This week I did a lot of work on The International
pages at the library. Working on those had me thinking about the time that I visited the Library of Congress in DC and actually held bound copies of the original issues they have there on the closed stacks.
Back in 2010, I did a little tour of the east coast, visiting local bodies of OTO, attending a Lon Milo DuQuette presentation at Tahuti, get some cool frames at Moscot
since I was just starting to wear glasses for the first time, checking out the White Dog Café (located in the brownstone where Blavatsky had a white dog lay on her leg
at night as a cure) in Philadelphia, looking for absinthe bars, seeing the cherry blossoms in DC again, and various other things, some of which I can’t talk about. It was a fun trip!
But, one of the most important parts of the trip, that I can talk about, was that I planned to visit the LoC in order to check out what they have at call number LOC AP2.I72. Actual physical issues of The International.
I’ll tell you it was a kind of lengthy ordeal just getting in and then getting them in hand. I had to go through the process of getting credentialed as a researcher, and then there was a whole thing once I was in where I had to submit requests for the material, and then waited for over an hour before I managed to switch to a different building I was told was close to where the volumes were stored, and finally started to get access.
I still have my LoC id card. I also still get frequent email about on-site LoC updates which are entirely useless to me now, but I can’t quite bring myself to unsubscribe from them.
As I say at Hermetic Library, “The International
was a literary and arts journal founded by George Sylvester Viereck
, published in New York between WWI and WWII. For a number of years during the period of silence between The Equinox
Volume I and Volume III, Aleister Crowley was a contributing editor for this journal and many essays, poems and plays appeared under various names (including Baphomet and The Master Therion) authored by him. For example, the first publication of the Gnostic Mass, which became Liber XV
, appeared in this journal. Also, several of Crowley’s Simon Iff
stories appeared in the pages of The International, under the pseudonym Edward Kelly.”
I’ve been known to call The International, slightly joking, Equinox Vol II because of the fact that a number of important documents were published there, including the first publication of the Gnostic Mass. But a surprising number of items in a secular publication by Crowley in here that’s overtly Thelemic and directly related to magick, and, whilst he was still pretending these were different people, Therion and VVVVV; along with many other pseudonyms. This was an interesting period in Crowley’s life, and a lot was going on. (You might check out Tobias Churton’s book Aleister Crowley in America: Art, Espionage, and Sex Magick in the New World
if you want to read more about that.)
But, since I discovered that these issues existed, I wanted to see them and check them out!
I don’t have pictures of the issues or the inside of the LoC. There was a sign about no photography, so no photos; and I didn’t yet have a portable hand scanner, so no direct scans.
The first bound volume available is Dec 1910-May 1911 and (vol 3-4) and is surprisingly in large format, larger than the later issues. The first issue is misprinted as Vol I, Iss 1, but it really is Vol 3.
The issues through May 1911, so all of vol 3, have a glossy cover with an atlas figure holding up a giant-torso-sized book, with a smaller man in a suit taking notes, looking up at the face of atlas as if in conversation. in front of the man taking notes and on the ground, is his attache case and a bowler hat. The title is simply “The International”, with the masthead adding the subtitle, “Successor to Moods”.
Beginning with Vol IV, No 1; June 1911, the covers change to a kind of semi-glossy parchment-style cover with deconstructed, hand-lettering and wood cut detail. Now, “A Liberal Magazine of Literature, International Politics, Philosophy & Drama.”
Vol 10, 1916 is in a smaller, closer to letter size aspect pages. Now published by The International Monthly, Inc. the cover proclaims, “The International” with the initial and final letters cropped, not clearly an artifact of binding because the interior and back cover do not also appear cropped. The subtitle is “Edited by George Sylvester Viereck.”. On this interior odd pages have a heading “a review of two worlds”, but this does not appear on the title or cover pages.
The last volume on shelf is 12. April 1918 is in very bad shape, acidic paper is falling apart and a really bad misprint on p109 where the paper was folded in the press.
Look, I know those aren’t super old documents from the dawn of history or anything, but there is something bittersweet and intense about holding crumbling history in your hands.
Over the course of an entire day at LoC, I went through and made a lot of other notes, looking for articles, obviously and less obviously, that were by Crowley, and checking out what else these issues had in them.
Ancient history isn’t the only history that we are losing every day that we don’t work to preserve it; and I hope that my work at Hermetic Library is in at least some small part of helping to preserve, catalogue and make accessible archives of occult materials and ideas that are part of our collective past that also help to inform our present and future as students, practitioners, academics and, yes, even the general public.