Images and Oracles Review

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The current issue of Fortean Times (Issue 183) includes a fairly substantial review of the superb Fulgur paperback reprint of Kenneth Grant’s Images And Oracles Of Austin Osman Spare
Images and Oracles of Austin Osman Spare

Kenneth Grant

Fulgur, 2003 (Fulgur Ltd, BCM Fulgur, London WCIN 3XX or

Pb 96pp, illus, £19.50, ISBN 0953101522


Some years ago I saw a great heap of this book, remaindered at a fiver or so apiece. I only bought the one, but I sometimes remembered the heap in the days when copies were changing hands for £400. They weren’t being bought by first edition buffs but by people who wanted to read the book, and even study it, so Fulgur have set a monster free by making it widely available.

Images and Oracles is the definitive book on Austin Osman Spare (1886-1956) – artist, occultist, and cult figure – written by a man who knew him. In fact Kenneth Grant not only knew Spare but effectively reinvented him, mythologising him into a figure in his own darkly obsessive writing, from The Carfax Monographs and Man, Myth and Magic to The Magical Revival and onwards.

Spare made the transition from belated fin de siecle malcontent and mystic into 1950s geezer, holding exhibitions in pubs, but thanks to Grant he has been further revealed as a man who masturbated into earthenware vessels and buried them at midnight, when the moon was right.

It needs to be said that Grant’s Spare is heavily overlaid with his own preoccupations, including HP Lovecraft and New England witchcraft, but it’s all in here: the anecdotes, the “sigils”, the “alphabet of desire”, the “Death Posture”, “atavism” — the lot.

This facsimile edition has a new preface by Grant, then follows the strikingly well-designed 1975 original, but it is actually better. It has been reset, the numerous illustrations – most of them not to be seen elsewhere – have been freshly photographed, and the overall effect is sharper, warmer, and easier to handle. Produced to Fulgur’s usual superb standard, this heavy-duty paperback edition has transformed Images and Oracles from a keep-it-in-the-safe book to a read-it-in-the-bath book. It is barely available in bookshops, and better obtained direct from Fulgur.

Phil Baker

Fortean Times Verdict

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