of a modern neo-pagan coven or witch. It contains a collection of rituals, spells, ideas and thoughts about Wicca. Many covens have a group Book of Shadows, while solitaries keep one for themselves.