Saturday, January 12, 2008
THE NECRONOMICON - FICTION OR FACT ?
It is not know when or where Dee acquired a copy of the Necronomicon, but it is probably the book he refers to in his Mysteriorum Libri (or magical diaries) as "my Arabik boke." This would place it in his hands in 1583.8 This coincides with the probable date of his translation, since the manuscript contains some notes in Edward Kelley's handwriting (folio 74r) which refer to Singilla, a spirit who is only mentioned once in Dee's Mysteriorum Libri, i.e. in an "action" dated Apr 18, 1583.9 The incomplete state of the translation can be explained simply by the fact that the work was interrupted by the disappearance of the book.10
It is this incomplete and fragmentary nature of Dee's manuscript which gives us a clue to Lovecraft's sources. While HPL consistently uses "Azathoth" to refer to a demon of chaos, a comparison of the fuller Latin text of the Necronomicon with Dee's manuscript shows that there are actually two separate beings with similar-sounding names ("Az" and "Aza-Thoth"). This is not at all apparent from the Dee manuscript alone.
Latin manuscript of Necronomicon, ca. late 14th or early 15th century.
Go to the website to see the Latin copy of the necronomicon. There is also a picture of what is claimed to be Dee's translation.
Despite many attempts to show that the Necronomicon is nothing more than Lovecraft’s literary invention, a group of prominent authors and occultists claimed to provide confirmation of part of Lovecraft’s claim. In 1978 a book researched by David Langford and Robert Turner claimed that Alhazred’s Necronomicon had been preserved by Alkindi in his treatise The Book of the Essence of the Soul. In his introduction to Turner and Langford’s book, Colin Wilson, the occult writer and author of the classic study of intellectual alienation The Outsider, details Lovecraft’s family history. He notes that Dr. Stanislaus Hinterstoisser, president of the Salzburg Institute for the Study of Magic and Occult Phenomena, claimed that Lovecraft's father was an Egyptian Freemason and that Lovecraft’s father had had access to the Necronomicon. (In point of fact, Lovecraft’s father was a travelling salesman who died a siphilitic while Lovecraft was young, and is almost certainly being confused with Lovecraft’s bibliophile maternal grandfather). Co-author Robert Turner, after extensive work on John Dee’s manuscripts held in the Bristish Museum, showed that Alkindi’s lost work had been preserved by John Dee in an enciphered form called the Liber Logaeth.
For several years after 1583 Dr. John Dee and Edward Kelly lived in Trebona in Poland, the home town of Albert Laski, who sponsored their alchemical researches. In about a year, Laski's fortune was spent, and the men began to travel about Poland and Bohemia, from city to city finding new people to dupe. These travels went on until 1587, when in Prague Dr. Dee's health began to fail and when Kelly and Dee had a falling out because of Kelly's new explorations of a book called The Necronomicon, that frightened both Dee and his family. Dee is said to have found a copy of the Necronomicon, given to him by the alchemist Jacob Eliezer known as the "Black Rabbi" (this book does exist and was the basis of Kelly and Dee's Endochian magic, Crowley's The Book of the Law and H.P Lovecraft's Cthulthu Mythos).
In A. D. 950 the Azif, which had gained a considerable tho' surreptitious circulation amongst the philosophers of the age, was secretly translated into Greek by Theodorus Philetas of Constantinople under the title Necronomicon. For a century it impelled certain experimenters to terrible attempts, when it was suppressed and burnt by the patriarch Michael. After this it is only heard of furtively, but (1228) Olaus Wormius made a Latin translation later in the Middle Ages, and the Latin text was printed twice – once in the fifteenth century in black-letter (evidently in Germany) and once in the seventeenth (prob. Spanish) – both editions being without identifying marks, and located as to time and place by internal typographical evidence only. The work both Latin and Greek was banned by Pope Gregory IX in 1232, shortly after its Latin translation, which called attention to it. The Arabic original was lost as early as Wormius' time, as indicated by his prefatory note; and no sight of the Greek copy – which was printed in Italy between 1500 and 1550 – has been reported since the burning of a certain Salem man's library in 1692. An English translation made by Dr. Dee was never printed, and exists only in fragments recovered from the original manuscript.