1The Voynich Manuscript
Widely considered to be one of the most mysterious manuscripts in the history of Time As Perceived By Mankind, this book contains a ciphered unknown alphabet written on vellum (calfskin) and depicts bizarre plants, original astronomical charts, and odd interconnected bathtubs with tiny naked people.
Cryptographers, mathematicians and linguists have been unable to decipher this book. Despite its arcane nature, scholars maintain it was written during the medieval years of 1404 and 1438. Its name comes from antique book dealer Wilfrid Voynich, who bought the book second-hand in Italy in 1912.
2The Munich Manual of Demonic Magic
Also known as The Necromancer's Manual, this grimoire is the work of a 15th century German magician who wanted to produce a sourcebook for evoking demonic spirits.
The Manual contains the three major kinds of magick found in grimoires: Illusionist, Psychological, and Divinatory. Illusionist spells are meant to fool people into seeing things like castles or armies. Psychological spells are meant to leverage emotional or political power over people. Divinatory actions are intended to extract information from the future or past.
The Munich Manual contains passages that describe sacrificing mythological creatures, but the most eerie component of this book is that it completely ignores angel folklore and focuses exclusively on black magick and descriptions of classical exorcisms.
This is known as one of the strangest books of all time and a new edition has just been released. The Codex Seraphinianus is different than the other books on this list because its author, Luigi Serafini, is known and it was written in the 1970s!
The Codex Seraphinianus is similar to the Voynich in its largely unintelligible, syntax-less text and fascination with fauna and floral specimen. It also features “trucks with human heads, skeletons getting fitted for new bodies, and weird animals that don't exist.”
This book was published in the early 80s, which probably added to its pop lore - it's a book that went viral before viral was even a thing.
4Heptameron (‘Seven Days')
This grimoire was originally modeled to imitate the Decameron. The author, Pietro d'Abano, who died in prison during the Inquisition, believed in something called planetary magic, by which one could conjure angels for the seven days of the week.
I can't help but imagine a man accused of atheism wasting away in prison, trying to summon strength from cosmic forces we didn't even yet know existed.
5On the Writing of the Insane
This book actually isn't about magic or demons and it isn't a grimoire, but it may be the eeriest book on this list. Written by G. Mackenzie Bacon, medical superintendent at the Fulbourn asylum near Cambridge, England, the book contains the complex diagrammatic writings of an asylum patient who filled every centimeter of his pages with wild musings and diagrammatic text.
He was asked to abandon this writing style, to which he replied: “Dear Doctor, to write or not to write, that is the question. Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to follow the visit of the great ‘Fulbourn' with ‘chronic melancholy' expressions of regret (withheld when he was here) that, as the Fates would have it, we were so little prepared to receive him, and to evince my humble desire to do honour to his visit. My Fulbourn star, but an instant seen, like a meteor's flash, a blank when gone. The dust of ages covering my little sanctum parlour room, the available drapery to greet the Doctor, stowed away through the midst of the regenerating (water and scrubbing – cleanliness next to godliness, political and spiritual) cleansing of a little world. The Great Physician walked, bedimmed by the ‘dark ages' the long passage of Western Enterprise, leading to the curvatures of rising Eastern morn. The rounded configuration of Lunar (tics) garden's lives an o'ershadowment on Britannia's vortex…”
Sadly, he later drowned himself in public.
6The Picatrix/The Aim of the Sage
The largest grimoire in history is also the quintessential tome of 11th century Arabic magic. It contains spells that explain "how to poison by sleep, gaze, or work" as well as acquiring the love of another, escaping from prison, and healing a scorpion's sting.
It also describes "confections" composed of blood, brains and urine.
7The Oera Linda Book
This Old Frisian book purports to contain wisdom dating back 4,000 years, including teachings from the mythical Atlantis. Unfortunately, it was a favorite among Nazi occultists and is thus tainted with epic creepiness. Some even refer to it as “Himmler's bible."
8The Story of the Vivian Girls
This is an unparalleled example of "Art Brut," or "Raw Art" (art made by the truly eccentric). Like the Codex Seraphinianus, this book is contemporary and its author known.
After his death in 1973, it was discovered that reclusive American writer Henry Darger had penned a 15,145-page, single-spaced fantasy manuscript called The Story of the Vivian Girls, In What is Known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion.
The book contains graphic color illustrations and ranges in content from floral landscapes to child torture.
Please note: Darger usually depicts his girls as having little penises.
9The Red Dragon/Grand Grimoire
The Grand Grimoire, circa 1520 AD, also called the Red Dragon and the Gospel of Satan, was discovered in the tomb of Solomon in 1750 and is written in either Biblical Hebrew or Aramaic.
The 4-part book is owned by the Roman Catholic Church and is kept in the Vatican Secret Archives, where it remains unavailable to the public. How do we know it exists? The Church claims official ownership of it.
The legend of the Red Dragon is that the manuscript was based on writings by the apocryphal Honorius of Thebes, who many claimed was possessed by Satan. The book is said to contain proof of demonic evocation and occult spells as well as the process whereby newly elected popes are slowly won over by Satan's greatness.
Unsurprisingly, The Grand Grimoire is still used widely by practitioners of voodoo, especially in Haiti, where it is called Le Veritable Dragon Rouge.
Oh, the book is also rumored to be impervious to fire.