Special

Following are some special documents that were first published as setups for the monthly flash contest at Aphelion Webzine.  



A History of the Libro di Sinistro

 

(The following notes are taken from the article "A Review of Extant Medieval Occult Incunabula" by R. Crawford, Ph.D. which appeared in Velasco Quarterly  41.3 (1952): 46-66.)

 

The Libro di Sinistro  sometimes known as Il Libro di Sinistro, parts thereof also known as Theatre Mortis et Daemonum of Thosimos, and Il Tredici Canti del Piero Pers  or The 13 Cantos of Piero Pers.

 

In its most complete state, The Libro di Sinistro  is a compendium of seventeen texts bound together in a single volume which focuses primarily on the monstrous craft of summoning the dead, denizens of the underworld, and entities of the outer realms of darkness. 

 

According to legend, eight of the oldest sections of the book were based on manuscripts that come down to us from antiquity, the works of Persian magi, and are all attributed to Osthanes (though it was common practice in medieval times to attribute magical texts to that legendary and probably fictitious sorcerer.) 

 

These mysterious and esoteric texts were collected and translated into Latin by Thosimos of Thessalonica, an obscure mystic who lived during the time of the last Gothic War.  Eight more minor texts are attributed directly to Thosimos, who then bound all sixteen sections into a single handwritten codex dated 541 AD.  (Nothing beyond that date is known of Thosimos and outside of his work on this codex any other reference to him is surprisingly absent from the historical record.  It has been surmised by this author that he likely died during the Plague of Justinian.) 

 

This original codex of sixteen sections was known throughout the early middle ages as the Theatre Mortis et Daemonum of Thosimos, and was described by Basilius the Byzantine historian as a vision both foul and grave, bound in bloodstained leather and adorned with an ouroboros on its cover.  Several dubious and conflicting tales of its use are noted in the ancient histories of the time, in one case to raise an army of the dead against the Ostrogoths, and in another to summon a demon plague against the Byzantine army led by Belisarius.

 

In 1466, the first printed edition of the book was completed as a woodblock print in Venice by an unknown printer, probably of German descent, who had obtained either the original or more likely a handwritten copy.  The incunabulum was adorned with elaborate illustrations depicting scenes of horror throughout and bound in brown leather, the cover adorned with the rota fortunae.  The seventeenth section was added at this point.  It is an epic poem written in a bizarre Latinate Italian that tells the story of a man trying to communicate with his lost love who was a victim of the Black Death. The poem is attributed to a mysterious poet named Piero Pers and is divided into thirteen cantos.  This final section of the book has been separately known as Il Tredici Canti del Piero Pers or The 13 Cantos of Piero Pers.

 

It was after this edition began to circulate among the Venetian elite that the book was first dubbed Il Libro di Sinistro

 

Between the various Bonfires of the Vanities of the late 15th century and the book burnings of the Inquisition, it is doubtful that more than a few copies of the 1466 edition remained extant.  And those were all hidden away in the private collections of Europe's wealthiest.  Any references to the book in early Renaissance library catalogues describe only fragments. 

 

Several editions appeared in the 17th and 18th centuries, but these seem to be badly expurgated.  Most contain fewer than seventeen sections, obviously based on one or more incomplete surviving copies of the 1466 edition.  The ones that do contain seventeen sections have new material added.  

 

In the late 19th century, an American and British secret society, The Ancient Order of Corvus, attempted to obtain copies of any known fragments with the goal of producing a new definitive edition.  From this a small private printing was made which has been referred to in several sources as the Corvus edition.  (As a side note, the latter-day organization known in some circles, derisively, as the Cult of Corvus, which claims to descend from the aforementioned secret society, has publicly laid claim to any extant copies of the Corvus edition.)  

 

According to one source, in 1941 a complete copy of the 1466 edition was removed from a private Italian collection by members of the Nazi Ahnenerbe and brought to Wewelsburg Castle.  Its whereabouts after the Second World War are unclear.  

 

Addendum to Professor Crawford's notes:

A copy of The 13 Cantos of Piero Pers  dated to 1466, possibly even the original, was located in the Incunabula collection of the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence, but seems to now only be available on microfiche.

 

-JDR



Scheherazade 7

By John David Rose

 

Sleek and metallic, Scheherazade 7 walked into the sultan's court, not in the clunky manner one might expect of a robot, but with a distinct air of human femininity.  She was the storyteller, famed throughout the solar system, and loved by all who knew her.  The Governor of Triton had all but begged for her to travel to that cold, dark, distant colony and the board of Tethys Interplanetary, the gas mining cartel of Saturn, had promised to pay handsomely for her immediate return to Shangri-la, but her recent tour of the Jovian moons Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto had already been extended a year and now she was  booked to headline for six months at Venus' floating pleasure palace the casino El Cielo followed by a short lecture series at Luna's Lacus Oblivionis University before returning to Earth for some much needed rest, refurbishing, and upgrades.

 

However, as the last great innovation to come out of the dying industries of old Earth, she was at the beck and call of Earth's government and its Ambassador to Mars.  She didn't mind though, she had met him once before and she liked him.  If she could help, she was willing. For not only did she hold within her vast data bank all the stories uploaded to Earthnet over the course of a thousand years, her unique empathy algorithms which allowed her to read the hearts and minds of her audience and choose a story perfect for the situation, allowed her to truly care about the fate of the humans who lived on Earth and whose ancestors had written the stories so central to her being.

 

"If you can but delay this march to war, my dear," the Ambassador said, charging her with her task as he clasped her hands.  He looked tired, and old; there was no strength left in him.  Scheherazade 7 looked into his eyes and felt in her circuits all the stories of old men who had struggled hopelessly against death to preserve something for the next generation, and automatically she began to sequence the tales she could tell him to fend off his growing despondency.

 

The young man Abra who had retrieved her from her transport ship, and led her now to the court, whispered in her ear, "Tell him some stories of Earth. Not of what we are, but of what we once were--our place in the system.  Show him the richness of our heritage.  Perhaps if he is reminded... "  She smiled at him as her processors sorted through a thousand and one tales of a good and faithful servant.

 

"I will do what I can," she said.

 

Then she looked across the great domed chamber to the dais on the other side, and began to gauge the grim countenance and hardened heart of the Sultan of Mars, and wondered what type of story she would need to tell him first.