Friday, August 17, 2012

Aleister Crowley - Patriot?

A title page for 'La Gauloise."Known best for his involvement in the occult and reputation as the "wickedest man in the world," Aleister Crowley also appears to have had something of a patriotic streak - or a healthy dose of cynicism and a good command of propaganda technique.

In 1942 Crowley penned a short poem called La Gauloise. Subtitled "The Song of the Free French" the piece praised the courage and determination of the members of the French Resistance. Eventually used by the BBC as lyrics for a patriotic song, it was a none too subtle call to continue the struggle against the Nazis and a reminder that England and France were united in purpose and spirit - at least in this war. It's ironic that Crowley, given his public persona, could seemingly be so moved by a sentiment not overtly self-serving and with no apparent personal reward. True feeling or not?

Also included on the title page is the phrase Createur de signe V which references Crowley's claim to have invented the famous gesture, used by Winston Churchill and others, as a counter to the swastika symbol.

Our copy is the second edition (also published in 1942) and the subtitle is slightly modified to "The Song of the Fighting French."  Ask for Rauner Rare Book PR 6005 .R7 G3.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Bunyan Metamorphosized

An open book showing printed text and two illustrations of a pilgrim.John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim's Progress first appeared in 1678 but remained enormously popular for hundreds of years. In the 19th century it was staple stock for New England printers. Our many unpretentious volumes, often in tatters and occasionally colored by an enthusiastic youth, physically manifest the story's role in the moral education of the country’s youth.

An illustrated page from a Cantonese edition.
As you might expect, we have dozens of different editions of the book, but two favorites are adaptations designed to reach wider audiences. "Metamorphosis" editions for children, like this one from Hartford, Connecticut, used folding flaps to reveal the Pilgrim’s progress. Much rarer, is a copy translated into Cantonese for missionary use. Not only is the text translated, but the characters are as well: the pilgrim becomes Chinese in costume and setting.

To see  Bunyan's Pilgrims Progress, "exhibited in a metamorphosis" ask for 1926 B86b 1821; the Cantonese Tian lu li cheng is available by requesting Rare PR3330 A738 1871.