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Statement of Dominic Swain, regarding a book briefly in his possession in the winter of 2012.


Dominic Swain was a theatre technician, running lighting at small theatre companies around London. He had arranged to meet a past flame, Katherine Mendes, on Saturday 10th November 2012 at the Gate Theatre in Notting Hill for a matinee performance of The Trojan Women that she was in.

Dominic arrived early and went to a local Oxfam charity shop to kill time before the performance. There, he found a plain book bound in something like calf leather with the title Ex Altiora on the spine in faded gold letters. It was written in Latin, with woodcut images of cliffs, mountains, a tower, and an empty night sky. A bookplate in the cover read, "From the library of Jurgen Leitner." He bought the book for £4 and, discovering he had lost about an hour looking at the book, he left for the show.

During the performance, he smelled ozone but could not pinpoint the source. Katherine had a look at the book but did not read much as the images triggered her vertigo.

Dominic did some research but found nothing on the book or Leitner, except a listing on eBay from 2007, an auction on "The Key of Solomon (1863), owned by MacGregor Mathers and Jurgen Leitner", which was won for £1,200 by someone called grbookworm1818.

He tried to get more information on the book from various buyers, but they were not able to tell him anything other than it was 100-150 years old. The last buyer knew Leitner, saying he was a big name in the literary scene in the 1990s, a Scandinavian recluse who custom-bound books or asked authors to write books for him. He disappeared around 1995, but dealt with a shop called Pinhole Books.

After doing a theatre performance, Dominic went for a walk and found himself in Morden, outside Pinhole Books. He knocked on the door and was greeted by an old woman with a shaved head who sported numerous tattoos of words all over her body. Dominic showed her the book and the woman, Mary Keay, returned to the building, followed by Dominic. After walking through a maze of books, they stopped in a room. There were bookshelves all over the walls, an old desk with papers, fishing wires and safety razors, and a painting of an eye. The painting was an incredibly detailed painting, with intricate patterns and symmetry with the caption, "Grant us the sight that we may not know, grant us the scent that we may not catch, grant us the sound that we may not call," which Mary said was painted by Gerard.

Mary announced that it was a long time since she had seen a Leitner, but that Gerard kept an eye out. She showed Dominic her Leitner, similar in appearance to Dominic's, but without the title. As she passed it under the shadows and Dominic had a closer look, tiny, warped animal bones fell from the book. He looked at his book again and saw that the images were starker with a Lichtenberg figure on the previously empty starry night. He fled the building: his childhood friend, Michael Crew, was struck by lightning after Dominic forced him to play in the rain. He survived but was permanently scarred by a Lichtenberg figure.

Later that night, after returning home, there was a knock on his door. Gerard Keay stood on the threshold, dressed in a dark long leather coat, with dyed black hair, looking like he had not slept. He looked at Ex Altiora and offered to buy it for £5,000. Dominic agreed (thinking that he would have given it away but that "wouldn't count") and Gerard left to get the money.

Whilst he was away, Dominic researched the Keays, and found a news article from 2008. Mary Keay's body had been found. Death was determined to be by an overdose of painkillers but was ruled a murder by the police, due to large pieces of Mary's skin being removed and hung to dry on fish hooks. A picture attached to the news report showed no tattoos and a full head of hair. Gerard was acquitted after an important piece of evidence was deemed inadmissible.

Gerard returned and burned the book after paying Dominic, which stopped the ozone smell which had haunted Dominic since he bought the book. Gerard said, "My mother doesn't always know what's best for our family." He picked up the scalding hot bin containing the ashes of the book, saying he'd had worse, and left.


Jonathan Sims notes that he thought they had dealt with what remained of the Leitner library after the incident in 1994. The library was known for having custom editions of known texts on demonology and the arcane.

Martin and Sasha have looked into mentions of Ex Altiora, but found no records.

Gerard Keay is unable to be located for a follow-up interview, as he disappeared after his trial. John notes that Pinhole Books was closed after 2008, for obvious reasons, so it would not have been there when Dominic visited it.

In the police reports, Tim found that Mary's flesh had been covered in Sanskrit writing, a script similar to that found in her Leitner book.


This article contains information from later episodes of The Magnus Archives and may contain major spoilers for the setting and plot. Continue at your own risk.

  • Related entity: Primarily The Vast with minor connections to The Spiral and The End.
    • Ex Altiora is a book connected to The Vast. The Lichtenberg figure is a creature of The Spiral that is currently bound to it.
    • Mary Keay's death occurred as she was attempting to bind herself to the Catalogue of the Trapped Dead, an artefact of The End. This explains her shaven, tattooed appearance. (MAG 111) She and her son, Gerard, frequently deal with Leitner books and artefacts. (MAG 62)
  • In MAG 66, grbookworm1818 is revealed to be Gertrude Robinson, former head archivist of the Magnus Institute.
  • Ex Altiora is the first of many books from the library of Jurgen Leitner to appear in the series. It also appears in MAG 46.
  • Michael Crew leaves The Bone Turner's Tale, another Leitner book, in a library drop box in MAG 17. He possesses Ex Altiora in MAG 46, and is the author of the statement in MAG 91.
  • The "incident in 1994" was the destruction of Jurgen Leitner's library, revealed in MAG 80 to be the work of several entities attacking his home. As a result, the library was burned to the ground.