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First Edition. Printed wrappers, large octavo. Original ivory-colored turned-in parchment wrappers, over plain white paper covers. Upper wrapper with the title in Persian lettered in red, back wrapper with a red printed cul-de-lampe design in the centre.
Title page printed in red and black. One of Crowley's rarest works: as described in Crowley scholar Martin P. Starr's Introduction to the Teitan Press facsimile edition, there were only copies of the book printed thus, on Van Gelder hand-made paper, and an additional 10 copies on Japanese vellum. However, many of these were destroyed in a customs seizure not long after publication, so that even before the beginning of the First World War Crowley was speaking of its rarity.
A second customs seizure depleted the number of surviving copies yet further, and it is consequently one of Crowley's rarest works Crowley himself wrote of copies selling for the then-breath-taking price of Fifty Guineas in the s.
The book itself is part mystical text, part homo-erotic parody, and arguably one of the first English works of explicitly gay literature. Crowley also used it to memorialise his own first great homosexual love-affair, with Jerome Pollitt, a fellow Cambridge student and friend of Aubrey Beardsley's who was also an amateur thespian he trod the stage as a female impersonator under the name "Diane de Rougy" and general connoisseur of the arts.
In typical style, Crowley contrived an acrostic in the poem that is Chapter XLI: "The Riddle," so that the first letter of each line, read downwards, spells out "Herbert Charles Jerome Pollitt," whilst the first letter of each line of the next poem, XLII, "Bagh-i-Muattar," spells out his own name in reverse. Crowley wrote much of "The Scented Garden" whilst holidaying in Moharbhanj, Orissa, after his pioneering attempt to climb Kanchenjunga. In his "Confessions" he recorded that: "Persian fascinated me more than any other language had ever done and I revelled in the ideas of the Sufis.
Their esoteric symbolism delighted me beyond measure. I took it into my head to go one better than my previous performance in the way of inventing poets and their productions. I spent most of my time writing ghazals, purporting to be by a certain Abdullah al Haji Haji, with a soft "h", satirist, as opposed to Haji with a hard "h", pilgrim of Shiraz. I caused him to flourish about A. I also invented an Anglo Indian major to find, translate and annotate the manuscript, an editor to complete the work of that gallant soldier killed in South Africa and a Christian clergyman to discuss the matter of the poem from the peculiar point of view of high Anglicanism.
The ghazals themselves are rendered sometimes in the supposed original monorime, sometimes in prose, and the annotations contain a great deal of the more esoteric information about the East, which I had picked up from time to time. The book itself is a complete treatise on mysticism, expressed in the symbolism prescribed by Persian piety.
It describes the relations of God and man, explains how the latter falls from his essential innocence by allowing himself to be deceived by the illusion of matter. His religion cease to be real and become formal; he falls into sin and suffers the penalty thereof.
God prepares the pathway of regeneration and brings him through shame and sorrow to repentance, thus preparing the mystical union which restores man to his original privileges, free will, immortality, the preception of truth and so on.
I put the last ounce of myself into this book. My previous efforts in the same direction would have deceived nobody, but the Bagh-i-Muatar, despite my inability to produce the Persian original - my excuse was that it was rare and held the most sacred and most secret, but was being copied for me - persuaded even experienced scholars that it was genuine.
Thus two of the three other copies we have had in stock in the past decade have been rebound. In this case about half of the blank spine is chipped away, but the covers themselves, and more importantly the front and rear panels of the parchment wrappers are intact, with just a modest chip to the spine edge of the front wrapper. Internally the volume is in fine condition, the pages bright and fresh, with just a couple of small pencil marks that could easily be erased.
The gatherings are loose and need to be resewn, but this would be a very straightforward job for a competent binder, as indeed would be the restoration of the spine. The book is housed in a modern, custom made protective archival card folder. Item Item Sold. Ask a Question.
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All rights reserved. Recently found by via Libri Introduction by Martin P. Deluxe Vellum Edition.
Bagh I Muattar
View Larger Image. Ask Seller a Question. Publisher: Teitan Press Inc, Chicago. One of Crowley's rarest works: part homo-erotic parody, and part mystical text.