Thursday, December 08, 2011

Ouroboros Press Website

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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Alchemical Dragons

In addition to vessels and other chymical equipment found in early alchemical manuscripts, one may also find many animals depicted. Among the creatures we find in such alchemical bestiaries the Dragon is perhaps particularly intriguing due to its fantastical nature. This dragon takes many forms; that of a serpent without legs, sometimes winged, even biting its own tail as in the namesake of Ouroboros Press. [click on the images for a larger view].

Sloane 1171, 2nd half of the 16th century

Sloane 1171 in the British Library has very lively illustrations of dragons, one in particular takes on a  shape familiar to that which appears in the Ripley Scrolls. This twisted neck design perhaps influenced these other two-headed dragons to follow  in the images below.

While doing research related to my work on the Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum, I noticed that dragons were a theme which arose several times in the engravings accompanying the text. Indeed  there are no less than 5 dragons in Elias Ashmole's important collection of English alchemical texts. 

Harley 2407 in the British Library shows some of these dragons in manuscript illustrations later copied by Robert Vaughan for use in Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum.

Harley 2407, second half of the 15th century

Vaughan. Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum 1652
Harley 2407, second half of the 15th century

Vaughan. Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum 1652
Originally these manuscripts were collected by Elias Ashmole who sought to preserve the alchemical lore therein by publishing the material in the Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum. In doing this he did a great service to posterity and as the engravings he commissioned by Robert Vaughan show, he did it elegantly. It is in this spirit that Ouroboros Press seeks to manifest its next publication which is a corrected edition of the Theatrum Chemicum BritannicumThe new edition will feature two important improvements. The first of these improvements is that by utilizing the original errata information provided by Ashmole, we were able to correct the errors in the original edition according to his intentions. Second, and this is integral to effecting the first, the entire text will be typeset in a classic typeface which may easily be read by contemporary audiences.

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Serious Joke: Two Book Launches

Ouroboros Press is releasing the first English translation of Michael Maier's Jocus Severus. Rendered into English from the original Latin by Darius Klein, the work has also been illustrated and ornamented by Benjamin Vierling. Issued in three distinctive editions, the Jocus Severus features a folding plate titled Alchemical Aviary as a frontispiece. Along with the standard trade cloth edition, the book will also be available in finely bound leather and vellum editions, the latter being strictly limited in number.

Seriously? Two Book Launches? You Must be Joking?

Actually no, we're not joking this time! So before you give us up for the birds here are the details:

San Francisco Book Launch with 
Artist Benjamin Vierling
5 March 2011 8:00 pm

Seattle Book Launch with 
Translator Darius Klein & 
Bookbinder Joel Radcliffe
12 March 2011  8:00 pm

Rodriguez Guerra Art Studio
80 South Washington Street
[betweent First Ave South & Western]
Seattle, Washington 98104

For those of you unable to attend who would like the purchase a copy of the book, we are still offering free shipping on orders which come in by March 15th. This includes foreign countries as well. Paypal funds may be sent to this address:
Please include a note stating which edition[s] you would like and give your full shipping address.

Born in Germany, Count Michael Maier served as the personal physician to the Bohemian Emperor Rudolph II, as well as pursued a career as an alchemist. He is well known due to his masterful emblem book; Atalanta Fugiens, which was a blend of alchemical, mythological and musical elements. But Maier wrote other alchemical books and Ouroboros Press is very pleased to be offering the first English translation of his veritable conference of the birds;  Jocus Severus

This alchemical text employs allegory in an entertaining dialogue between several species of birds who are determined to defame the Owl with wordy complaints. The Hawk acts as the Owl's defense while  the Phoenix acts as final judge and arbiter over this 'conference of birds.'

Rendered from the original Latin of 1617 by Darius Klein this edition features original lllustrative material by Artist Benjamin Vierling, including a folding plate depicting all the species of birds involved in the alchemical dialogue.

As is our tradition at Ouroboros Press, the entire text has been reset with an eye to detail not common in contemporary publishing, where one often encounters poor facsimile reproductions. 

The book is issued in three formats:

Imperial Vellum Edition. Hand bound with raised spine bands in full vellum with leather spine label, gilt title and device. Vellum headbands, marbled endsheets and a silk book marker complete this fine binding. [135 pages] aviary folding plate and illustrated with ornamental head and tail pieces.
Athenian Wisdom Edition: Strictly limited to 25 copies  $225.00

Deluxe Leather Edition. Hand bound with raised spine bands in full black goat and red leather spine label, with gilt title and device. leather headbands, marbled endsheets and a silk book marker. [135 pages] aviary folding plate and illustrated with ornamental head and tail pieces.
Noctis Black Owl Edition: $150.00

Trade Cloth Edition. Sewn in full cloth with stamped title and device. Letterpress printed dust jacket, [135 pages] aviary folding plate and illustrated with ornamental head and tail pieces.
Fine Press Trade Edition: $45.00

Layout for the Letterpress printed dust jacket intended for the Fine Press Trade Editions

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Monday, February 14, 2011

Fine Press Friends

Reuniting with a great friend at the CODEX Foundation Book Fair in Berkeley. 

Catherine is the driving force behind May Day Press and was my first letterpress teacher! Back then she lived on an island, and each Sunday I would take a reflective ferry ride across Puget Sound for my lessons in her print studio. There is nothing like the meditative relaxation of setting type by hand, especially when you have a knowledgeable and wonderful friend to converse with. During other quiet times I'd gaze out the window at her garden where we would be eating lunch later.

The above is the most recent May Day Press book Mother Time.

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

2010 Esoteric Book Conference

EBC administrators William J. Kiesel, Michael Kolson & Catamara Rosarium
In 2009 Ouroboros Press publisher William Kiesel founded the Esoteric Book Conference to provided a venue for scholars and contemporary exponents of esotericism to give talks, show esoteric art and most importantly hold a book fair where new and antiquarian books in the field could be showcased. The 2nd annual conference was a great success and it has now secured itself as an annual international event.

The presentation hall

JD Holmes offering books from several European publishers

Richard Kaczynski signing copies of the new edition of Perdurabo: The Life of Aleister Crowley
Robert Ansell publisher at Fulgur & John Coughlin of Waningmoon browsing
Ros, Robert and Barry Hale

David Beth signing copies of Voudon Gnosis
Michael Staley from Starfire Publications

Charles Krafft browsing at Ajna Bound's table

William greeting Clint Marsh publisher at Wonderella Printed

 The photographs were taken by Carlos Melgoza and the complete set may be viewed at the Anima Nocturna blog.

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Arcana V: Musicians on Music, Magic & Mysticism

New Anthology on Music, Magic & Mysticism 

Edited by John Zorn.

For centuries musicians have tapped into mysticism, magic and alchemy, embracing ritual, spell, incantation and prayer, and experimenting with esoteric approaches to harmony, pitch and vibration. In recent decades, avant-garde musicians have rediscovered these overlaps, as occultism has reinvented itself--through Buddhist and other Asian influences, Thelema and Chaos Magic--to accommodate cultural strains from psychedelica through Punk and Industrial music. 

This special edition of John Zorn's much acclaimed Arcana series focuses on the magical aspects of the act of making music. Neither historical overview nor musicological study, it illuminates the sympathies between music and the esoteric tradition with the help of today's finest experimental musicians and occultists. Among these are William Breeze, Gavin Bryars, Steve Coleman, Alvin Curran, Frank Denyer, Jeremy Folgel, Fred Frith, Sharon Gannon, Peter Garland, Milford Graves, Larkin Grimm, Tim Hodgkinson, Jerry Hunt, Eyvind Kang, Jessika Kenney, William Kiesel, Yusef Lateef, Frank London, Dary John Mizelle, Meredith Monk, Tisziji Munoz, Mark Nauseef, Pauline Oliveros, Genesis P-Orridge, Terry Riley, Adam Rudolph, Trey Spruance, David Toop, Greg Wall, Peter Lamborn Wilson and Z'ev.

Ouroboros Press publisher William Kiesel has an article in this integral book entitled 'Musings on the Hermetic Lyre'. Kiesel gave a recent interview on the Thelema Now podcast where he talks about the book.

Large Octavo. Sewn softcover volume.
459 pages with illustrations, 
notes and biographical information.
$40.00 postpaid [worldwide].

Ordering Instructions

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Tabula Lunarium

Ouroboros Press celebrates the Equinox with Viatorium Press by issuing the TABULA LUNARIUM being a broadside of the Table of the 28 Lunar Mansions with cognate references. Compiled by Ouroboros Press and printed letterpress on dampened paper by artist and printer Joseph Uccello on old world equipment. This printed table spearheads forthcoming collaborative work between the two presses on a grimoire of lunar praxis.

Joseph sizing up one of the prints which rests upon the Vandercook press which gave birth to it.

The imprint of the ink in the paper is distinctive due to the dampening of the paper prior to printing.

Several recently printed pieces laid out to dry.

Brief Explanation of the Lunar Mansions

The Lunar Mansions are arcs of 12 degrees, 51 minutes, which divide the ecliptic up into 28 stations and mark the motions of the moon during a lunar month.

These mansions comprise the Lunar Zodiac used in ancient times by Arab, Indian and Chinese astrologers. Each of these systems had their own names for the mansions which are; Manazil [Arabic] - Nakshatras [Indian] - Sieu [Chinese]. There are very slight variations between these 3 systems, and these are cleared up by the use of fiducials [from the latin, faith - fixed points in the sky - often fixed stars, which are used as a basis of comparative measurement].

It was the Arabic system, which had the greatest influence on the West via the Moorish-Spanish lore exchange and the Hermeticism of magicians such as Giordano Bruno and Marsilio Ficino. Of course one may find these mansions among the Three Books of Occult Philosophy of Agrippa, which is where Francis Barrett took them for use in his book the Magus.

Each mansion has its individual influence, which is transmitted to sublunar creatures by the Moon. Magical images, angels, metals or stones, suffumigations or incenses were among the correspondences applied to them.

In the astrological magic found among grimoires such as the PICATRIX, the idea was to invoke the angel of the mansion when the moon was in the correct station while burning the incense and visualizing the magical image in order to create various talismans or add specific lunar influence to other magical workings. In this same manner one may request the knowledge over those things which the angel of the mansion has jurisdiction.


The Tabula Lunarium is in the tradition of magical calendars wherein various systems of correspondence in the esoteric tradition were delineated in visually pleasing and ingenious printed broadsides. In addition to the name and number of each mansion, the table also includes the zodiacal sign and degree of occurrence as well as featuring the eidolon of Sahariel the archangel who teaches about the lunar mansions. Simultaneously a practical and magical piece of ephemera.

Measuring 12.5 x 19 inches the Table is printed letterpress on dampened Rives Heavyweight paper in an edition of 100 copies only.

$45.00 postpaid. Ordering Information

We also have letterpress printed broadsides of the Emerald Tablet of Hermes.

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Alligators and Alchemy in Cabinets of Curiosity

Please join esoteric publisher William Kiesel for coffee and a presentation on Wunderkammern and Alchemy in the appropriately wonderful and odd surroundings of Ancient Grounds Cafe and art gallery.

The Curiosity Cabinet was the forerunner of the contemporary museum. But before public museums existed worldly collections took the form of the Kunstkammer, or art cabinet that was often the privilege of royalty alone. During the Renaissance such collections were filled with natuaralia, artificialia, scientific devices and other art treasures. William Kiesel will give a brief visual presentation displaying some early examples of Curiosity Cabinets and discuss the similarities they share with alchemical laboratories. The slide presentation will take place in one of Seattle’s finest Curiosity Cabinets; Ancient Grounds, where many wonderful objects from around the world, including tribal art, mineral specimens, Japanese and Native American masks, totem poles, intricate architectural carvings, kimonos, articulated skeletons, headdresses and other displays may be viewed while sipping excellent espresso or other beverage before during and after the talk.

What: Visual presentation by Ouroboros Press publisher William Kiesel
Where: Ancient Grounds Cafe
When: March 20, 2010 1pm - FREE [Happy Equinox]

Ancient Grounds Cafe and Art Gallery
1220 1st Avenue
Seattle, WA 98101-2911

Event capacity: 75 – 95 sitting & standing. If you would like to R.S.V.P. click here.

This event is in cooperation with Atlas Obscura and is one drawer in their international showcase of Obscura Day.

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Giordano Bruno ~ Incantations of Circe

There can be no doubt as to the importance Giordano Bruno's life and writings had on the western esoteric tradition and the history of scientific thought. With this in mind, Ouroboros Press is pleased to be issuing the first English translation of Giordano Bruno's Cantus Circaeus, rendered from the original Latin by Darius Klein. Originally printed in Paris 1582, the eloquence of Klein's English translation is fitting for the words of the Nolan.

"To one who is about to behold the Daughter of the Sun, she who is learned in magical lore, and who comes forth from the hidden places; you shall go as a free man into the House of Circe, not bound by the fetters of Night."

From Giordano Bruno; Cantus Circaeus.

In the beginning of his Cantus Circaeus, Bruno portrays the doctrine of correspondence as used with the seven planetary invocations, which are themselves tokens of praxis in the Hermetic tradition. The incantatory litanies include the names, attributes, plants, stones, animals and other qualities associated with the astral bodies, and are thus memory palaces of planetary arcana. Through dialogue, Circe and her assistant Moeris, explicate the use of images in the imagination in order to facilitate use of the Art of Memory which constitutes the latter half of the text. Francis A Yates, author of Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition comments;

"Bruno's magic memory system thus represents the memory of the Magus, one who both knows the reality beyond the multiplicity of appearances through having conformed his imagination to the archetypal images, and also has powers through this insight. It is the direct descendant of Ficino's Neoplatonic interpretation of the celestial images, but carried to a much more daring extreme."

Francis A. Yates; Giordano and the Hermetic Tradition.

Cantus Circaeus: The Incantations of Circe
First English Translation.

Now Available

Read a Review of Cantus Circaeus on 
Peter Stockinger's
Traditional Astrology Website

Heretic Vellum Edition: Small octavo, handbound in full vellum over boards with raised cords and leather spine label. Gilt stamped title and device. Marbled endsheets and silk ribbon bookmark. 144 pages, illustrated with woodcuts. Limited to 300 copies only.
Heretic Vellum Edition: $225.00

Standard Edition: Small octavo, full black cloth over boards with gilt title and device. In a printed dust jacket. 144 pages. Illustrated with woodcuts.
Standard Edition: $40.00

Please include shipping with your order.
$6.00 in the US or $12.00 abroad for up to 2 books.

Please allow 2-3 weeks for delivery [handbound editions, allow 4-6 weeks].

Fine Esoteric Book Arts

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Emerald Tablet of Hermes

Tabula Smaragdina Hermetis, perhaps better known as the the Emerald Tablet of Hermes, is the shortest and yet most refered to text in the whole of the alchemical corpus. Supposed to have been found engraved upon an Emerald, this hermetic document has been beautifully typeset in Centaur [a font designed by Bruce Rogers] and printed letterpress on fine Arches paperstock in two colors.

An alchemical emblem crowns the top of the broadside and features the enigmatic acrostic V.I.T.R.I.O.L., which was a substance used to pull metals out of hard stone by early metallurgists. The Latin translates as Visit the interior of the earth and through rectification you will find the hidden stone meant to point the way to the Philosopher's Stone.

Limited to 250 copies only this broadside is 13 x 18 inches and is suitable for framing. Let the words of Hermes Trismegistus adorn your library or laboratory. $25.00 postpaid, Ordering Instructions.

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