At the present time, there is only one English version of the Ars Notoria; all currently available editions of the book are based on the translation done in the 1650’s by Robert Turner, a student of magical and astrological texts. Turner translates a Latin version published by Agrippa fifty years earlier. While many earlier Latin versions are referenced by scholars – some from as early as the 13th century – no one has as yet taken the time to produce an updated English rendition of the work, or to fully compare Agrippa’s version with the earlier versions.
The foundation and essence of the practices described in the Ars Notoria lies in the figures or “notes” that give it its title. These consist partly of realistic illustrations, partly of sigils and signs similar to other grimoires of the day, and partly of text, which winds into and around the graphical elements. When used as objects of contemplation (or in a more active use of visual imagination) the notes are said to place the user’s mind in a state in which it is granted complete knowledge or skill in
one of the seven Liberal Arts. Unfortunately, Turner’s translation did not include these figures.
Photographs of several notes can be found in Visual Art in Two Manuscripts of the Ars Notoria, by Michael Camille, published in Conjuring Spirits: Texts and Traditions of Medieval Ritual Magic, edited by Claire Fanger, published by the Pennsylvania State University Press. According to Dr. Fanger, there are at least three stylistically distinct sets of notes to be found among the Latin manuscripts of the Notoria. No one set is considered definitive.
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