Two Grimoires by Austin Osman Spare.

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The early years of the 20th Century were a time of great creative ferment for Spare, and amongst the items which survive from these early years are two intriguing and sumptuous grimoires, each of which is a notebook consisting of fine pen and ink and watercolour drawings. These notebooks were unfortunately not completed by Spare. There are a number of full-page and half-page paintings and drawings; other pages have embellishments, with spaces for text which was to have been inserted later. From the addition of his bookplate, it is clear that both notebooks were at one time the property of Spare’s patron Pickford Waller.

The first of these grimoires, entitled The Focus of Life & The
Papyrus of Amen-AOS, is dated 1905-6. Much of the lettering remains in pencil, some of it giving clues to the underlying meaning of the imagery. An important element of this grimoire is that it features an early form of the ‘exteriorisation of sensation’ which Spare subsequently developed into the Sacred Alphabet which is a feature of The Book of Pleasure.


The second, slightly later notebook is The Arcana of AOS
& the Consciousness of Kia-Ra, dated 1906. This is in some ways the more finished of the two notebooks, and picks up some of the imagery from the earlier notebook as well as adding some new elements.

These two grimoires by Spare are at once enigmatic and
full of haunting beauty. The paintings and drawings from each notebook are here reproduced in full colour. With an Introduction by Michael Staley and analytical essays by Stephen Pochin and William Wallace, this publication adds to our understanding of Spare’s early years as an artist, mystic and philosopher and sheds light on the early development of his sigillisation techniques.