New three volume Austin Osman Spare book

New Three Volume Work by and relating to Austin Osman Spare and Vera Wainwright.

Though no publisher is given these books have been issued in a limited edition of only 59 numbered copies by Tony Naylor of Mandrake Press Ltd. / I.H.O. books and the works are not listed in British Books in Print. Past experience suggests that the book will sell out straight away and anyway it is not going to be made available to bookshops or Amazon so no I.S.B.N. is given. Austin Osman Spare did not always work in isolation. These three volumes are a powerful reminder that he also worked with others they shared concepts and esoteric interests.

These hardbacks landscape format, 8.5 ins x 12ins. Sheets are 120 gramme watermarked goatskin parchment paper. All three books are uniformly bound in black faux leather elegantly blind stamped with distinctly Sparean profile of face towards for edge of both front and back board. Place ribbon. The binding method used is innovative and is noted for its tremendous strength: the leaves being both gripped and glued in place. It is quite impossible to remove a page; the paper would tear long before the binding compromised.

The three volumes are complementary and the publisher, has avoided imposing arbitrary numbers upon the volumes. So, in no particular order:-

Drawings by Austin Osman Spare for V.S.W., A drawing book of 24 images drawn by Spare for Vera in 1944 when Spare visited her in Helston, Cornwall. The title page has a image by Spare of his (horned) head merging upwards into a profile of Vera Wainwright. The original cover of the drawing book carrying Spare’s inscription to Wainwright is also reproduced. These drawings have only previously been published in an edition of 24 portfolio folders, each one containing one of the original drawings. The closing pages provide brief biographies of Spare and Wainwright. The last two pages presents a speculation concerning numerical analysis of Spare’s work and the significance of the word ‘One’ and the point within in the circle in relation to Spare’s work and philosophy.

Vera Wainwright and Austin Osman Spare, Poems and Masks. 44pp An illustrated 5pp article by Eileen White describes Wainwright from the point of view of someone living in the village of Mappowder in Dorset where she lived the last years of her life. Whilst aware of her literary connections with the Powys family what emerges is a vibrant picture of the woman herself by someone who came to know her well. Poems and masks was initially published by the Toucan Press in 1968, the same Channel Island publisher which issued Gull’s Beack and Black to Black by Kenneth Grant. The biographical note and introduction to this edition plus that of the second US edition are reproduced as are the poems plus 8 additional ones, previously unpublished. Spare’s illustrations are reproduced together with other relevant vignettes and illustrations, though the original illustrations are carefully identified thus.

Vera Wainwright and Austin Spare, Poetry and Art, 80pp. A 2pp illustrated article discusses Spare’s use of the mask icon in his philosophy whilst further testament to its significance in Spare’s circle is here testified to by the inclusion of a short story by Frederick Carter edited and provided an introduction for Spare’s Focus of Life. The story, illustrated with vignettes of Spare’s use of masks in his art. A yarn of an artistic genius who moves from wax work faces to major art fraud revealing occult mysteries relating to Rosicrucianism and Shakespeare.

Spare and Wainwright planned to publish together a monthly magazine to be called ‘Art and Letter’. Spare’s design for a title page including hoped for contributors is reproduced plus some relevant letters from Wainwright to Spare. Then follow 8 short stories by Wainwright; some are very short indeed, literary vignettes really. These are far more explicitly occult than her poems. They are by no means cosy with two describing the perception of indescribably horror. In another an enigmatic stranger proves to be a nature spirit. Suitable illustrations supplied by Spare to Wainwright including a very fine satyr’s head. One drawing featuring a wrecked cart axle forming a crucifix with a tree with a crow torn to pieces in the foreground explicitly illustrates the last story presented ‘Corporate Worship’. In this enigmatic tale the narrator eschews prayer in church to worship in nature only to find the vicar, who is also some form of animal spirit, leading her in prayer there. One feels such ambiguity lies at the heart of Wainwright’s approach. She also perceived ambiguity in Spare himself. In one letter to him she said ‘… I conclude that you are on the threshold of sainthood but have not yet crossed it! You still face darkness often, but you could turn towards he light – as it is there at your elbow. You could be quite a wonderful person, but to change a metaphor – there is still a little devil at your coat-tail!

A further section reproduces Spare’s drafts for Poems and Masks. Mostly very rough but with some striking, quite finished, faces that were not used, despite them being far more married to the text than those that were.

Wainwright was not without artistic ability herself and four pictures by her of the Devon and Cornwall countryside are included plus some contemporary images of the village in Cornwall where Spare visited her. 7pp reproduce drawings with notes that Spare gave to Wainwright which are instructive concerning his composition of pictures, the use of exaggerated perspective akin to his sidereal portraits

Enclosed with each set of three volumes is an original handwritten letter from Wainwright to Spare and also a cheque signed by Spare. All three volumes are supplied sealed in cellophane so it is luck of the draw as to how long the letter is, or its subject matter! Preferences as to number will be accommodated as far as possible.

The three books will only be supplied as a set, all together at a price of 120 UK Pounds.

Via Plutonica. I can’t find the reference on their site, but Psyche points to Caduceus Books as the source for this.

1 Comment

  1. Yeah, it came in their e-mail newsletter – it doesn’t look like they published it anywhere online.

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