• The History of Press Graphics. 1819-1921.
    Alexander Roob’s “History of Press Graphics. 1819-1921. The Age of Graphic Journalism” is out now. (Taschen Cologne, Hardcover, 24.6 x 37.2 cm). In over 600 pages, this far-reaching compendium presents press illustration and graphic journalism as a distinct and unique genre and a laboratory for developing avant-garde aesthetics. The images are largely taken from the collection of the Melton Prior Institute. The period during which press graphics were at their most influential lasted for about a hundred years, from the satirical campaigns of William Hone in the late 1810s through until the First World War. After that date, illustration was used less and less often for images printed in newspapers as the result of improvements in photomechanical reproduction techniques. “The collection covers a broad range of news graphics and political and satirical cartoons. Alongside the works of renowned artists such as Jean Cocteau, Juan Gris, and Käthe Kollwitz, the most famous illustrators of the time are also well represented. Thomas Nast, Honoré Daumier, Gustave Doré, and the numerous relatively unknown press graphic artists, the so-called “special artists,” whose work is rediscovered here. Their rich and varied press work is considered not only in connection to the genre and the historical painting of the 19th century but also in its capacity as a pioneering influence on modern art. With striking examples of proto-cinematic narrative thinking, disruptions of the single image space, and daring forays into abstraction, this material is shown to have laid the groundwork for much of the avant-garde artistic expression that followed. The book also explores Vincent Van Gogh’s careful attention to the illustrated press of his time. He was inspired not only by the artistic aspect of it but also by the spirit of social reform that it represented. An avid collector, he owned a large number of press graphics and went so far as to consider it a “Bible for Artists” (publisher’s announcement) Together with “Alchemy and Mysticism. The Hermetic Museum” (Cologne 2006), this museum of exotericism forms the second part of the author’s informal trilogy on the interdependent relationship between inner and outer vision, between enlightenment and counter-enlightenment.
  • The Illuminated Myth of Mzona by Richard of Kédange (1802-1879). Part IV
    Primal Catholicism / Marian Magic / Evadah / A throw of the dice Primal Catholicism As a graphic practitioner, Richard was a farmer and gardener through and through, one who furrowed lines with sigil-magical ploughs into which he spread evocative seeds, only to have them emerge in the end into a colourful talismanic sea of flowers, someone who planted letters, grafted ligatures and got a wizard´s garden of wild signs in the end that seemed to put themselves into languages and images. In combination with the scant biographical clues, this dense agrarian symbolism inevitably arouses the suspicion that he may have been a farmer in real life as well. On the other hand, the subtlety and the stringency of this symbolism, which would always refer to biblical metaphors and parables, speak less for physical practice but more for a disassociation from the peasant environment, for a mentality to which the confinement and rusticity of the circumstances were alien, perhaps even hated. Such an assumption is underlined by certain combinations of words, for example the frequent use of the paronym pair “trison – prison”. The association of mourning (tristesse) and prison can be associated with the domestic problems researched by the Pétrys, but together with other puns such as the neologism “amourir”, composed of amour and mourir, it may also be seen as symptomatic of a melancholic-gnostic state of mind for which earthly agriculture remains nothing more than a metaphor.
    Magic garden consisting of ears of corn, blossom talismans and rotation discs (Album 2)
    The fundamental question is whether one does justice to the complexity and the graphic and poetic inventiveness of this body of work if one treats it primarily under the aspects of a rustic archaism and an autistic constitution. The art historian Baptiste Brun, for example, considers all efforts to interpret the inscriptions and figures to be a largely futile endeavour, for the coherence of these so-called grimoires would only be an expression of the peculiar mania of their author and in the end such an Art Brut would remain as secretive and mute as Palaeolithic art.[1]  He criticised comparisons with the pictorial poems of the medieval cleric Rabanus Maurus, which the Pétrys had made, as an iconographic comparatism with poor aim, only to place himself Richard’s imaginary world in the vicinity of an Opicino de Canistris, a late medieval mystic who was under psychopathological suspicion.[2] All in all, there seems to be a consensus in Richard´s case, that we are dealing with someone whose oeuvre, for whatever reasons, has fallen out of time. It is not only the hypothesis of a dissociated, solipsistic production that seems to suggest such ahistorical analogies, but even more so the atavistic genre of grimoires itself and its combination with Catholic devotional motifs.  Paradoxically, however, it was precisely this seemingly anachronistic synthesis of Catholic belief in miracles and ritual magic that kept this Lorraine “peasant” at the cutting edge of his time. Indeed, the time of the composition of his books coincides with an exciting phase of transformation in European magic culture, which the British researcher Christopher McIntosh has characterised as a climax in the development of a French Occult Revival, later resulting in the esoteric symbolism of the Fin de Siecle.[3] Pierre Richard was eight years older than Alphonse-Louis Constant aka Éliphas Lévi, with whom this high flight of the occult started. In his two main works Dogme et rituel de la haute magie (1854 / 56) and Histoire de la magie (1860), the outcast cleric had renounced theosophical influences, above all Swedenborg’s reformed spiritualism. He defined the newly coined term “occultism” as the primordial or Ur-Catholicism, i.e. the original and sole true practice of the Catholic faith. In his view, ritual magic was practiced in an ecclesiastical context even up to the end of the early Middle Ages. As proof, he cited Pope Leo III’s Enchiridion, this grimoire, that had served Richard as the starting point and base of his own magical Catholicism. Lévi’s syncretic writings were founded on extensive historical studies, on Christian Kabbalah, interpretations of the Tarot and various Masonic rites. It seems unlikely that Richard had studied them. However, the vigour of his own synthesis of Neoplatonic-Kabbalistic theurgy and Catholic liturgy makes it likely that he was at least aware of the main features of this occult awakening, either through persons close to him or from his own experience. The significant blanks in his biography certainly admit of travelling activities and the possibility of longer absences. The fact that he spoke Patois in his grimoires would not necessarily mean that he was limited to dialects as means of expression. Marian magic Lévi’s appeal for a magical renewal of Catholicism was no mere rhetoric, but was borne out of his own faith in revelation, as was evident from his first publication, written in 1839 while he was still at the seminary. “Le Rosier De Mai Ou La Guirlande De Marie” was an expression of ecstatic Marian devotion and consisted of a series of Marian cantatas and hourly devotions. Among them was the defence of a spectacular Marian apparition of 1830, where the Mother of God had revealed herself to a nun as a conquerer and treader of serpents, first in a ring of stars, then in the apparition of the versal M.[4] At Mary’s instruction, these motifs were to be immortalised onto a miraculous medal. The event and, more importantly, the mass distribution of this medal provided an unexpected boost to Marian devotion, especially in the “other” France shortly after the bourgeois July Revolution. Pierre Richard must have been just as impressed by this as the members of the Dalstein Brotherhood.
    Miraculous Medal, 1830 (front and back)
    One of Pierre’s various interpretations of the medal (Album 2, detail)
    The apparition of a salvific insignia had a prominent precursor in the famous Christogram of Emperor Constantin, but in this case it had been the Blessed Virgin herself who had attributed the magical effect to her initial. The example of the miraculous letter of Mary must have provided a new, exclusive access to Sign Magic for occultly interested Catholics. And last but not least, the background of this letter miracle also justified a comparison between Richard’s hierogyphics and the avant-garde Lettrism of the 20th century, as drawn by Francois and Mireille Pétry in their contribution, although in Richard’s case it was a Marian Lettrism, in contrast to the Jewish-cabbalistic connotated Lettrism of an Isidore Isous.[5]  However, the magic of letters seemed to work across epochs. Richard’s animist ABC consisted largely of alterations of the newly revealed Marian M including its references to the Evean V, the Adamic A, the Serpens S and their combinations with the Christogram comprising the letters T (t), X (Chi), R / P (rho) and IHS (in hoc signo).
    Chi Rho and M: Old and New Sign of Salvation (Enchridion, detail)
    A similar hieroglyphic alphabet was included in the 3rd volume of William Law’s English edition of Jacob Boehme (The Works of Jacob Behmen, London 1772), however under reformed auspices. In this series of illustrations designed by Dionysius Freher, A stood for Adam, who had fallen out of his communion with his paradisiacal wife Sophia, the true Eve (upper S), towards Satan (lower S). (Plate IX)
    It is through his union with Christ (C), the second Adam, that the old Adam (A) finds his way back to Sophia (S) and the Divine Trinity on an s-shaped, serpent-transformative trajectory.
    Boehmist ideas were known in France above all through the translations of the Catholic theosophist and mesmerist Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin (1743-1803), a critic of Masonic theurgy and re-founder of Martinism as a contemplative spiritual path. As demonstrated by the case of the Austrian prophet Jakob Lorber (1800-1864), Boehme’s model also exerted a considerable influence on Catholic mystics at the time Richard’s Magic Books were composed. (Plate XI)
    The reintegration of the fallen Adam via the interpenetration of the sun and moon. Detail of the upper seal of the Martinist Order of Élus Coëns, 1767 (Élus Coëns Collection of Diagrams & Operative Figures, O.-.M.-.S.-. Élus Coëns Source Series)
      Evadah The magical interest in the Marian miracle that Richard and Levi apparently had in common, does not yet have to indicate a concrete connection. Far more telling was the common narrowing of the Marian cult with the hermetic ideal of the androyn. But with Levi this association was much less pronounced than with his esoteric role model and teacher, the sculptor, graphic artist and phrenologist Simon Ganneau, who was almost the same age as the “peasant” from Kédange. So if there was any link between Richard and the esotericism of the urban France, it must have consisted more in references to Ganneau, who, in contrast to Constant, also addressed the lower classes.
    Charles-Joseph Traviès, Le Mapha, ca. 1834 (in: Champfleury, Les Vignettes romantiques, Paris, 1883) In the background one of his hieroglyphic tablets.
    On the Feast of the Assumption 1838, in the overheated climate of an early socialist millenarianism that had gripped many intellectuals and bohemians in the aftermath of the July Revolution, Ganneau had proclaimed in Paris the dawn of the age of the Great Evadah. Evadaism strove for the cosmic and societal overcoming of all dualities, more precisely: for the uniting of “the Genesis unit Mary-Eve” with the “Genesis unit Christ-Adam”.  As an evidence that he himself lived this nonbinarity, Ganneau wore a skirt alongside his Quaker hat and his prophetic beard and hairstyle, and called himself Mapah, ma and pa combined. Grandville caricatured him in this outfit.
    Grandville, Le Mapah (in: Louis Reybaud, Jérome Paturot à la recherche d’une position sociale, Paris, 1846)
    One can imagine this Ganneau as a charismatic artist who, like a Joseph Beuys, spread his holistic teachings with a tremendous sense of mission. He not only attracted many of the tone-setting intellectuals, including the poet Alexandre Dumas and the feminist Flora Tristan, who gathered around his divan in his studio, but also addressed a broad public. He was present on the streets with evadaist leaflets and charts, and sent original artworks to the royal family and to the members of the Chamber of Deputies, where, according to Dumas, they probably ended up unnoticed in the attics. The fact that only one crude woodcut graphic has survived, which appeared on one of his pamphlets, seems indeed to be a testimony to the extremely low esteem in which his art was held. It shows a female-male Janus head complemented in the middle by a Hindu lingam-yoni emblem to form a mythical trinity, an inspiration perhaps for Richard´s frequent motif of the tricephalos.
    Le Mapah, Baptême, mariage, Paris, 1838 (woodcut, manifesto of the Evadah)
    Tricephalos (Enchridion, detail)
    Tricephalos (Album 2, detail)
    It is safe to assume that Ganneau’s interventionist art was generally characterised by an explicit rawness, i.e. that it was an early form of primitivism, an Art Brut whose manner was inspired by ethnographic models and whose motifs were based primarily on hermetic emblematics. The latter is suggested by some details in the background of a portrait of the Mapah delivered by his friend the illustrator Charles-Joseph Traviès. In the background of a quite different, parodic portrait by Grandville, one can obtain an impression, albeit a caricaturesque one, of a world of signs that obsessively revolved around the subject of gender duality. (Fig) The famous Baphomet graphic by his former disciple Constant aka Lévi seems to be a kind of compression of this Evadaist symbolism of suspended opposites, albeit under slightly sinister auspices. The Caduceus rod that rose from the genital region of this goat-headed androgyne is echoed in the open 8 of Richard’s name initial, and the rainbow-like circle in the background, Ganneau’s myth of the accomplished Evadah, could be Mzona; – could.
    Éliphas Lévi, Baphomet, in: Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie, 1854 /56
      A throw of the dice If there was anything that characterised Richard’s grimoires apart from their Catholic consistency, it was their hieroglyphic consistency, the transposition of the heterogeneous image-text genre to a level where lettering and pictorial representation became indistinguishable. Richard may have seen reproductions of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, which were widely distributed in the numerous publications that followed Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign. Popular grimoires such as “La poule noire” (The Black Hen) recalled the ancient Egyptian provenance of the magic in their legends, and Champollion’s decipherments gradually revealed basic features of the ancient Egyptian cult of the dead.[6]  Richard’s work showed surprising parallels to this Egyptian Book of the Dead in the depictions of vehicles for the dead, the invocations of spiritual guides and other magical preparations for the Last Judgement. However, such influences could only have affected the basic pictorial and ritual conception. Formally, there are no Egyptian echoes whatsoever.
    Book of the Dead motifs: Hearse … (Album 1, detail)
    Crossing … (Album 2, detail)
    … and Scales of the Souls (Album 1, detail)
    The relations to the pictographic symbolism of the Evadaism, on the other hand, could have been quite different. The chroniclers unanimously refer to Ganneau’s images as hieroglyphics, which would be disseminated via lithographed leaflets and signs that he would call plâtras, chunks of plaster. Little is known about the stylistic range. His imagery, in any case, seems to have been cryptographic in nature as well, for the esoterically versed poet Gerard de Nerval reported that the Mapah also lent them from Cabalistic grimoires.[7]  Probably they also contained neologisms, which were produced by the simplest combinatorics, according to the pattern of Evadah and Mapah. Was Ganneau, then, possibly a model for Richard’s childish sorcery-language? What seems to speak against such a hypothesis of an Evadaist influence, however, is the absence of any social or social-reform impulse in Richard´s books. Ganneau’s hieroglyphics aspired to an upheaval of social conditions. With the February Revolution, for whose outbreak his disciple Constant even held Evadaist agitators on the streets of Paris responsible, he associated the realisation of his harmonious ideal of freedom.  Mary meant an icon of emancipation for him, as well as for Constant. In Richard’s books, reflections of this idea of a Marian Miss Liberty are found at most in a few talismanic depictions in which the Holy Virgin defies her enemies with a determined gaze and huge scimitar at the ready.
    In the centre of Mzona a grim union (yeux: eyes) of infant Christ and Mary, being the emanation of St Eve (upper row), (Enchiridion, detail).
    Comparable depictions of the Virgin Mary had never been seen before. Overall, the characters of his grimoires left a less than saintly or even devout impression. They looked slightly cunning and rebellious, suspicious like Levi’s Baphomet, a somnambulistic gang up to something, even if it was the Last Judgement. Nevertheless, these magic books could hardly pass for documents of rebellion, revolt or resistance, the characteristics that the publishing house Artulis had taken up, at best they could be regarded as testimonies of survival, of introspection, of fear, in other words, of the preconditions on which the practice of protective magic is based. To the libertarian impulses of the Evadah cult, those resigned features seemed diametrically opposed. In fact, with the suppression of the Europe-wide uprisings in 1849, Ganneau’s movement had come to a depressing end. It was the time when Richard presumably moved from Dalstein to Chemery, only to immerse himself even more intensely in his world of magic. From the example of Constant, one can trace how under the impression of this devastating defeat, the spirit of revolt imploded in an esotericism that cultivated seclusion and retreat as the main spiritual path. Constant’s occult Catholicism of the 1850s bore the resigned signature of the failed androgynous Universal Revolution. But was it also the signature of Richard’s sgrimoires? How far away was the shift from a socialist Evadah to a hermetic Baphomet from pious Lorraine folk magic? In these albums, had there even existed a nonbinary mzona and an andogynous caduceus-8? Every turn of the Arepo mechanism could result in the next moment in a new constellation of the same signs and thus in a revised reading.  Admittedly, the biblical and theurgic connotations were such that basically every combination could touch on the numinous and produce an essential meaning, a circumstance that shortly afterwards some exponents of a symbolist poetry would also take advantage of. So, in the end there would remain not a palaeontological silence, but a mythopoetic and graphic compression that bordered on madness – and the certainty of a throw of the dice.   With sincere thanks to Francois and Mireille Pétry, and Pierrette Turlais of Editions Artulis. Photo credits: Pierre Richard images: Klaus Stoeber, Strasbourg   [1] Cf. Baptiste Brun, « Pierre Richard (1802-1879), Grimoires illuminés », in: Gradhiva [En ligne], 32 | 2021, mis en ligne le 02 avril 2021, URL : https://journals.openedition.org/gradhiva/5838 ; DOI: https://doi.org/10.4000/gradhiva.5838 [2] In both cases, these were works that would reflect forces “that pervade and inform people at a particular time, sometimes at the risk of psychic collapse.”   [3] Cf. Christopher McIntosh, Éliphas Lévi and the French Occult Revival, Albany 1972 [4] Cf. Julian Strube, Sozialismus, Katholizismus und Okkultismus im Frankreich des 19. Jahrhunderts. Die Genealogie der Schriften von Eliphas Lévi, Inauguraldissertation, Heidelberg 2015, p. 34 ff. [5] Cf. Francois et Mireille Pétry, in: Pierre Richard (1802-1879): grimoires illuminés. Paris 2019, p. 157 / Cf. Sami Sjöberg, The Vanguard Messiah: Lettrism between Jewish mysticism and the avant-garde, Oldenbourg 2015; Sami Sjöberg,  Mysticism of immanence: lettrism, Sprachkritik and the immediate message, Partial Answers: journal of literature and the history of ideas, volume 11, number 1, January 2013, pp. 53-69. Published by The Johns Hopkins University Press, DOI: 10.1353/pan.2013.0002. https://www.academia.edu/2974010/Mysticism_of_Immanence_Lettrism_Sprachkritik_and_the_Immediate_Message. [6] With Karl Richard Lepsius’ “Todtenbuch der alten Ägypter” (“Book of the Deaths of the Ancient Egyptians”), a comprehensive annotated edition had appeared in 1842. [7] Cf. Julian Strube, Sozialismus, Katholizismus und Okkultismus im Frankreich des 19. Jahrhunderts. Die Genealogie der Schriften von Eliphas Lévi, Inauguraldissertation, Heidelberg 2015, p. 257  
  • The Illuminated Myth of Mzona by Richard of Kédange (1802-1879). Part III
    Heavenly Zo / INRI becomes ISO / Swabian and Lorraine Somnambulism Heavenly Zo Richard’s emblematic sexual symbolism originated in the theurgic Neoplatonic geometry of Alexandrian late antiquity and had found its way from there into Jewish mysticism and Hermeticism. The most famous example was the Seal of Solomon, the hexagram, which consisted in the interpenetration of two oppositional triangles, being the union of heaven and earth, of the male and female principle. The latter was represented in Pierre’s system by the versal V, V for bifurcation and binarity, the inverted V or also A represented the celestial influx. N indicated the interconnection. Z could have meant an energetic lightning bolt, the insemination by the cosmic sator Arepo, and the power of the sun.
    The heavenly seeds of the reaped Adam (A) give birth to the new Adam within the cross of Christ (?) (Enchiridion, detail)
    Zo and Zos it was flashing all over the place in Pierre’s books. The syllable with the alphabetic final letter at the beginning also played a prominent role in other modern magic books. William Blake’s myth, loosely based on Ezekiel’s vision, revolved around the Zoa, the four elemental animals or basic energies of man. A few decades later, in the 1840s, within the context of mesmeristic healing practices, “Zoism” became briefly popular, a term deriving from the Greek “zoe” for life that stood for the existence of an all-pervading subtle fluid.[1]  The sigil-magical Zos cult of the English artist and ritual magician Austin Osman Spare was at the beginning of the 20th century still based on such vitalistic ideas. Strasbourg and Metz had been centres of mesmeristic activities in pre-revolutionary France, which were organised in so-called Societies of Universal Harmony.  It seems thus more than likely that Pierre came into contact with mesmeristic views and their astral-magical interpretations. In the strains of Masonic Martinism, Mesmer’s teachings of astral-animal magnetism had entered into a series of adventurous connections with Jewish, Catholic and Pietist mysticisms, which were closely linked to ritual magic.  The symbolism of Pierre Richard’s charm books could be an indication that the Gnostic programme of Martinism, whose theurgically focused parent order of the Élus Coëns was also organised in Metz until its dissolution in the 1780s, had gradually spread to the lower reaches of popular magic. However, the sonorous name of the primordial magician Zoroaster could also have played a role in Pierre’s preference for the awe-inspiring prefix Zo, and certainly the Zodiac, which in his magical vocabulary merged with the German word “Sonne” (sun) to form “Zona”. “Zona” may have represented the masculine dimension of the Sator Arepo mechanism, “Mona” the feminine aspects. The conjunction generated the inflationary term “Mzona”. “Mzona” might stand for the paradisiacal fields, for the wide net of Peter, the infinite Rosarium, the androgynous shelter in which Richard experienced his rebirth as 8ichardora.[2]
    Mzona, the heavenly Field, Shechina, Jerusalem (?) (Album 2, detail)
    Pierre Richard’s pages were full of allusions to the agrarian dimension of the hermetic acts of Zona and Mona. Z-versals turned into plough-like sigils, followed in their furrows by the seeds o. Letters were always also image and symbol. Graphemes in the form of scythes, flails, saws and carts were also involved in the preparation of the eschatological field of Mzona. All acted as transmitters of the great work of transformation. The ear of corn was a major attribute of many of his characters, symbol of the resurrection, but also sign of the great biblical harvest, of the eschatological sifting and of the grinding. Richard’s agrarian symbolism had striking parallels with Blake’s pictorial poetry, not only in terms of frequency and apocalyptic content, but also in its self-referential connotation, the tilling of the graphic field.
    Apocalyptic harvest with the scythes-Ichthys in the centre (album 1, detail)
    ICHtS as a scythe-shaped sator rotation disc (album 2, detail)
    End-time harvest in the sign of Christ (X), (album 2, detail)
    In the growth of the plants, Pierre Richard must also have found a reflection of his ideal of chaste fertility, as well as in the flight of the bees, which, as messengers of asexual reproduction, were traditionally assigned to the Holy Virgin and in this function they also appeared in his opus. By a seduced Eve, man had been cast out of such a state of purity and only by a pure Eve he could get back. Mzona, as the initial revealed, was under the protection of Mary. Mzona was her domain, for she carried the chaste seed within her, the zon (son) or rather in the androgynous, non-binary identity that merged with the mother: the zona.
    The ears of grain indicate spiritual guidance. The seed of faith seems to have sprouted in these beings so that they participate in the body of Christ. (Album 2, detail)
    William Blake, Milton A Poem in 2 Books (1804) Pl. 50: The Great Harvest and Vintage of the Nations
    INRI becomes ISO Several signs referred to the androgynous transformation the aspirant had to undergo in order to blossom as a soul-seed in Mzona, first of all the S-shaped serpent symbolism. M stood for the heavenly woman promised in the Revelation of John, who would appear at the end of time with the moon under her feet within a ring of twelve stars and give birth in the wilderness to the treader of the serpent under the threat of the old Serpent.[3]  The archangel Michael, whom Pierre invoked permanently in his books, would stand by her in this battle. The sickle-like and s-shaped appendage on many of the M-versals would allude to this scene.  However, the attributive form seemed to point to yet another connection between the serpent and Mary that was even more profound and went beyond this apocalyptic threat.
    Letter M with moon and serpent attributes (Enchiridion, details)
    Iso Serpent (Album 2, detail)
    The Serpent played a prominent role in Richard’s grimoires. The drawing of a python on a cross in Album 1 disclosed that he must have been familiar with the Hermetic myth of the serpent transformation and the concept of Christ as a transformed python. It was essentially based on the Old Testament tale of the brazen serpent that Moses had presented to his people as an antidote to the deadly consequences of unbelief. The most famous depictions of serpent transformations were found in the spagyric treatise “R. Abrahami Eleazaris Uraltes Chymisches Werk “.[4]  Richard may have been familiar with this widely used work. Besides the divisions and conflations of the python, strange subjects like the preparation of the two virginal earths Arez and Marez and the collection and distillation of the dew, the medium of the heavenly seed, played a leading role in it. But also the pictorial appendix of this pseudo-Jewish, anti-Semitic script, in which other well-known hermetic motifs such as the three-fold rose bush, the Sol and Luna twins and Mercurius with the caduceus could be found, demonstrated how close Richard’s grimoires had built to the symbolism of spagyric.
    Healing Python (Abrahami Eleazaris Uraltes Chymisches Werk, Leipzig 1760)
    Preparation of the Rose Earths Arez and Marez (Abrahami Eleazaris Uraltes Chymisches Werk, Leipzig 1760)
    Are we to imagine the Lorraine magician as a practitioner of iatrochemistry, who gathered the dew (Zo) in cloths at dawn, like the alchemists in the “Mutus Liber”, in order to marry it with the virgin earth (Marez or Mzona) to an all-healing elixir?[5]  ISO, the inscription on the serpent above the INRI cross, at least, spoke for such a spagyric-naturopathic context. Had the King of the Jews (INRI: Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum) transformed himself into an Iatros? The corresponding mantra in the accompanying text ran: iso.serpen.iso. Two diagrammatic graphics, in which ISO marked the wheel and INRI the spokes, seemed to apply this medical context to the rotations of Sator: Healing transformation (ISO) though suffering (INRI). (Fig.) That Richard was on this track of transformation and may have considered himself a medicine man was suggested by the open 8 he prefixed to most of the variations of his name. An early version of this strange initial in his Enchiridion implies that it might have been an abstracted Caduceus or Aesculapian emblem, the trademark of the physician who is harmonising the opposites.
    The keys to the great wheelwork: INRI becomes ISO via yeux. cieux (album 1, detail)
    Caduceus- ichard (Enchiridion, detail)
    ISO (Richard?) and his Tablets of the Signs of Salvation (Album 2, detail)
    Swabian and Lorraine somnambulism The contemporary case of the Swabian somnambulist and clairvoyant Friedricke Hauffe shows how closely magical writing could be tied to healing practices. Born in 1801 in the Swabian village of Prevorst near Ludwigsburg, the forester’s daughter had been admitted after long psychotic episodes with visions and prophecies to the home of the mesmerist physician and poet Justinus Kerner, who documented her medical history in detail. With the two-volume work with the telling title “Die Seherin von Prevorst. Eröffnungen über das innere Leben des Menschen, und über das Hereinragen einer Geisterwelt in die unsre”, published in 1829 immediately after her early death, we now have a fascinating para-psycho-pathological case study avant lettre, which, long before the art of the mentally ill became accessible, dealt empathetically with the patient’s state-bound utterances and artefacts, in Hauffe’s case with her so-called inner language and writing.[6] Kerner dealt in detail with her psychographic production and reproduced several examples of her magical signs, which, she said, through the agency of the soul, were capable of expressing the language of the spirits. “She could not give a complete ABC of this language (…) often a single letter is also a whole word at the same time.” This inner language had been very melodious, and she had also remained “completely consistent in her expressions for what she wanted to say in it”, “so that people who were around her for a longer time gradually learned to understand her. She often said that she could fully express her innermost feelings in this language, and that if she wanted to say something in German, she first had to translate it from this her inner language.”[7]  Kerner gave some examples of such translations. For example, doctor meant “handacadi” and “O pasqua non ti bjat handacadi” “Won’t you shake my hand, doctor?” Through her otherworldly contacts, the seer felt herself capable of acting as a handacadi. She practised distant healing and prescribed the scriptures she received in trance to patients, who had to wear them in amulets often in combination with certain herbs on the affected parts of the body.[8]
    Hauffe’s inner writing (in: Justinus Kerner’s sämtliche Werke, vol. 2, Berlin 1903)
    The distance between Hauffe’s Swabian province and Richard’s Lorraine province did not seem as great as the otherworldly worlds of the two visionaries, who were separated by a rift of reformation that was also reflected in their very different supersensory modes of communication. Hauffe operated with her inner language and hierogyphics within a spontanistic framework that foreshadowed the ecriture automatique. Kerner found “much similarities with the languages of the Orient, and this is certainly only because” they were “the remnants of the original language of fallen man”. He was referring here to the Kabbalistic myth of the Adamic Ur- or Natural Language, which he knew through the writings of Jacob Boehme. But also the esoteric alphabets of sigil magic, on which Richard’s idea of writing was based, referred in the last instance to this myth of an uncorrupted original language, here the Enochian language of heaven, in which the Sign and the Signified constitute an evocative unity. But whereas Richard seemed to communicate with a canonised staff of saints and angels in an alike fixed, mechanical way, i.e. according to Arepo’s set of rules, which was, like Catholic liturgy, beyond earthly comprehension, Hauffe’s apparitions and inner conversations seemed unbound and uncontrolled. Who spoke and when was unpredictable and depended on the mental state.  Richard, on the other hand, employed a series of presumably very precise trance and meditation techniques, which, besides the rosary, included psalmoding and memorising certain suggestive, often homophonic, pairs of words and combinations of syllables. “yeux . cieux” was one such often-recurring mantra. The euphonious association of eye and heaven induced the notion of a seeing through, beyond the physical eye and beyond the Pauline dark mirror, and was presumably capable, with sufficient repetition, of transferring one into a state of prophetic awake sleep. One can thus assume that large parts of the magical texts served such a tested self-hypnotic purpose and were not manifestations of a blunt mania. Hauffe’s pietistic trance language could draw from a completely different pool of practices of introspection. These had, on the one hand, flowed into the Swabian region via the mystical heretical traditions of Eastern Europe, especially the cabbalistic theosophy of a Jacob Böhme. A second, less well-known but nevertheless enduring influence stemmed from the charismatic religiosity of Huguenot refugees from the French Massif Central. The so-called Camisards, infamous in England as the French Prophets, had stirred up the lowered religiosity of the Enlightenment period in the early eighteenth century with a series of shocking ecstasy techniques that drew on magical practices of early Christian communes, such as miraculous healings, collective exorcism, prophetic trance or speaking in tongues, and unconscious so-called prophetic writing.
    John Ireland after William Hogarth: Brain of a Methodist (detail from: Enthusiasm delineated, London 1764 /1795)
    These enthusiastic impulses had led to a number of evangelical church and sect foundations in the Reformed camp, thus putting Catholicism under pressure on a broad front, especially in post-Napoleonic France. In addition, there was the erotic Sophian mysticism of many Protestant mystics and sects, which was widely perceived as an imitation of Marian devotion, as well as Swedenborgianism, which by the end of the 18th century had thrown the gates wide open to a Reformed world of spirits. The impact of these spiritualist and evangelical waves on the emergent renouveau catholique has not yet been adequately examined. The urban French elites were able to compensate for their want of sensual, tangible mysticism with new Masonic orders and several varieties of a socialist utopianism with Catholic messianic leanings. But what was left of the other rural France? And where was a Pierre Richard to be positioned in this era of wondrous romanticism and revolutionary awakening? The German nun Katharina Emmerick had a Clemens Brentano as a chronicler for her stigmatisations, and Friederike Hauffe had a Justinus Kerner at her side for her visionary hauntings, who after her death had expanded his research activities into a widely corresponding parapsychological network and archive for spirit studies.[9]   [1] “The Zoist” was the title of a mesmeristic periodical by the English physician John Elliotson, which was published in London from 1843 to 1856. Elliotson was a follower of the French occultist and mesmerist healer Baron Jules Dupotet de Sennevoy, who for a time also practised extremely successfully in England. [2] In the Kabbalah, this feminine imagined state of fulfilment and freedom figures as “Shekhinah”; Blake calls it “Jerusalem”. [3] Cf. Revelation of John, 12:1-4 [4] Cf. Alexander Roob, Alchemie und Mystik. Das Hermetische Museum, Cologne 1996, pp. 401and 419 [5] Cf. ibid, pp. 374 – 393 [6] The Seeress of Prevorst. Revelations about the inner life of the man, and about the intrusion of a spirits’ world into ours” [7] Cf. Justinus Kerner, Die Seherin von Prevorst, Stuttgart 1846, pp. 210- 211. [8] Ibid. pp. 142-145 [9] This spiritistic archive was published from 1840-1853 in 5 volumes entitled “Magikon: Archiv für Beobachtungen aus dem Gebiet der Geisterkunde und des magnetischen und magischen Lebens nebst andere Zugaben für Freunde des Innern”. They were preceded by 12 editions of the “Blätter aus Prevorst”. All photos of the Pierre Richard images: Klaus Stoeber, Strasbourg Translated with the support of DeepL  
  • The Illuminated Myth of Mzona by Richard of Kédange (1802-1879). Part II
    The Ichts / The Sator Arepo mechanism / Two Evas The Ichts When looking through these magic books, one is quickly confronted with the question of whether there was a system here that was comprehensible and decipherable, at least in parts, or whether it was an entirely idiosyncratic construct, a blooming nonsense, a crazy simulation of magical practice. Is that Richard to be imagined as some kind of outsider artist, like an Adolf Wölffli, who delved into manic ornamental worlds, or a someone like a Melvin Way, who clothed himself in diagrams of fantasised equations and formulae? After all, with these grimoires he docked onto a traditional form of functional literature. And the various techniques and systems to which he alluded, however consistently, such as gematria, astrological tabularity, sigil magic, cabalistic schemes, incantations, all presupposed a basic knowledge that he could hardly have acquired via a few abstruse folk magic books. According to the Pétrys’ research, Richard’s life before his internment occurred within a limited radius of about 10 km. However, the astonishing development of his pictorial and symbolic language makes it seem quite conceivable that, at least in the early stages, he was engaged in a lively exchange with a variety of persons. Lorraine was notorious in the 16th and 17th centuries as a hotspot for persecutions of sorcerers and witches. Was it possible that a magical culture had survived in those rural regions, in which someone like Pierre Richard could establish himself as a kind of Christian shaman or dabtara? His books are distinguished by a very intensive and sensual approach to scripture, and this despite the fact that illiteracy was widespread among the rural population. Thanks to the educational initiative of a patronising nobleman, he must have had an extraordinarily good school education by the standards of the time. The fact that the youth of the village of Kédang was taught by a Jewish teacher is taken by the Pétrys as an indication that he could have come into contact with Jewish mysticism at an early age. This may have also provided him with contacts to the Talmud schools of the large Jewish community in Metz, which had become a centre of Jewish scholarship in France since the beginning of the 19th century. According to the Pétrys, the real trigger for Richard’s obsession with protective spells was the double shock caused by the death of his mother and his subsequent dispossession. In fact, terms of deception and fraud appear again and again in the endless permutations of syllables. The first name of the half-brother is also mentioned in such a context. The fact that he appeals against disaster not only to Michael the demon-fighter but also to Saint Joseph, namely Joseph the soldier (Joseph le soldat), can be interpreted as a plea to the patron saint of paternity to stand up for his legitimate inheritance. But one can also identify in this constellation a clear indication of his very special and distinctive form of Marian cult, at whose core the integrity of a mother-son relationship stood, that was outside of sin and sexuality. At the time of the creation of these magic books the mystery of the Immaculate Conception had been canonised as a dogma. Mary and her Son had thus also been cut off and elevated once and for all from their Jewish origins. And Pierre himself, by increasingly embracing the Christ-nature through his own sufferings, was part of this exclusive union, doubly shielded by Mary’s protective mantle and the paternity of the chaste Joseph.
    Blossom Mandala, Pierre-Petrus with Infant Jesus and an Ear of Corn (Album 1)
    The autobiographical component of his magic books is obvious alone from the countless variations of his own name. Richard becomes “Richardora”, “Richardia”, “Richardera”, “Richarda”, “Richardoria” and so on. It is surprising that in most cases the suffixes were feminine or neutral. Did they refer to apparitions of the deceased mother or to states of spiritual communion with her? Was it even about forms of esoteric androynity? Still stranger were the frequent variations in which the initial R was replaced by the number 8, “8ichardtendra”, “8ichardoria” and so on.  Most of the talismans consisted of eight sidereal spheres, 8 also as a number of infinity symbolising the celestial and terrestrial cycles.  But why was this 8 open at the head end in most cases? Was it simply a calligraphic pecularity?
    Exercises in magical writing (Enchiridion, detail)
    8ichard pierre (Enchiridion, detail)
    The fact that his surname contained the first personal pronoun obviously had a very special meaning for the author. However, the “ich” (German for “I”) could also detach itself from this binding with “Richard” and freely float in the texts. That it occurred frequently and also in the plural, however, did not have to indicate a monomaniacal or solipsistic disposition of the author, on the contrary.[1]  These ICHS could include crosses (ICHtS) and were thus components of Christ as a collective identity, as well as an expression of the acronymic confession of salvation (ICHTHYS).[2]
    ICHtS: Zon ISO or I8O with Marian spirits (Enchridion, detail)
    His first name was also omnipresent, in allegorical forms, especially in the pictograms and illustrations, which often alluded to attributes of his namesake Peter. Most significant was the rooster, which recalled Peter’s denial of Christ. The rooster’s cry was considered an indicator of truth and proclaimer of the Last Judgement. For Pierre Richard, it must have served as a constant reminder to self-examination.  Three times Pierre-Petrus had betrayed the Saviour and three times the rooster strikes him in his secret threefold nature. Above all, Pierre’s cockerel was also a defensive Gallic cockerel, which as the Holy Spirit is part of the divine triad and protects it, just as it guards the French villages on the tops of the churches.
    Regeneration of the old Adam through the sacrifice of Christ (Album 1, detail)
    Rise from the state of Adam through the Invocation of Two Guardian Powers (Album 1, detail)
    Peter/Pierre, however, was also present in images of fishing. In his net the saved souls were sheltered, the ICHS of the ICHTHYS. And last but not least, the many sigils in the form of keys also bore the signature of the author. Christ had presented them to Pierre’s namesake with the following revealing words: “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Mt16:19). Solve et coagula, this alchemical motto out of the mouth of the Saviour not only referred to the gender symbolism of Hermetism, but also to Richard’s playful use of signs and lettering as a permutative act of loosening and binding ligatures and syllables.
    Sigillic magical key ring (Enchiridion, detail)
    Elects as heralds of the Last Judgement, with trumpets and keys
    Pierre-Petrus as a fisher of souls (Album 1,details)
    On the left: Adamic (A) and evaic (E) oppositions and their transcendence in the divine triad (?), on the right: Peter’s net and weighing of souls at the Last Judgement (Album 1)
    The Sator Arepo mechanism If there was one thing that this key-symbolism opened up quite undoubtedly, it was the prospect that one could not be sure of any decoding, for no earthly mind was capable of unlocking a language of heaven conclusively. Pierre’s magic books were thus entirely within the enigmatic line of the classical grimoires, though there the reader could always find footing in descriptive, technical passages. In Richard’s exercises books, by contrast, there is no such level of instruction. In the maelstrom of his aleatorics and combinatorics, nevertheless, chains of associations and clusters of related motifs appear repeatedly, allowing at least some effort to identify, if not a consistent system, but a kind of underlying script or, rather, a game manual. Thus, in the first of the two illuminated albums, one repeatedly thinks to recognise elements that are modelled on the Jewish Merkana mysticism of the throne chariot of God (gottrona) , while the second album seems to be rather under the impression of schemes of the Seforith tree. Common to both was the notion of a gradual ascent through a spiritual architecture.
    on the left: Three-stage ascent from the state of old Adam (A) through the sign of Christ (X) / on the right: Bifurcated ladder with Christ and evangelists at one end, the guardian angel of paradise at the other end. (Album 1)
    Gottrona composed of male and female principles. The rooster as the Holy Spirit
    Gottrona composed of the consummate union (8) of the patriarchal Tricephalos with the magical Marian Lettre (Album 1, details)
    Two Gottronae, four invocations of Joseph (album 1, detail)
    It is remarkable that despite these recourses to topoi of Jewish mysticism, Richard did not adopt any kabbalistic terms. Even the use of Hebrew characters, one of the main features of classical grimoires, was apparently not an option for him. One can only speculate about the reasons. Jewishness was apparently high on the shooting list of the protective eschatological rooster. In the first illuminated album, he fired into a diagram marked “Juifs”, which has the martyred Christ in the centre.
    Sacrifice of Christ by the Jews and their overcoming by the rooster of the Holy Spirit (Album 1)
    In the course of the Revolution of ’48, anti-Semitic attacks had occurred, especially in Alsace but also sporadically in Lorraine. Had Richard intended to replace the Kabbalistic tradition of ritual magic with a more indigenous system in which the Patois, Roman letters and rune-like glyphs played the leading roles?  Marianism in particular was apt to ideologically promote such a separation from the Judaic heritage. But can one ascribe such far-reaching ambitions to a “mad” hick? In the same direction, one could also interpret his prominent focus on the Roman Sator-Arepo square. He quoted and adapted it many times in both illuminated albums, also in diagrammatic forms.
    The Sator-Arepo rotation as mandala and mantra (album 2, detail)
    Rotation as a key to Trinity (Album 2, detail)
    Magic Squares, in: Magia Abraham oder Underricht von der Heiligen Cabala – Mscr.Dresd.N.111 / https://digital.slub-dresden.de/id364474017/3
    The enigmatic slogan of the sower Arepo and his laborious holding and preserving of the wheels (SATOR AREPO TENET OPERA ROTAS) was to be found on plaques and in carvings not only in Italian antiquities, but also in French churches and castles, especially in the south of the country. The reference to this scheme was not special in itself. Palindromic letter squares, in conjunction with astrology and gematria, belonged to the base elements of ancient and modern ritual magic. The fourth volume of the pseudepigraphic occult instruction book “Des Abraham von Worms Buch der wahren Praxis von der alten Magie” (Abraham of Worms Book of True Practice of Ancient Magic) from the early 17th century alone contains 257 magic squares with incantations, which mostly functioned according to the Sator-Arepo template.[3]  Special, even unique, however, was that Richard not only appropriated this ancient primordial diagram, but also fully exploited its allegorical dimensions by deriving from it, as from a matrix, a metaphoric and hieroglyphic language that was analogous to his environment. In Richard’s graphic Sator-Arepo world, the back was as the front, the above as the below, all subject to the interplay of the seasons and the astrological constellations, the fields of the decanates analogous to the agricultural plots, the trades of the upper sower like the work of the lower peasant. This machinery was kept in motion by a mystery in the central field N of the Sator square, where the two axes of the TENET intersect, those spiritual cross of care and preservation. Here as a pivot and crossing point the Marian rose opened up, in which all opposites were miraculously suspended. Crosses surrounded by flowers and divided into plots on the endpapers at the front and back of the Enchridion indicated that the agrarian Sator square may have already served as inspiration at that early stage of practice. The coincidence of rosarium and TENET, of wheel and cross, of motor and stasis, was often a subject of exploration in the glyphs and texts: Kreis becomes Kreist becomes Craiz and so on. It is very likely that he also meditated constantly on this fundamental association, appropriately enough to revolutions of a rosary. Correspondences between that prayer chain, which was usually divided into the seven days of the week, and the zodiac, which was divided into decanates, may also have played a role.
    The Tenet Cross as a rosarium and a rotating tricephalos (Enchiridion)
    Rotas Cross (Album 2, detail)
    A Rosary, divided into several segments of meditation (Wiki Commons)
    Two Evas An illustration of the Enchiridion, in which the magical work was depicted as a sequence of four discs, suggests that rotations may have also played a role in the fabrication of the magic language. The second stage represented an alphabetical rotary disc in the manner of the combinatory aids of Raymundus Lullus. The fact that Pierre’s grandfather as a professional cartwright and wheelmaker had also been a master of rotations may have contributed to such a conception. The final fifth stage of this operation consisted of a horizontal coil whose 7 turns produced the word SERPENS, Latin for snake. Pierre commented on this puzzling result on the righthand margin of the picture with the word EVE, a term associated in biblical-Gnostic contexts with the Fall, with sexualised femininity and sexual reproduction. The fact that EVE was mirrored axially symmetrically in V suggests, however, that there might have been two complementary Evas at work here, and the subject could hence have been an annulment or overwriting of this negativity. How this was to be achieved could possibly be answered by the four-letter chain with which he commented the four sections of the work. The four elements “RI-CH-AR-dO”, which produced a masculine form of his surname, were each connected by an “M” for Mary and below by four times an “o” for each of the prayed pearls or buds of the rosary.
    The Four Sections of the Opus (Enchiridion, detail)
    EVE S: The overcoming of gender bifurcation (Enchiridion, detail)
    Richard’s (R) crucifixion and resurrection within the three letters of the regenerated EVE (Enchiridion, detail).
    [1] Cf. Nicolas Will-Parot, „Pierre Richard, magie solipsiste“, in: Pierre Richard (1802-1879): grimoires illuminés. Éditions Artulis, 2019, p. 79 [2] ICHTHYS: I = Jesus, CH = Christ, TH = God’s, Y = Son, S= Saviour: Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Saviour. [3] German and French manuscripts of the book circulated since the middle of the 18th century. A first printed version was published in Stuttgart in 1853.   All photos of the Pierre Richard images: Klaus Stoeber, Strasbourg Translated with the support of DeepL
  • The Illuminated Myth of Mzona by Richard of Kédange (1802-1879). Part I
    From Alsace to Lorraine / The research / The book In 2010, three graphic grimoires from rural Lorraine popped up at a Strasbourg bookseller’s, whose peculiarity and intensity were astounding. A Richard from Kédange, today Kédange-sur-Canner, a town not far from the border with Saarland and about 30 km north of the capital of Lorraine, Metz, today the department of Moselle, identified himself as the author. A few dates found in these books suggest a time of origin around the middle of the 19th century, an assumption that was confirmed by the research and the material-technical examinations. The text consisted of a delirious mix of sigil-magical and astrological signs, consecration-liturgical vocabulary, and a tuneful magic language, partly French-Moselle-Franconian gibberish with Latin interpolations. The figurative depictions, partly hieratic, partly comic-like, looked as if they had sprung from Ethiopian magic scrolls or early Coptic illuminations. An opus so archaic, so rustic, and so esoterically grotesque, as if it were a materialisation of the secret book that a Madam Hen or Hahn (German for rooster) scraped out of a heap of dung in Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake. And roosters could be seen in abundance. They seemed to play a leading role in a circling end-time spectacle, alongside Lemurian spirit creatures, comical saints, the Mother of God and the Crucified. In most cases they held a large pistol in their claws, sometimes two.  They looked sweet and harmless, children’s book cockerels, but when they fired, they apparently hit their target three times. If these magic books had been publicised at the time they were written, Breton would surely have given them an honoured mention in his anthology of black humour. No wonder, then, that even experts initially believed them to be fakes.
    Talisman mandala or a case of occult heraldry (album 1, detail)
    The three books were very diverse, both in format and conception. The first volume, bound in leather in a waistcoat pocket format of 136 x 83 mm, consisted basically of a printed version of the “Enchiridion Du Pape Leon”, a grimoire that was published in 1800. Like many other charm books of the time, it was also distributed in the countryside by itinerant traders, so-called colporteurs. Richard had appropriated the pseudo-historical publication in its entirety by overdrawing or overwriting most of the 120 printed pages with brown ink and adding 60 pages with his own content at the back and 60 pages at the front. While this opus thus rather gave the impression of an exercise and pattern book, the other two volumes, considerably larger and for the most part containing colour illustrations, came across as more independent works. In their display of splendour, these albums are reminiscent of medieval illuminations.[1]  With a total of 744 illustrated pages, this collection is a very rich one, although the leaps in the graphic development indicate that these may only have been excerpts from a much more extended production.[2] Before they found their way into the book trade in Strasbourg, these three works had already spent two decades lying more or less unnoticed in an antiquarian bookshop in Lorraine. That Francois and Mireille Pétry, he a well-known archaeologist and long-time national conservator, and she a studied librarian and outstanding literary connoisseur, finally took them on can only be described as a stroke of luck.
    Endpapers of the Enchiridion. The practice book was probably also used as a talisman worn on the body.
    Cover of album 2
    From Alsace to Lorraine The Pétrys had previously spent many years in securing and recovering a comparably obscure work. In a painstaking effort, they had succeeded in researching and partially reconstructing the multi-part painting cycle “Salon of Dreams” (Le Salon des Rêves,1939-44) by the forgotten Alsatian painter Joseph Steib (1898-1966).[3] In this series, Steib had dealt with the trauma of Hitler’s dictatorship not only in a fantastically surreal way, but also in an ultimately exorcistic and protection-magical way by referring to motifs of regional devotional art.  In the catalogue books, Francois Pétry spoke of a “black passion”. After Steib’s death, this unique document of an artistic banning spell against the horrors of the occupation had been dissolved and scattered to the winds.
    Joseph Steib, Ecce Homo, 1942 (private collection)
    Joseph Steib, La Damnation du Führer, 1941(private collection)
    Little was known about the painter himself. Rumours that he had worked as a streetsweeper seemed to mainly serve the pigeonhole of a naïve art. However, the research of the Pétrys brought to light that this ensor of Alsace had a training, albeit brief, at a prestigious art school. He had pursued his artistic resistance quite unromantically as an employee of the local waterworks. His artistic activities had taken place in Mulhouse and the surrounding area, in the extreme south of a cultural region that had been worn down and traumatised by centuries of border conflicts. Francois Pétry knows this region like no other. He has burrowed through many of its layers of civilisation. Moreover, he ceaselessly explores the vast field of so-called ephemera, anonymous sketchbooks, calendars, diaries, press graphics and photo series, materials of the most diverse kind and provenance, which pile up in his magazine to considerable heights.  What emerged with this new find in the Strasbourg antiquarian book trade, however, did not seem to be ephemeral at all, after Steib another cardinal excavation site, this time in the regional north. The research While the enterprise “Le Salon des Rêves” could rely on a large number of documents and eyewitness accounts, which allowed a gradual insight into the circumstances of the creation of this cycle of paintings and a focusing of Steib’s artistic personality, the research on Richard von Kédange turned out to be much more difficult. Since central files of the Moselle department from the time before 1850 were destroyed during the Second World War, essential elements of his biography have been lost. Thus, the portrait of the magician of Kédange has to remain for the time being fragmentary and shadowy. What is astonishing, however, is what the Pétrys have brought to light despite these obstacles. The person in question was, according to local records, a certain Pierre Richard, who was born in Kédange-sur-Canner in 1802 as the third child of a wealthy peasant family. After his father’s early death, the rest of the family had moved to nearby Dalstein, his mother’s birthplace, around 1820. A decisive experience was probably the acquaintance with a Jean Heitz, who is known to have lived in Dalstein since 1835. The bookplate of the “Enchiridion Du Pape Leon”, which Pierre Richard had overworked and which probably served him as a retreat book, shows him as the previous owner.  Heitz may have acted as a kind of master of ritual magic and Christian Kabbalah for the young sorcerer aspirant.  It is also feasible that Richard acted as a medium for him for a time. The English magician and astrologer John Dee and his assistant Edward Kelley are known to have had such a channelling cooperation for the reception of supernatural messages and the magical mapping of the angelic world. The influential “Book of True Practice in Divine Magic” by the pseudo-Abraham of Worms recommended the use of a child as a medium because of its heightened sensitivity to the presence of angels. Among the few biographical clues about the Dalstein period is a contract of sale in which Pierre, then 31, is listed as co-owner of a real estate. In an entry in the cadastral registers of 1841, he is referred to as a ” pensioner”. Several documents show that this property, however, passed into the hands of an older half-brother already three years later, after the death of his mother. Had he been incapacitated? Towards the end of the 1840s, the tracks of the author of strange magic books in Dalstein disappear. The Pétrys only found concrete evidence of his further life in the files of the communal asylum in Gorze, near Metz, where, since 1870, so-called mental patients had been interned alongside beggars and vagrants. Around this time, a Pierre Richard from Chemery, a neighbouring village of Dalstein, had been transferred there.
    Main road of Chémery, postcard, 1890
    One of the two illuminated albums includes the date 1867 twice, so the Pétrys assume that they were created in Chemery, where he probably spent more than two decades. Had the half-brother organised the move and arranged placement in a foster family or informal charitable institution? It is strange, however, that he left no administrative traces during this long period there. One of the particularities of the village was a traditional Marian “Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception”, in which he may have been involved. It had extensive supra-regional contacts, from whose ranks a king was elected annually, an office akin to the majesties of the marksmen’s clubs. Some curious motifs in his charm books – feather-crowned hats, cape scapulars and targets – might be traced back to the picturesque customs of this Marian connection.  In January 1879, Richard of Kédange died after almost a decade of internment in the central asylum of Gorze. The book That the Pétrys managed to get the highly deserving and committed publisher Pierrette Turlais on board can be seen as another lucky coincidence within the afterlife of the Lorraine magic books. The opus “Pierre Richard (1802-1879) Grimoires illuminés”, published in 2020, emerged as a bibliophile masterpiece that does justice to its solitary subject in many respects, in terms of the award-winning design and the selection and quality of the illustrations, as well as in the meticulous editing of the numerous contributions. It is all the more regrettable that this brilliant publication, which has already opened several museum doors to Richard’s work in France, has been given only a very limited reach, due to its limited edition and its high price, and also because it is published in only one language. A bilingual edition that makes the Grimoires accessible in their entirety would be an absolute desideratum and nothing less than a tribute to the unifying bilingualism of the originals. Turlais’ publishing house Artulis, which, according to the announcement, specialises in first editions of “writings of rebellion, of revolt, of resistance and of survival”, had previously taken on another outstanding work with cryptographic aspects, the corpus of the fourteen surviving Devil’s Island diary notebooks of the exiled Alsatian captain Alfred Dreyfus. In addition to all kinds of daily routine notes, this volume also provides information about the development of a fascinating psycho-ornamentalism within the marginal scribblings.[4]
    Alfred Dreyfus, diary pages 1898, from: Cahiers de l’île du Diable, Editions Artulis, Paris 2009
    A narrowing between these arabesques of a Jewish alleged traitor to the people, who was exiled to a diabolical island, and Richard’s folk magic with its subliminal anti-Semitic resentments was certainly not intended; but if one adds the Pétrys’ connection to the Alsatian exorcism of Hitler by the painter Steib, the result then will be a passage in stages through the history of the region in the manner of a Hell’s Ride, which would do honour to the Grünewald Altarpiece of Isenheim. [1] Album I: 327 x 222 mm, 188 pages, Album II: 360 x 240 mm, 282 pages [2] This speculation has recently been reinforced by the appearance of images of another of Richard’s albums in the Savoy region. [3] Cf. Francois Pétry, “Joseph Steib – Maler des „Salon der Träume “, Munich 1999 / eds, Le “Salon des réves” Comment le peintre Joseph Steib fit la guerre à Adolf Hitler, Strasbourg, 2015. [4] Alfred Dreyfus, Cahiers de l’île du Diable, Editions Artulis, 2009.   All photos of the Pierre Richard images: Klaus Stoeber, Strasbourg (Translation supported by DeepL)