Edit: (4.20.07) I can't figure out why the text in this post is so . . . multicolor. I've tried fixing it, but the answer alludes me. Sorry about that. (return to original text)
Well, as promised, here is what I know about the history of the word grimoire and its first forms. . .
"Grimoire" is French in origin. It was originally gramaire (there are a few varied spellings, but this seems most common), which is also related to our modern word "grammar". In fact, gramaires were literally how-to books and were most commonly books on grammar or etiquette. How the word most likely began to describe magick books is technically undecided, though I think it's most likely that grimoire and gramaire were used similarly to our modern "dictionary" or "lexicon". While the word "dictionary" generally refers to a book that describes the meanings of words, it is also used to describe books on other subjects as well. Nowadays, both the English and French translation of grimoire is "a book of spells or rituals."
So what were the first grimoires like? Most of them were collections of sigils and incantations intended to summon demons or angels in order to do the magician's bidding. Although the old grimoires are mostly black magick based, many of them had innumerable references to God, angels, the Commandments and other Christian references. Whether this was done out of fear of the Church or personal belief is unknown.
Many of the old grimoires had their roots in Hebrew, Egyptian and Druidic high magick. The rituals were intricate and detailed, and were mainly based on the use of conjuring spirits to do bidding, rather than our modern system of magick using out own willpower. These books also contained instructions for creating tools and attire, mixing potions and elixirs, and performing alchemy, necromancy and divination.
So how would you like to read some of these grimoires yourself? Allow me to note that most of these books are very old and have been translated numerous times from language to language; depending on what edition you purchase, (you'll have to snoop around) you may get a poorly translated edition. Some of the books have portions missing, and many are of unknown authorship. The keys of Solomon, for example, are believed not to be written by Solomon, as the original dates only to the fifteenth century.
The Greater Key of Solomon, or the Goetia
The Lesser Key of Solomon, or the Lemegeton
The Red Dragon, or The Grand Grimoire (Le Grande Grimoire)
The Picatrix, or the Ghayat al-Hakim fi'l-shir
Pauline Art, or Ars Paulina
The Book of The Dead
The New Art, or Ars Nova
The Three Books of Occult Philosophy
Fourth Book of Occult Philsophy
The Magickal Elements, or The Heptagram
The Magus, or the Celestial Intelligencer
The Sworn Book of Horonious, or Liber Sacer Mysteriorum
The Grimoire of Armadel
The Dee Diaries
Five Books of the Mysteries, or Quinti Libri Mysteriorum
Arbatel of Magic, or Arbatel de magica Veterum
Or, if you'd prefer to study these grimories in a lighter, easy to read format, check out Aaron Leitch's book
Secrets of the Magickal Grimories, which can be found here
Idea for a future post: Find out which editions are the best and recommend them here (this may take some time . . .)