The Key of Hell: an 18th-Century Manual on Black Magic

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The Clavis Inferni (“The Key of Hell”) by Cyprianus, is a late-18th-century book on black magic. Written in a mixture of Latin, Hebrew, and a cipher alphabet (namely that of Cornelius Agrippa’s Transitus Fluvii or “Passing through the River” from the Third Book of Occult Philosophy written around 1510) the book has remained rather mysterious due to its unknown origin and context. It is said to be a textbook of the Black School at Wittenburg, a supposed school somewhere in Germany where one could learn the dark arts. As for the name of the author, it seems to have become a common name for people practicing magic. Benjamin Breen writes in The Appendix of how the existence throughout history of various magically-inclined Cyprianuses – from “a Dane […] who was so evil that Satan cast him out of hell” to the Greek wizard St. Cyprian of Antioch (who later converted to Christianity) – led to the name becoming a popular pseudonym for “people at the edges of society who were trying to do real black magic”.

Housed at: Wellcome Library
Found via: The Appendix
Underlying Work: PD Worldwide | Digital Copy: No Additional Rights
Download: Right click on image or see source for higher res versions


L0036625 Kings of the East, West, South, North. Cyprianus, 18th

L0036621 Seal of Approbata, from Cyprianus, 18th C

L0036622 Title page, Cyprianus, 18th C

L0036626 The Archangel Metraton, from Cyprianus, 18th C

L0036627 Pentagram seal, from Cyprianus, 18th C

L0036628 Dragon devouring a lizard, from Cyprianus, 18th C

L0036629 Gold seal from Cyprianus, 18th C






  • JoshRose

    The fourth image shown jumped out at me, as the central image is drawn from John the Patmos’ Book of Revelations, specifically the Vision of the Seven Candlesticks (perhaps drawn from the famous version of the same scene by Albrecht Dürer?). I’m curious how this is related to the “black magic” subject matter?

    • http://www.garydolman.blogspot.co.uk Gary Dolman

      The images are all Hermetic in some way, including the one you refer to. One of the pillars of Hermeticism is theurgy, a form of magic.

  • Dead File

    There are also writings in Greek in the sixth image, reading: “Ο ΘΕΟΣ ΑΓΙΟΤΑΤΟΣ ΕΣΤΗ Ο ΜΕΓΙΣΤΟΣ / Ο ΚΥΡΙΟΣ ΤΩΝ ΠΑΝΤΩΝ” (God the holy is the greatest / The Lord of everything). The first sentence has actually a wrong syntax and it sounds somewhat weird in Greek.