Introduction

There is some question whether the Ars Nova qualifies as a separate book of the Lemegeton. In my copy of the manuscript (Sloane 2731) it consists of a single sheet of paper. It is only distinguished from the preceding Ars Almadel by the word “Finis” at the end of that book; there is no new title for the text that follows.

It is my belief that the lack of a title – and an error at whatever time the pages were numbered – has caused previous publishers and commentators on the Ars Nova to put its two pages in the reverse of the sequence in which they should be shown. Using the opposite of the accepted order puts the presentation in a logical sequence, and clears up the mystery surrounding the “Mighty Oration”, which has puzzled previous commentators.

Sloane 2731 is characterized by an almost obsessive concern with conserving space. Each sheet of paper is used to the maximum. The writing is minuscule. The margins are very narrow, and the copyist wrote in what we now call “landscape” orientation in order to fit as many words as possible on each line. There are only two places in the manuscript where as much as a half-page is left blank, and one of these is in the Ars Nova. If the accepted order of the pages is used, this blank comes in the middle of the presentation, for no obvious reason. It seems more reasonable to conclude that this blank comes at the end of the section, and thus at the end of the entire Lemegeton; it is blank because the work is finished at that point.

Most of the text of Ars Nova clearly relates to the first book of the Lemegeton, the Goetia, and the “tools of the trade” described therein: the magickal circle and triangle, the hexagrams within the circle and the pentagrams surrounding it. It lists the divine names written in each of these, and adds a short prayer, with one line of prayer per name. This list takes up the entire first page. I believe that the prayers were to be spoken either while drawing the divine names and figures, or later while consecrating the place of the work.

On the opposite side of the sheet, there are three sections. In the first, several sets of Hebrew characters are shown with accompanying names in the Latin alphabet. The latter do not appear to be transliterations of the Hebrew – which, in any case, is only partly legible.

The second section is a prayer that incorporates some of the Latin-alphabet words from the previous section. But it actually makes more sense with those words excised: it is a prayer to god to confine evil and aerial spirits in a brass urn. This immediately brings to mind the brass vessel of Solomon, shown in the Goetia. Possibly this is a prayer to be said while consecrating or preparing such a vessel. However, the divine names in this prayer are not those shown on the vessel in my copy of the manuscript, nor those on the vessel in the Crowley/Mathers edition of the Goetia. Possibly this section is a borrowing from some document outside the Lemegeton tradition; the extreme corruption of the divine names would suggest it.

With the order of the pages reversed, the final section is the “Mighty Oration”. Nelson White puzzles over this invocation, wondering whether the magician is supposed to address the Spirit as if it were a thief. The explanation is simple; it is not part of the Lemegeton as such. Rather, this section is a curse directed against any person who steals the book in which it is written. Such curses were common in the times when books were reproduced by hand; the time and effort it took to copy them made them much more valuable commodities than our modern mass-produced volumes. Its presence in this position is the final confirmation that the order of the pages has been reversed.

It should be noted than in the Introductory Description of the Lemegeton (presented in the Goetia volume of this series) this book is sometimes erroneously titled Ars Notoria. The Notoria is a separate (and much more complex) work, the text of which was included (without its vitally important illustrations) as an appendix in one copy of the Lemegeton.

— Benjamin Rowe

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