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Key of Solomon, The

Category: Books sutras and myths

Mysterious symbols from "Key of Solomon".

The Key of Solomon (in Latin: Clavis Salomonis, Hebrew: Mafteah Shelomoh is a set of manuscripts in various translations which contain ‘Kabbalist and alchemical wisdom’.

 Scholars have been making a brave attempt to try to order them and date them but without great success and it may well be because they are simply copies of some originals long lost and forgotten.  There is also the very real possibility that given they are alchemical that they are all independent versions of the same ‘truth’.  The various manuscripts include 

  • The Harleian MS - British Library, Harleian MS. 5596.   Fifteenth century. One of a number of Greek manuscript of a text referred to as The Magical Treatise of Solomon. The complete text has been published by Armand Delatte in Anecdota Atheniensia (Liége, 1927, pp. 397-445.) Its contents are very similar to the Clavicula. It was described in Richard Greenfield's Traditions of Belief in Late Byzantine Demonology. This manuscript is also described in some detail by Dennis Duling in the introduction to his translation of the Testament of Solomon as it also contains an incomplete version of the Testament
  • Sl. 2383 - British Library Sloane MS. 2383. 17th century. Titled Clavis libri secretorum. 63 folios. This manuscript has no pentacles. It is a small volume (about 5in wide) with large lettering and a lot of "white space". Writing varies from very neat and legible to scrawling. Only part of the second book of Clavicula Salomonis is represented. It shares many elements with Sl. 3847 (see below), including some Christian elements not found in the other manuscripts (such as the Te Deum). It also lacks some of the Christian elements found in Sl. 3847, so is important in understanding the Christianization (or de-Christianization) of the text. The Latin of Sl. 2383 does not agree with that of Sl. 3847. It is not clear to me at this time why. Perhaps it is also an independent translation. Sl. 2383 also shares many elements with Sl. 1307 
  • Latin Aub 24 - The Bodleian Library, Aubrey MS. 24. Dated 1674. Titled Zecorbeni sive Claviculae Salomonis libri IV in quibus I De Praeparementis, II De Experimentis, III De Pentaculis, IV De Artibus. Written by John Aubrey who noted: "A MSS never yet printed, that I could heare of. Sum Aubrey 1674, May 9. The book from whence I transcribed this was writt by an Italian, and in a very good hand." 103 folios. In Latin and English. The wording of this is often identical with Ad. 10862, but lacking many of the mistakes found in the latter. The text is also fuller than in Ad. 10862, and is somewhat closer to the Colorno manuscripts. The text is rearranged in a more logical order. It is evident that the manuscript he was copying from preserved an earlier orthography, since he frequently preserves and is occasionally even seen to correct the older forms: For example, fol 81v he wrote "adiuro", then corrected it to "adjuro." He also frequently preserves the old e-ogonek form of the ae ligature, and other archaisms 
  • Mich 276 - Bodleian Library Michael MS. 276. 62 folios. The title reads Clavicolo di Salomone Re d'Israel figlio de David. Bound with Hebrew MS. Prayers and conjurations are in Latin, but frequently exhibit simple mistakes (e.g. "sine mona" for "sine mora"). There are other places where it seems to represent the original text more accurately than Aub. 24 or Ad. 10862, for example the list of Sephiroth in chapter 5. The text is much abbreviated compared with the other manuscripts 
  • W - London, Wellcome Institute MS. 4668. Clavicula in Italian and Latin: preceded by 'Tre tavole di Livio Agrippa' 96 pages + 57 folios. Folio. Circa 1775. Very carefully written and legible
  • Ad. 36674.British Library, Additional MS. 36674. Titled The Key of Knowledge Mid- to late-16th century. 
  • Sl. 3847.Titled The Clavicle of Solomon, revealed by Ptolomy the Grecian. Dated 1572, making it one of the earliest manuscripts of the Key of Solomon. It contains a prologue which corresponds with Mathers' Introduction (of Iohe Grevis) from Ad. 10862. This manuscript also has strong Christian elements. Prayers and conjurations are in Latin 
  • A Latin MS - An early Latin text in printed form, dated to ca. 1600 held in the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Memorial Library, Special Collections.  Clavicula Salomonis filii David. (Printed book) it has 48 pages. Most of text is in Latin, with portions also in Dutch and German (Last page, after concluding Clavicula Salomonis contains a list of the names of God, in German.) Woodcut B on page 3 has "VX/XXX" in center, and the B has priapus on left and right. Text commences with "Benedictio Libri. † Benedicat te Liber Pater + Benedicat te liber Filius..." Text (p 29) cites Agrippa. Part of the Duveen Collection 
  • A1655 Dated 1655. Printed edition titled Clavicule of Solomon, quarto, 125 pages. Mentioned in Nouveaux Mémoires d'Histoire, do Critique, et de Littérature, par M. l'Abbé d'Artigny, Vol. 1, Paris, 1749. p. 36-37. Cited by Waite, BCM, p. 60, n. 1. 
  • Gollancz, 1914.Facsimile published by Gollancz as Sepher Maphteah Shelomoh (Book of the Key of Solomon) (Oxford, 1914). The manuscript dates to around 1700. G. Scholem edited the text in 'Some Sources of Jewish-Arabic Demonology', in Journal of Jewish Studies, xvi (1965). It contains a large number of Greek (such as Sabaoth), Latin, and Italian elements. Also has Christian elements, such as the use of a cross put in holy water (fol. 37a, cited by Rohrbacher-Sticker in 'A Hebrew Manuscript of Clavicula Salomonis, Part II. in the British Library Journal, Vol. 21, 1995, pp. 132.) It is probably (as Scholem puts it) a late adaptation of a 'Latin (or rather Italian) Clavicula text of the renaissance period' (ibid p. 6.). 
  • Or. 6360.17th or 18th century. Described by Claudia Rohrbacher-Sticker in 'Maphteah Shelomoh: A New Acquisition of the British Library' in Jewish Studies Quarterly, vol. 1 (1993/94, p. 263-270.) 
  • Or. 14759. - British Library Oriental MS. 14759. 53 folios. Proved to be a continuation of Or. 6360. Described by Claudia Rohrbacher-Sticker in 'A Hebrew Manuscript of Clavicula Salomonis, Part II.' in the British Library Journal, Vol. 21, 1995, pp. 128-136. 
  • Ros. 12. - Bibliotheca Rosenthaliana in Amsterdam. 18th century transcript from a copy by Judah Perez (London, 1729). 
  • French MS - Various French manuscripts, all dated to the 18th century, with the exception of one dated to 1641 (P1641, ed. Dumas, 1980).  Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal, now incorporated into Bibliothèque de Nationale.  Many mentioned by Grillot de Givry in Witchcraft, Magic & Alchemy
    •  Les Clavicules de Rabbi Salomon.
    • Livre de la Clavicule de Salomon, roy des Hébreux.
    • Les vrais Clavicules du roy Salomon, traduitte de l'hébreu par Armadel.
    • Les vrais Talismans, pentacles, et cercles.
    • Zekerboni
    • Livre Second de la Clavicule de Salomon, ou le véritable Grimoire.

 An edition of the Latin manuscripts of the British Library was published by S. L. MacGregor Mathers in 1889.  It is available for free from this LINK.

The"Magic Circle" of King Solomon.

 Idries Shah published a partial edition in his Secret Lore of Magic.

 What is dreadfully confusing about all these versions is that often key passages are removed – in some cases it would seem, simply to protect the overwrought sensibilities of the supposed readership.  In Mathers edition, for example, Mathers excised very little. But what he did excise was important.

Three of the four significant excisions are operations dealing with “love magic” -  The experiment of Love, and how it should be performed; The experiment or operation of the fruit; Of the operation of love by her dreams, and how one must practice it.  These are key.  There are two books.  The contents of the first book are shown below from Mathers


Preface (by editor)
Introduction from Add. MSS. 10862
Table 1: Planetary hours
Table 2: Magical names of the Hours and Angels
Table 3: Archangels, Angels, Metals, Days, and Colors for each Planet
1. Concerning the divine love which ought to precede the acquisition of this knowledge
2. Of the days, hours, and virtues of the planets
3. Concerning the arts; construction of the circle
4. The confession
5. Prayer and conjurations
6. Stronger and more potent conjuration
7. An extremely powerful conjuration
8. Concerning the pentacles
9. Experiment concerning things stolen
10. Experiment of invisibility
11. Experiment of love, and how it should be performed(omitted by Mathers)
12. Experiment or operation of the fruit (omitted by Mathers)
13. The operation of love by her dreams, and how one must practice it (omitted by Mathers)
14. Experiment of seeking favour and influence (=Mathers chapter 15)
15. Experiments to be made regarding hatred (omitted by Mathers)
16. Operations of mockery and scorn
17. Extraordinary experiments and operations
18. Concerning the holy pentacles or medals
Pentacles of Saturn
Pentacles of Jupiter
Pentacles of Mars
Pentacles of the Sun
Pentacles of Venus
Pentacles of Mercury
Pentacles of the Moon


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