The term particularly applies to the Corpus Hermeticum, Marsilio Ficino's Latin translation in fourteen tracts, of which eight early printed editions appeared before 1500 and a further twenty-two by 1641. This collection, which includes Poimandres and some addresses of Hermes to disciples Tat, Ammon and Asclepius, was said to have originated in the school of Ammonius Saccas and to have passed through the keeping of Michael Psellus: it is preserved in fourteenth century manuscripts. The last three tracts in modern editions were translated independently from another manuscript by Ficino's contemporary Lodovico Lazzarelli (1447–1500) and first printed in 1507. Extensive quotes of similar material are found in classical authors such as Joannes Stobaeus.
Parts of the Hermetica appeared in the 4th-century Gnostic library found in Nag Hammadi. Other works in Syriac, Arabic, Coptic and other languages may also be termed Hermetica — another famous tract is the Emerald Tablet, which teaches the doctrine "as above, so below".
All these are themselves remnants of a more extensive literature, part of the syncretic, intellectualized paganism of their era, a cultural movement that also included the Neoplatonic philosophy of the Greco-Roman mysteries and late Orphic and Pythagorean literature and influenced Gnostic forms of the Abrahamic religions. There are significant differences: the Hermetica are little concerned with Greek mythology or the technical minutiae of metaphysical Neoplatonism. The Hermetica are heavily influenced by Judaism and explicitly refer to Genesis 1:28. However most of these schools do agree in attributing the creation of the world to a Demiurge rather than the supreme being and in accepting reincarnation. Although Neoplatonic philosophers, who quote apocryphal works of Orpheus, Zoroaster, Pythagoras and other figures, almost never cite Hermes Trismegistus, the tracts were still popular enough in the 5th century to be argued against by Augustine of Hippo in the City of God.