San Francisco: H. S. Crocker for The P. R. S., 1928. First Edition. Hardcover. 1st edition of Hall’s omnibus of mysticism, the arcane, the esoteric, and the dark arts. Profusely, and astonishingly, illustrated in color by J. Augustus Knapp. 1st printing, being the specified “Subscriber’s edition” preceding 4 other 1928 editions (King Solomon, Theosophical, Rosicrucian, and the 5th edition), totaling, in all, 2,200 copies, and then further reprintings, each one ever more inferior, with blurrier pictures and the type traits of a ransom note. No. 312 of 550 signed copies, this one for Juliette Davidson. Folio (19” tall), original 1/4 vellum, spine label chipped along its edges, paper covered wood case with 2 nicks, otherwise a fine and beautiful copy. Ex–Haven O’More (bookplate)! Near fine. Item #466
Views of Hall’s encyclopedia are divided. Its champions call it a monument to the precursors of science, well worth studying, and among the elite books ever published. Its scorners call it a fall into the shadows, written at the command of Hall’s insect overlords. It encompasses everything, so is firm on nothing, reminiscent of ants getting stepped on, and not knowing what hit them, but explaining it with an enigmatic name like spontaneous compression. The symbolism (in its plates) is unmatched in any other book, and the text has a veneer of historical data that is mostly factual, despite its focus being mostly antiquated, implausible, or magical, and it’s the confusing kind of magic practiced by those with no flair for concise conversation. So, what are you to believe? Well, what’s safe to believe is that this is a phenomenal book. The maximus and dreamlike color plates are stunning, the alchemical and numinous subjects are comprehensive, the layout is accessible, the text is efficient and congenial, and though there is a lot in it that feels like sewing a button on custard, and there is not much in it that is more secret than the recipe for ice, the coalescing of philosophy, imagery, religion, and science is prudent, intriguing, and judicious, and it’s an atypical mingling, meaning, not to be found elsewhere in the entire panorama of literature. Ah provenance. Haven O’More, was a genial narcissist with an autobiography fattened on bombastic exaggeration. His oft asked question was, “Do you know who I am?” It should have been, “Do you know who I think I am?” He found a rich investor, Michael Davis, and with Davis’ loot he built a staggering library, that he planned to place at the center of his zanily conceived, “new sacred city.” But O’More was holding aces and eights, and Davis got bored with his antics and forced a 1989 sale at Sotheby’s, titled The Garden Ltd. A copy of the extraordinary catalog (ending with O’More’s capricious life story) is included.