Research Project


Pondering the Relationship between Magic and Divination in Occidental History: A Historical and Typological Study Based on the Leipzig Cod. Mag. Collection

Bernd-Christian Otto

In my recent book (Bellingradt/Otto 2017), I have analysed an extensive collection of 140 early modern manuscripts of 'learned magic' that was sold in 1710 for an extraordinary sum in Leipzig, Saxony. The collection has, with some minor losses and amendments, survived until this day in Leipzig university library (5 losses, 7 amendments: today, the collection comprises 142 manuscripts, archived under the signature Cod. Mag.). In the aforementioned book, we provided a critical edition of the 1710 selling catalogue which included a brief content analysis of each manuscript, but the word-limit inflicted upon us by the publisher prevented further typological analyses of the collection. During the fellowship at the IKGF, I would like to make up for this lacuna and engage in a typological analysis of the collection with a particular focus on divinatory techniques. One of the main goals of the project is to ponder the quantitative, conceptual, theoretical, and ritual relationship between learned magic and divination in the Leipzig collection, and to highlight textual continuities as well as ritual adaptations, transformations and inventions in the Leipzig collection from a longue-durée perspective on the history of Western learned magic. As the Leipzig collection is a unique window to the latter, the project also aims at a general and yet nuanced understanding of the relationship between continuity, changeability and innovativity in the occidental history of divination.

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