No books have been more feared than grimoires, and no books have been more valued and revered. In his book Grimoires: A History of Magic Books, Owen Davies illuminates the many fascinating forms these recondite books have taken and exactly what these books held. At their most benign, these repositories of forbidden knowledge revealed how to make powerful talismans and protective amulets, and provided charms and conjurations for healing illness, finding love, and warding off evil. But other books promised the power to control innocent victims, even to call up the devil. Davies traces the history of this remarkably resilient and adaptable genre, from the ancient Middle East to modern America, offering a new perspective on the fundamental developments of western civilization over the past two thousand years. Grimoires shows the influence magic and magical writing has had on the cultures of the world, richly demonstrating the role they have played in the spread of Christianity, the growth of literacy, and the influence of western traditions from colonial times to the present.
Owen Davies is reader in Social History at the University of Hertfordshire. His main field of research is on the history of modern and contemporary witchcraft and magic.
His interest in the history of witchcraft and magic developed out of a childhood interest in folklore and mythology, which was spawned in part from reading the books of Alan Garner. From around the age of sixteen, he also became interested in archaeology and began to get involved with field-walking and earthwork surveying. He then went on to study archaeology and history at Cardiff University and spent many weeks over the next six years helping excavate Bronze Age and Neolithic sites in France and England, mostly in the area around Avebury. He developed a strong interest in archaeology in general, and the ritual monuments and practices of the Neolithic and Bronze Age.
From Cardiff, he went on to write a doctorate at Lancaster University, and worked on a thesis looking at the continuation and decline of popular belief in witchcraft and magic from the Witchcraft Act 1735 to the Fraudulent Mediums Act 1951 (1991–1994).