This post is part of an ongoing series featuring items from the Julio Mario Santo Domingo Collection.
The Santo Domingo Collection continues to bolster Harvard’s library of works by author and occult leader Aleister Crowley. These range from substantive books on magic to pamphlets containing individual poems (one of these, titled “Tyrol”, is a condemnation of Mussolini for his 1929 prohibition of that name as part of his Italianization of the region). Crowley’s grandiose, egotistical mode is in evidence throughout, but so is his sardonic sense of humor. That humor is emblemized in his dedications, forewords, and other front matter, at turns combative, boastful, and wryly self-effacing. Two examples appear in this post. The first appears in The sword of song, called by Christians the book of the Beast. This was Crowley’s first publication in which he referred to himself as “the Beast”, in defiance of his critics, and according to Crowley, was impeded by boycotts from British publishers. (The publisher on the imprint is the Society for Religious Truth, Benares, although subsequent Society publications would give Inverness as their location.) The dedication roundly dismisses these opponents of Crowley’s poetic vision.
The second example is Ambergris, a selection of poetry. In its preface, Crowley outlines the selection process in a passage both self-deprecating and resentful, making reference to the public’s underappreciation of his work.
The sword of song: EC9.C8863.904s, HOLLIS number 14166213
Ambergris: EC9.C8863.910a, HOLLIS number 2915207
Thanks to rare book cataloger Ryan Wheeler for contributing this post.