AC’s Original MS: The Book Of Lies

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Crowleyana-Bank Vault - 33We’re used to seeing remarkable items for sale from Weiser Antiquarian, but this is simply extraordinary! (NB: This item is now SOLD.) 

Aleister Crowley, The original holograph manuscript of “The Book of Lies.” [Full title:] Liber CCCXXXIII (333), The Book of Lies Which is Also Falsely Called BREAKS the Wanderings or Falsifications of the One Thought of Frater Perdurabo Which Thought is itself Untrue.

Octavo. 8 1/2 x 6 3/4 inches. 192pp.

Written in a clear hand in black ink (with a few passages in pencil) in a faintly-ruled commercially-produced writing book, custom bound for Crowley in Jap-vellum over stiff card boards, with ribbon ties. The front wrapper has an original artwork / cover design by Crowley. It is drawn in blue pencil, with the title “BREAKS” above a series of stylized waves crashing onto a rocky shore at the foot of a cliff. At the top of the cliff is a phallic light-house, from which rays of light shine out in all directions. The design is signed “Frater / PER / DUR / ABO” within a large square in the bottom left corner – the letters of “PERDURABO” arranged in such a way as to form a “magic square.” Two original black and white photographs (of Crowley – on donkey – and of Leila Waddell) as reproduced in the published work tipped-in. The text of the volume is written on the rectos of the pages, with Crowley’s note to the text on the facing versos (where there was no applicable note to the text the facing page has been left blank). There are pencilled page numbers on the rectos, with a note in Crowley’s hand on verso p. 1: “These notes to be collated at end, + referred to by small numbers.” The notes are thus called out on the rectos with superscripted numbers.

Crowleyana-Bank Vault - 57The manuscript appears to be a “clean copy”, carefully written out by Crowley from the various scraps on which he originally wrote them (none of these are known to exist: Crowley described the fragmentary writing process in his “Confessions.”) There are occasional differences from the published text – indicating that Crowley revised / corrected the proofs before they went to press. In particular there are two significant ritual revisions in Chapter 25, “The Star Ruby,” which are intriguing as to their possible meanings. There are other small details which are not present in the printed edition (e.g., Chapter 82, “Borscht,” is dated “11-4-12”) whilst the sigil in Chapter 87, “Mandarin-Meals” is significantly different to that shown in the published form. The volume is housed in a contemporary custom made maroon cloth book-box, especially commissioned for it by Crowley. It is lettered across the front in gilt “THE / BOOK OF LIES”, is lined with marbled paper, and has a red-ribbon pull.

The original manuscript of one of Crowley’s most important, and cryptic works. He wrote of it: “this book deals with many matters on all planes of the very highest importance. It is an official publication for Babes of the Abyss, but is recommended even to beginners as highly suggestive.” It is practically impossible to overstate the importance and rarity of this volume. Almost all significant Crowley manuscripts are now in institutional hands, or in collections from which they are unlikely to ever emerge for sale (such as the library of the O.T.O.). This is not only one of Crowley’s most important – and favorite – books, but the cover is a rare example of his work as an artist / book designer.

Crowleyana-Bank Vault - 57Provenance. The manuscript was part of Crowley’s personal collection of approximately 125 of his own rare books and manuscripts that he brought with him to the United States in 1914. It was his intention to sell the collection to the New York attorney and renowned book collector John Quinn, and use the funds to bank-roll his stay in America. However, Quinn only purchased a small selection from Crowley, and most of the material, which filled two large trunks, followed the Beast on his travels throughout America. In 1918, whilst in Detroit, Crowley placed the trunks in storage at the Leonard Warehouse. The exact circumstances under which this happened are unclear, although there was the usual talk of goods being held pending payment of outstanding bills. Crowley himself seemed genuinely confused about the matter, and later accused his erstwhile “Magical Son” Charles Stansfeld Jones of having stolen the collection. The trunks remained untouched in storage until 1958, when the owner of the warehouse rediscovered them, and, eventually, sold them to writer, bibliophile, and connoisseur of legerdemain Robert Lund. When a newspaper article appeared announcing the rediscovery of the collection, Lund was approached by a number of eager would-be purchasers, including Karl Germer, Samuel Weiser (already the foremost specialist seller of occult books on the East Coast), a New York collector Philip Kaplan, and various others from as far away as London. Lund selected three items that appealed to him most from the collection, and sold the remainder to Kaplan, who in turn sold it on to the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas in Austin. The manuscript of “The Book of Lies” was arguably the most precious of the three items that Lund withheld. It was subsequently exhibited at the “Magic Black and White” exhibition held at Baltimore’s Peabody Institute Library in 1960 but then disappeared from public view. Lund retained ownership of the manuscript until the 1980s, at which time he sold it to a rare book dealer, from whose estate it is now offered. Much of the preceding information is extracted from David Meyer’s essay: “Along Came Lund: One Magician Rescues the Library of Another,” (Caxtonian, Chicago, Vol. XXII, No. 1, January 2014.)

The outer book box has some sunning to the spine and covers, the manuscript itself is in lovely condition, as it should be, having spent almost all of its 100 + years of existence in its protective case. It is obviously unique, and with impeccable provenance, and is arguably one of the most important pieces of Crowleyana to be offered for sale in recent memory. (54630)

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Jamie J Barter

Whoever is the lucky purchaser – one thinks of the usual suspects: Kenneth Anger, Jimmy Page or the (c)oto – has a totally unique and magnificent item in their possession. I’m sure I woudn’t be the only person to want to be fascinated looking at other pages in further detail: it would be too much to hope, I suppose, for the fortunate new owner to make these available as a download? Even a facsimile special print edition I’m sure would manage to pay back its own production costs. Let’s hope that, whoever it is, s/he is not one of these… Read more »

William Thirteen

One of the other two was the author’s edition of the Collected Works, auctioned off last year.

Long term memory going, eh Jamie?