The Book of Secrets of Albertus Magnus

Current members of the Museum receive a 10% discount on purchases.
If you are not currently a member, we invite you to join or renew your membership online.

By Michael R. Best and Frank H. Brightman

In order to attract readers it was not uncommon for magical texts of the 16th century to take on the name of a notable historical figure. Such is the case with The Book of Secrets of Albertus Magnus, whose secrets are, in fact, a compilation from a number of sources by an anonymous author who was, according to editors Best and Brightman, probably one of Albertus Magnus' followers. Though it "...pretends to be a product of his experimental school among the Dominicans at Cologne," it has a more colloquial voice than that of Albertus Magnus. It more accurately portrays the popular magical literature available in the 16th century than the erudite works directly attributable to Albertus Magnus.

The secrets revealed are divided into five distinct parts: 

  • Of the Virtues of Herbs - Describes 23 herbs, their magical, astrological, and medicinal properties, as well as preparations and recipes.
  • Of the Virtues of Stones - Presents 45 entries from the lapidary of Albertus Magnus, Mineralia, listed by their particular effect or specific magical property.
  • Of the Virtues of Beasts - Lists 18 animals, their natural powers, and their use in performing magical feats.
  • Of the Planets - A treatise on the hours of the day governed by the various planets, and a discussion of their astrological qualities.
  • The Marvels of the World - A theoretical discussion of magic emphasizing the necessity of experiment, followed by a large number of recipes from various sources.

This edition features an in-depth introduction by scholars Michael R. Best and Frank H. Brightman outlining the history of the text, its historical/cultural context, and the variant manuscripts sourced. It is an invaluable study of students of the history of Western magic, and those interested in the evolution of printed works through the ages. Includes a list of works cited, a collation of the different editions and manuscripts, and an index.

 Weiser Books, 1999, paperback, 128 pages, B&W illustrations.