London: W. Collins, 1922. First Edition - Special W. H. Smith Binding. Hardcover. Octavo. [x] + 368pp (+ vipp publisher's adverts at rear). Maroon cloth with black titling within a decorative border above the W. H. Smith logo on the front board, and black titling to the spine. A most unusual variant bound up from the sheets of the first edition. The major British newsagent and bookseller W. H. Smith ran a circulating library service from 1860 to 1961, and evidently one of their buyers made the unlikely decision that "The Diary" would be a popular choice, and ordered in a number of copies for their lending library. The library was evidently quite a massive concern, and the company had the books that it ordered neatly rebound into their own bindings, with their logo (within which is "ex-libris") printed on the front board. It is not known how many copies of each title they ordered, but it was presumably a reasonable number or it would not have been worth their while to especially set up the titling for the spine and front cover.
"The Diary of a Drug Fiend" is of course of one of Crowley's most famous books. It is testament to the initial popularity of the book that the second impression was issued in the same month as the first (November 1922) before adverse publicity seems to have caused the publishers to quietly stop promoting it (it was not banned as sometimes suggested). Interestingly this is a first impression, suggesting that Smith's ordered it before or at the time of publication.
The book itself is a landmark work in the annals of drug literature: focussing on the destructive effects of heroin and cocaine addiction, and positing the practice of magick and the discovery of one's true will as a curative. One of the characters - King Lamus - is clearly a romantic self-portrait by Crowley, and Lamus's "Abbey of Thelema" at Telepylus an idealised version of Crowley's own Abbey at Cefalu.
From the collection of Clive Harper with his discreet 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 volume has obviously been heavily read. The cloth is rubbed through to the boards at several places on the bottom edge, and the binding is generally marked and shabby. The book is lacking the half-title page (it may not have been bound into the WHS copies) and the text is quited darkened and foxed, particularly to the first and last few pages and the edges. Previous owner's name and address and acquisition date (September 1924) on the first blank. This is not surprising - circulating libraries would normally buy a large number of copies of what was likely to be a popular book when it first came out, but then sold off most secondhand after a year or two when demand had died off. Truly not a lovely copy, but basically solid and about Good condition, and the only example of this WHS variant that we have ever seen. Typically lending libraries would not have retained or created a dust jacket when they took on a book, so with this binding none is called for. Item #69795