The Winged Beetle. Aleister CROWLEY, Dorothy Olsen Association Copy.
The Winged Beetle.
The Winged Beetle.
The Winged Beetle.

The Winged Beetle.

London: Privately Printed, 1910. First Edition - Deluxe. Hardcover. Octavo. x + 228pp. Original white buckram boards with gilt titling and winged scarab design on top board. Top-edge gilt, fore and lower edges uncut. 'Glossary of Obscure Terms' bound in at rear. Copy no. 45 of a deluxe edition of 50 numbered copies printed on hand-made paper and bound in buckram (there was also an issue of 300 copies - numbered 51 - 350 - on normal paper and bound in pressed-paper boards). This copy INSCRIBED by Crowley to his "Scarlet Woman" Dorothea Olsen, by way of a holograph insertion in his handwriting dedicating the poem "Woman" (on p. 215) to her. Thus, in the margin above the poem, Crowley has written "Astrid Dorothea Olsen" and below that "(Spring of An 02 )." Although commonly known as Dorothy or Dorothea, "Astrid" was Olsen's actual first name, and she also used it as her "magical name" when she joined the A.'. A.'. in 1924. The "An 02" is presumably "Anno. 0 2": that is the second year of the first docosade of the Thelemic calendar: i.e. between March 1906 - March 1907, which perhaps is an indication of the period when the poem was written. Underneath the poem Crowley has written "Moriturus te saluto", which is of course a singular version ("I who am about to die, salute you") of the so-called "gladiator's salute" to the Emperor, "Morituri te salutant" ("Those [we] who are about to die salute you.") Crowley would surely have known the accepted wording of the original, so his decision to change the verb to the first person must be deliberate. One possible interpretation of this is that in so doing he is reflecting on the poem itself, which portrays woman as a vicious predator devouring men (the penultimate line reads "Vile animal - to slay a genius") and casting himself as willing prey to Soror Astrid's murderous charms. Perhaps needless to say the death in question is most likely the "petite mort" of orgasm. There is an additional mystery concerning the poem itself, for while it is in a section of the book entitled "Translations" and located in the midst of a group of poems from Baudelaire's "Fleurs du Mal," the original does not seem to be in that work, and we have been unable to identify its source. It certainly is by Baudelaire: it was identified as such by Crowley when he first published it, separately, in the British edition of "Vanity Fair" magazine (April 11, 1909, p. 472).
Chicago born Dorothy Olsen - "Soror Astrid" (1892-1963) - was the successor to Leah Hirsig in the office of Crowley's "Scarlet Woman", being his lover from August 1924 through October 1926. For a time Crowley was deeply enamoured of her, and presented her with a number of books, including another "regular" edition of "The Winged Beetle" which is now in a private collection in the US.
"The Winged Beetle" is a collection of poetry by Crowley with some extremely memorable dedications (see D'Arch-Smith, "The Books of the Beast"). The 'Glossary of Obscure Terms' gives an alarming and rather blasphemous alternative meaning to the third stanza of the main dedication, which could probably have only been published in this encrypted form. A photocopy of a recent, hand-written decipherment of the offending passage is loosely inserted.
The volume is most recently 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 spine of the volume is somewhat darkened, and the boards generally show some modest darkening and discoloration typical for a white volume of this vintage. Light bruising to head and tail of spine and corners. Endpapers and first and last few leaves toned, page edges dusty, but otherwise a solid, tight, clean copy VG+ of a scarce edition with a significant association. (No dust jacket issued). Item #67049

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