INTRODUCTION, BY S.L. MAC GREGOR MATHERS.
WING perhaps to the circumstance that the indispensable “Baedecker” accords only a three or four line notice to the “Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal” – but few English or American visitors to Paris are acquainted with its name, situation, or contents, though nearly all know at least by sight the “Bibliothèque Nationale” and the “Bibliothèque Mazarin”.
This “Library of the Arsenal,” as it is now called, was founded as a private collection by Antoine René Voyer D’Argenson, Marquis de Paulny; and was first opened to the public on the 9th Floréal, in the fifth year of the French Republic (that is to say, on 28th April, 1797), or just a century ago. This Marquis de Paulny was born in the year 1722, died in 1787, and was successively Minister of War, and Ambassador to Switzerland, to Poland, and to the Venetian Republic. His later years were devoted to the formation of this Library, said to be one of the richest private collections known. It was acquired in 1785 by the Comte D’Artois, and today belongs to the State. It is situated on the right bank of the Seine, in the Rue de Sully, near the river, and not far from the Place de la Bastille, and is known as the “Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal”. In round numbers it now possesses 700,000 printed books, and about 8000 manuscripts, many of them being of considerable value. Among the latter is this Book of the Sacred Magic of Abra-Melin, as delivered by Abraham the Jew unto his son Lamech; which I now give to the public in printed form for the first time.
Many years ago I heard of the existence of this manuscript from a celebrated occultist, since dead; and more recently my attention was again called to it by my personal friend, the well-known French author, lecturer and poet, Jules Bois, whose attention has been for some time turned to occult subjects. My first-mentioned informant told me that it was known both to Bulwer Lytton and Eliphas Levi, that the former had based part of his description of the Sage Rosicrucian Mejnour on that of Abra-Melin, while the account of the so-called Observatory of Sir Philip Derval in the “Strange Story” was to an extent copied from and suggested by that of the Magical Oratory and Terrace, given in the Eleventh Chapter of the Second Book of this present work. Certainly also the manner of instruction applied by Mejnour in “Zanoni” to the Neophyte Glyndon, together with the test of leaving him alone in his abode to go on a short journey and then returning unexpectedly, is closely similar to that employed by Abra-Melin to Abraham, with this difference, that the latter successfully passed through that test, while Glyndon failed. It would also be especially such experiments as those described at length in the Third Book, which the author of the “Strange Story” had in view when he makes Sir Philip Derval in the MS. history of his life speak of certain books describing occult experiments, some of which he had tried and to his surprise found succeed.
This rare and unique manuscript of the Sacred Magic of Abra-Melin, from which the present work is translated, is a French translation from the original Hebrew of Abraham the Jew. It is in the style of script usual at about the end of the seventeenth and beginning of the eighteenth centuries, and is apparently by the same hand as another MS. of the Magic Of Picatrix 1 also in the “Bibliothèque de L’Arsenal”. I know of no other existing copy or replica of this Sacred Magic of Abra-Melin, not even in the British Museum, whose enormous collection of Occult Manuscripts I have very thoroughly studied. Neither have I ever heard by traditional report of the existence of any other copy.2 In giving it now to the Public, I feel, therefore, that I am conferring a real benefit upon English and especially American students of Occultism, by placing within their reach for the first time a Magical work of such importance from the Occult standpoint.