Mortadello, or the Angel of Venice. A Comedy. Aleister CROWLEY.
Mortadello, or the Angel of Venice. A Comedy.

Mortadello, or the Angel of Venice. A Comedy.

London: Wieland and Company, 1912. First Edition. Hardcover. Small quarto. xvi + 122 pp (the final 12pp being adverts for "The Works of Mr. Crowley.") Original white buckram with gilt title, etc. to spine, and gilt title and lion of St. Mark device on upper board. Top edge gilt, other edges untrimmed. Crowley's play "Mortadello" has a complex publishing history. There is one known copy of a trial printing of "Mortadello" with the publisher's imprint of "Barabbas and Company" on the title-page that was printed early in 1912, and it seems that shortly thereafter there were approximately six "sample" transitional copies issued, bound in grey cloth and each with two title pages: one bearing the Barabbas imprint and the other that of Wieland & Co. Later that year the first "real" edition appeared, bound in white buckram and with (just) the Wieland and Co. imprint which is generally regarded as the first edition. This is a copy of that edition. "Mortadello" was described by Crowley as "a play of Old Venice in five acts" and was clearly one of his favourite works. Throughout his life he made a number of attempts to get it performed on stage or film. At one time he made contact with the the renowned black American actor and singer Paul Robeson (1898-1976) who he hoped would put on a production of the play, in which Robeson would take the part of the character Orlando, 'a Negro of the Tunisian Sudan' himself. Robeson read the play but declined, explaining: "I'm afraid it's no use. You see, there are certain lines and gestures which the British public would not care to see enacted between a Negro and a white woman. As for the American stage, why, if I were to produce it over there, someone in the audience would get up and shoot me with a revolver!"
It seems that not all of the first edition sheets of "Mortadello" were bound up at publication, with some surviving unbound into the 1930s, when Crowley had a small number bound up in a rather odd rexine-type cloth. This may account for the relative scarcity of the buckram first edition.
From the collection of Clive Harper with his discrete book-label neatly tipped in at the rear. Harper is well- known as the bibliographer of Austin Osman Spare, for updating the Aleister Crowley bibliography in the 2011 Teitan Press collection of Gerald Yorke's writings, and as someone who has lent his expertise to numerous other publications.
Buckram somewhat rubbed and darkened, cloth a little chafed at head and tail of spine, and a few small (quarter inch) splits in cloth hinges. Endpapers evenly toned. Otherwise a tight, internally clean VG copy. Item #65258

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