Calendrier Magique

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The Calendrier Magique was created in 1895 by Austin De Croze, with pages decorated and illustrated by Manuel Orazi. In addition to being a calendar for the year 1896, the booklet (which was printed in an edition of 777 copies) is also a fascinating bogus grimoire which did the internet rounds a few years ago when scans appeared on a sub-site hosted by Cornell University Library. While it was good to see the pages at all, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who would have preferred a closer look at the details, something which is now possible thanks to a recent upload at Gallica.

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The Gallica copy is also downloadable as a PDF so there’s no need to replicate all the contents here. Something worth noting which did occur to me when I first saw Orazi’s drawings was the striking similarity of the letterform sigils and the doodle-like figure below to the later, more seriously-intended occult art of Austin Spare. Neither Orazi nor the Calendrier Magique receives a mention in Phil Baker’s biography of Spare but a copy of the calendar could have made its way to a London book shop where Spare might have seen it.

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Previously on { feuilleton }
Typefaces of the occult revival
Manuel Orazi’s Salomé
La belle sans nom

Form and Austin Osman Spare

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The University of Heidelberg‘s scanning programme continues to be a source of delight for those of us without professional or financial access to rare book collections. Having recently made the entire run of Der Ochideengarten available, they’ve added scans of another journal that was on my list of magazines I’d been hoping would eventually turn up online. Form was the first of two short-lived publications edited by Austin Osman Spare from 1916 to 1924, the second being The Golden Hind. Spare and co-editor “Francis Marsden” (Frederick Carter) published two issues of Form before Spare was conscripted in 1917. After the war, publication resumed with two further issues. Spare aficionados have long been familiar with the drawings in these publications, many of which have been reprinted over and over in collections of Spare’s art but often with no indication of their original context.

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Seeing the drawings in situ like this not only restores the context but also sets them beside the accompanying work by Spare’s fellow writers and artists. Some of the other contributors need no introduction—WB Yeats, Robert Graves—while others have been neglected or even forgotten. Most descriptions of Form mention its following in the lineage of The Yellow Book, publisher John Lane having been responsible for both publications. But looking through the first two issues I’d say the model is as much The Savoy, the magazine that Aubrey Beardsley and Arthur Symons put together after The Yellow Book kicked out Beardsley in the wake of the Oscar Wilde trial. Yeats was a contributor to The Savoy, and two other artists present in Form—Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon—were friends and publishers of Wilde.

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The samples here are mostly Spare’s work, and only a small selection at that. Enthusiasts are encouraged to download the PDFs for themselves. I had seen one of these issues before (Alan Moore has an enviable collection of Spare publications) but the rest were magazines I’d been waiting decades to see in full. I’m hoping now that the excellent staff at Heidelberg may have copies of The Golden Hind waiting for similar treatment.

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Continue reading “Form and Austin Osman Spare”

More Spare things

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A couple of Austin Spare-related news items arrive in the same week so it’s worth linking again to Earth: Inferno (2003), a short film by Mor Navón & Julián Moguillansky based on the book by Austin Osman Spare. This is a production I have to damn with faint praise by being pleased that Spare is the focus of the work while being disappointed in the film as a whole. Despite the elaborate costumes, careful tableaux and copious nudity, Earth: Inferno confirms that an occult film needs to be more than a record of people dressing up and gesturing hieratically. If nothing else, occult rituals transform the perceptions of those involved, and this quality should be represented or implied in any film dealing with magical operations. The films of Kenneth Anger and Derek Jarman show different approaches, with the raw image transformed by superimposition, exaggerated grain, accelerated/decelerated motion, and so on. Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome and In the Shadow of the Sun are examples to follow. And now the news:

Lost Envoy: The Tarot Deck of Austin Osman Spare, edited by Jonathan Allen & Mark Pilkington. Out later this year from the fabulous Strange Attractor.

Surrealism, Austin Osman Spare and the Occult Underground of 1890s and 1990s London:

Nadia Choucha discusses the context and evolution of her ground-breaking book, Surrealism and the Occult, first published in 1991. The book traces the evolution of Surrealist ideas and situates them within the occult currents of fin-de-siècle European culture, revealing how these currents infused the work of various thinkers and artists in their quest for the ‘marvellous’. The work of Austin Osman Spare is also discussed as a way of comparing and contrasting his methods and techniques with those of the Surrealists. With the 25th anniversary of the publication of the book approaching, this evening will also present an analysis of the work as occurring within a unique historical and cultural moment.

Jun 23rd, 6:30 pm–8:00 pm at the Last Tuesday Society, London.

Previously on { feuilleton }
A Book of Satyrs by Austin Osman Spare
Spare things
Dreaming Out of Space: Kenneth Grant on HP Lovecraft
MMM in IT
Abrahadabra
Murmur Become Ceaseless and Myriad
New Austin Spare grimoires
Austin Spare absinthe
Austin Spare’s Behind the Veil
Austin Osman Spare

A Book of Satyrs by Austin Osman Spare

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The Oxford English Dictionary notes that the word “satire” is

Formerly often confused or associated with satyr, from the common notion (found already in some ancient grammarians) that Latin ‘satira’ was derived from the Greek ‘satyr’, in allusion to the chorus of satyrs which gave its name to the Greek ‘satyric’ drama.

The word derives from “satura”

in early use a discursive composition in verse treating of a variety of subjects, in classical use a poem in which prevalent follies or vices are assailed with ridicule or with serious denunciation (OED)

but Austin Osman Spare’s A Book of Satyrs deliberately confuses satyr with satire, being a collection of satirical drawings among which may be found a small number of satyrs. Spare’s book was published in 1907 in an edition of 300 copies; it was reprinted by John Lane in 1909, and has been reissued since but any edition of Spare seems fated to vanish almost as soon as it appears, hence this unauthorised scan at the Internet Archive. Technically, these are some of the most detailed drawings that Spare produced so it’s to their benefit that the copies are a decent size; the meaning may not always be clear but you can at least wander among the accumulations of body parts, masks and bric-a-brac. Most are dated 1906, Spare’s 20th year.

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Continue reading “A Book of Satyrs by Austin Osman Spare”

Spare things

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Cthulhu Cultus: The Sun is Sick (no date) by Austin Osman Spare.

I’ve been telling people about this drawing for years but I’ve not posted it here before. Spare produced this piece after Kenneth Grant gave him some of HP Lovecraft’s stories to read. I’ve never seen it dated but it’s probably from the mid-50s when Kenneth and Steffi Grant were corresponding with Spare and commissioning new artworks. What’s notable for me is that this is probably the first Lovecraft-derived drawing that wasn’t either a magazine or book illustration, or something done for one of the horror fanzines.

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The Call of Cthulhu (1987) by John Coulthart.

Lovecraft aficionados have never seemed aware of Spare’s drawing since Lovecraft studies tended until very recently to remain fixed on popular media and the often parochial world of genre fandom. When I came to draw the swamp scene for The Call of Cthulhu in 1987 I borrowed the faces from Spare’s pillar for the column in the centre of the picture.

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Bulldog Breed.

While we’re on the subject, and in the spirit of showing how all the obsessions here connect in one way or another, Phil Baker’s excellent biography of Austin Spare notes a surprising reference to the artist that predates Man, Myth and Magic via the psychedelic music scene. Bulldog Breed were a short-lived London group, one of many being promoted by the Deram label in the late 1960s. The group’s one-and-only album, Made In England, was released in 1969. The cover art is dreadful but the final song is a number entitled Austin Osmanspare [sic], a paean to the artist that turns AOS into a typical character from British psychedelia: an eccentric, oddly named, Victorian type with a sinister and mysterious glamour. According to Baker one of the band members had an aunt who knew Spare. It’s not a bad song, and the choice of magus gave them an edge over the Beatles who went for the more obvious Aleister Crowley. “They said he was before his time…”

Previously on { feuilleton }
Dreaming Out of Space: Kenneth Grant on HP Lovecraft
MMM in IT
Intertextuality
Abrahadabra
The Occult Explosion
Murmur Become Ceaseless and Myriad
Kenneth Grant, 1924–2011
New Austin Spare grimoires
Austin Spare absinthe
Austin Spare’s Behind the Veil
Austin Osman Spare