Boleskine, Foyers, Inverness, Society for the Propagation of Religious Truth, 1905. First Edition - Fourth State. Hardcovers. Large Octavos. Two volumes. Volume I: 156 pp, Volume II: 148pp. Original cream-coloured quarter cloth with paper spine-labels and dark blue paper-covered boards. Title pages in red and black. Crowley had only 500 sets of the sheets of the "regular" edition of "Orpheus" printed (there was also one copy on vellum, and an unknown, but without doubt tiny, number of copies printed on India paper and bound as a single volume). Perhaps as a bibliographic joke, as a magical act (the colours of the different bindings were symbolic), or in an effort to make it appear that his works were selling better than they were, Crowley had the 500 copies of the regular printing divided up into five different "editions." These "editions" were differentiated from one another by the use of different coloured papers on the boards (the colours are symbolic of the Spirit and Elemental colours), and - in the case of the second to fifth "editions" - a printed statement of edition on the verso of the title-page. Thus the "first edition" has white boards and no statement of edition (being the "first"), the "second" has yellow boards and "Second Edition" printed in it, the 'third' has red boards and "Third Edition" printed in it; the "fourth" has blue boards and "Fourth Edition" printed in it; and the "fifth" edition dark green boards and "Fifth Edition" printed in it. This set is the so-called "Fourth Edition," with both volumes having blue boards and "Fourth Edition" printed in them. Given that all the "editions" use the sheets from the same original printing, the word edition is really a misnomer, and they are in fact all different "states" of the first edition. It is commonly assumed that the 500 copies were equally divided between the five editions/states so that there would have been 100 copies of each. However, the first (white) binding seems slightly more common, and there is always the possibility that Crowley had 200 copies issued as "first editions", and 75 each for the later "editions", or some other combination. Whatever the division, there were almost certainly no more than 100 copies released of any of the later editions/states and they are genuinely rare.
"Orpheus" is a long, magical poem, with various invocations etc. in the latter sections. In his "Confessions" Crowley writes of the invocation to Hecate that is in Book III of Orpheus, and recounts that "I recited [it] at Akyab with full magical intention. The goddess appeared in the form of Bhavani. The fact made more concrete my perception of the essential identity of all religions. ... From the beginning I had wanted to use my poetical gift to write magical invocations. Hymns to various gods and goddesses may be found scattered through my works; but in Book III of Orpheus, Persephone is invoked directly by commemorating her adventures. I developed this much further in Book IV of Orpheus. The idea was put into my mind by Euripides, whose Bacchae I had been reading at odd times ..."
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.
The boards are a trifle dusty, and there is a little shadowing to the endpapers, but overall these are in truly remarkable condition - as close to "Fine" as one could find in a set that is well over a hundred years old (no dust jackets, none issued). Item #65341