Title Victorian Verse Manuscript on all kinds of spiritualism -- Buddhism, Hinduism, Astrology, Numerology and the Kabbalah
Binding Quarter Modern Red Morocco. Cloth boards.
Seller ID 005403
Wonderfully erudite, dense, eccentric and strange manuscript, filled with what we believe is mostly, and probably entirely, original verse, other than a few ascribed quotations. Unique, not just in the sense that any manuscript can be said to be, but also as a type of manuscript, not like anything we have previously seen, let alone handled.N.p. 8vo. 22 by 17.5 cm. Unpaginated, 124 leaves, with content on all rectos and three versos. We count about 40 pages with illustrated content -- this can be small vignettes, or especially decorative and elaborate letter devices, but we excluded simpler letter devices from inclusion. Throughout there are smallish examples of illumination as well. The album features calligraphy throughout, in varying styles (Gothic primarily), together with writing in a neat cursive which we would not consider calligraphic, and also other scripts used, such as Hebrew, Greek, Sanskrit, and Arabic, and the author switches freely from English to these other languages, as well as Latin, French and Olde English. With the Old English, we do not know enough as to whether he is using the real thing or he is concocting a mock version of it -- the same may be true of the Ancient languages or Sanskrit, for all we know. The unifying thrust and theme of the album is spiritualism and mysticism. The author’s attitude towards this broad topic is not straightforward. Surely he was fascinated, but was he a true believer, an agnostic or an iconoclast having a bit of fun with the elaborate rigmarole of it all? At times, he seems earnest, at others, tongue-in-cheek, and yet others, a bit of both. One of the pleasures of reading through the manuscript is coming upon the bursts of sly humor. This is evident even on the first dedication page (there are two dedication pages), when he writes: “To a womanly woman! Otherwise called Her Majesty of England . . . “ Below which, with an actual small feather held by an ink drawing of a hand, come some over-the-top invocations, “Say: A single hande thus woike hath wroughte . . . “ Also, the verse throughout generally reads as light verse, with rhymed couplets abounding, often verging on doggerel. One can sense repeatedly, when the meaning is obscure, that there is an element of inside joke to the writing. We suspect the author himself had no particular meaning other than to revel in enigmas and puzzles. A fair amount of space is devoted to numerology, with rhymed riffs on various numbers such as seven and twelve – these can go on for three or four pages, and within them are whimsical associations. Here are a few lines for 12, written under the title of “Infernal”: “Twelve hath its Evil Compound, legends tell,/ Twelve different Circles probe the lowest hell,/ . . . Twelve marks the hour of the Felon’s doom,/ Twelve strokes the sinking makes before he drown,/ Twleve ‘tis the Secret of the Debtor’s gloom,/. . . “ In these lines, and many others, we can not help noticing the similarity to Freemason gobbledygook. Whether or not this was a conscious inspiration, and we believe it was, with illustrations of pyramids and the like, the author revels in the esoteric and opaque in the same way. We describe the album as dense, and we mean this down to many a page, in which there can supplement the main text footnotes, or sidebars, sometimes running vertically in the margins, and montaging of text bits. In the footnotes, the author parades his learning. Or is it at times a parody of scholarship? With Eastern religions being of great interest, there are quite a few poems relating to India, and Indian scenery is the source of some of the most exquisite illustrated vignette. ,