I jest, of course, but not only are there books with histories, scandals, and social import that rival any of their counterparts in fiction – but also there are some truly remarkable volumes available for the discerning collector.
To start with, one of the ‘classics’ would probably be Eliphas Levi’s Transcendental Magic; Its Doctrine and Ritual (1896, Redway, London). Eliphas Levi is considered one of the fathers of modern Western Ceremonial magic, whose writings and philosophy formed the essential basis for the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, modern Kabbala, and all later Judeo-Christian based systems. Originally published privately in the 1850’s (only available to members of the Golden Dawn), they were later collected and publicly published by George Redway, with an introduction by none other than Arthur Edward Thwaite (the designer of the classic Rider-Thwaite Tarot deck) in 1896. It is possible to purchase a first edition of this collected edition for as little as $600!
If your collections hanker for the most esoteric of titles, then it might be worth investigating A Blow At Modern Sadducism… (1668) by Joseph Glanville. This title can be found in reproduction facsimile for very little money, but for the truly remarkable edition consider one of the original first editions, available at auction for two thousand dollars. What makes this work intriguing is not only its age (four hundred years) but also its place in the occult cannon. It forges a direct link with the beginnings of hermetic research in the Western Mystery Tradition, as Glanville himself was a member of the Royal Society (set up just a few years earlier) and is considered the father pf psychical research, or; the study of occult phenomena.
Of course, some of the ‘evergreen’ collectibles of the occult world would be names such as Austin Osman Spare (senior member of the British occult ‘scene’ at the turn of the century, and father of a branch called Chaos Magic), Aleister Crowley, and Kenneth Grant. First Editions, signed editions, or even rare printings from these disreputable fellows are still available from prices ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand, but will only increase in value with age! A name that I might put forward might be startling to the rigorous acolyte: Dion Fortune, occultist and influential figure in the birth of Wicca. Her ‘mystic-fiction’ books can be still be found in their very first private printing (The Sea Priestess, 1938, and The Winged Bull, 1935) for very acceptable prices of a few hundred dollars. While they may not be the ancient, icon-bedecked grimoires of yesteryear, they are nonetheless important artefacts in the birth of the Neo-Pagan movement, and will only prove to be valuable links to the past in decades to come.
Glanvill, Joseph. A Blow at Modern Sadducism in some philosophical considerations about Witchcraft. Printed by E. Cotes for James Collins at the Kings Head in Westminster-Hall: London (1668). Fourth edition
Lenglet Du Fresnoy, Nicolas. Recueil De Dissertations Anciennes Et Nouvelles: Sur les Apparitions, les Visions and les Songes.. Jean-Noel Leloup: Avignon and Paris (1751).
Thacher, James. An essay on Demonology, Ghosts and Apparitions, and Popular Superstitions. Carter and Hendee: Boston (1831).
Culpeper, Nicholas. The Complete Herbal. Thomas Kelly: London (1850).
Doesticks, Q.K. Philander. The Witches of New York. Rudd and Carleton: New York (1859). Second edition
Phelps, Elizabeth Stuart. Men, Women, and Ghosts. Fields, Osgood and Co.: Boston (1869).
Kardac, Allan. Experimental Spiritism Book on Mediums. Colby and Rich (1874). First U.S. edition; Fourth edition; Translated to English by Emma Wood; Full title-Experimental Spiritism Book on Mediums: or Guide for Mediums and Invocators
Levi, Eliphas. Transcendental Magic: Its Doctrine and Ritual. George Redway: London (1896). Translated by Arthur Edward Waite
Maugham, William Somerset. The Magician. William Heinemann: London (1908).
Spare, Austin Osman. The Starlit Mire. John Lane: London (1911). 350 copies; Other authors James Bertram and F. Russell
Hodgson, William Hope. Carnacki the Ghost-Finder. Eveleigh Nash: London (1913).
Bragdon, Claude. Oracle. Manas Press: Rochester, NY (1921).
Mundy, Talbot. Caves of Terror. Garden City Publishing Co., Inc.: Garden City, New York (1924). Author pseudonym of William Lancaster Gribbon
Doyle, Arthur Conan. The History of Spiritualism. Cassell: London (1926). 2 volumes
Wirth, Oswald. Le Tarot des Imagiers du Moyen Age. Le Symbolisme/Emile Nourry: Paris (1927).
Evans, William. The Meini Hirion and Sarns of Anglesey. Published by the Author at Pen-y-BontL Red Wharf Bay, Anglesey (1927).
Dunn, Gertrude. And So Forever. Thornton Butterworth, Limited: London (1929).
Summers, Montague. The Vampire in Europe. Kegan Paul: London (1929).
Crowley, Aleister. Moonchild: A Prologue. Mandrake: London (1929).
Roberts, W. Adolphe. The Mind Reader: A Mystery. Macaulay: New York (1929).
Crowley, Aleister. The Spirit of Solitude. Mandrake: London (1929). 2 volumes; Full title-The Spirit of Solitude: An Autobiography Subsequently re-Antichristened The Confessions of Aleister Crowley
Scot, Reginald. Discoverie of Witchcraft. John Rodker: London (1930). 1275 copies; Introduction by Montague Summers
Beck, L. Adams. The Openers of the Gate: Stories of the Occult. Cosmopolitan Book Corporation: New York (1930). Author pseudonym of Elizabeth Louisa Moresby
Meik, Vivian. Veils of Fear. Philip Allan and Co., Ltd: London (1934).
Fortune, Dion. The Winged Bull. Williams and Norgate: London (1935). Author pseudonym of Mary Violet Firth
Rohmer, Sax. The Bat Flies Low. Published for The Crime Club by Doubleday, Doran and Company, Inc.: Garden City (1935). Author pseudonym of Arthur S. Ward
Fortune, Dion. The Sea Priestess. Published by the Author: London (1938). Author pseudonym of Mary Violet Firth
Mann, Jack. The Ninth Life. Wright and Brown, Ltd.: London (1939). Author pseudonym of E. Charles Vivian
De Laurence, L.W. The Great Book of Magical Art. The De Laurence Company, Inc.: Chicago (1939). Full title-The Great Book of Magical Art, Hindu Magic and Indian Occultism and The Book of Secret Hindu, Ceremonial, and Talismanic Magic
De Wohl, Louis. Introducing Doctor Zodiac. Andrew Dakers Limited: London (1940).
De La Mare, Walter. The Return. Ayer Co Pub (1940).
Crowley, Aleister. The Fun of the Fair. The O.T.O.: London (1942). Limited edition; 200 copies
Greenlees, Gavin. The Art Of Rosaleen Norton. Walter Glover: Sydney (1952). 1000 copies; Full title-The Art of Rosaleen Norton with Poems By Gavin Greenlees; Hand bound by Alan Cross
Kessler, Chester. Portrait photograph of Kenneth Anger. Chester Kessler: San Francisco (1954).
Kraus, H. P. Collection of 52 H. P. Kraus catalogues. H.P. Kraus: New York (1959).
Valiente, Doreen. Where Witchcraft Lives. The Aquarian Press: London (1962).
Crowley, Aleister. Liber Aleph Vel CXI. Thelema: West Point (1962). Full title-Liber Aleph Vel CXI: The Book of Wisdom or Folly in the Form of an Epistle of 666, the Great Wild Beast, to his Son 777
Kessler, Chester. Photograph of Lenore Kandel on the set of the original Lucifer Rising. Chester Kessler: San Francisco (1967). Other author Kenneth Anger
Kessler, Chester. Photograph of Bobby Beausoleil on the set of the original Lucifer Rising. Chester Kessler: San Francisco (1967). Other author Kenneth Anger
Castaneda, Carlos. The Teachings of Don Juan. University of California Press (1968).
Gray, William G. Seasonal Occult Rituals. Aquarian Press (1970).
Devereux, George. Psychoanalysis and the Occult. Intl Universities Pr Inc (1970).
Nicoll, Maurice. Psychological Commentaries. Stuart and Watkins: London (1970). 5 volumes; Full title-Psychological Commentaries: on the Teaching of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky
LaVey, Anton Szandor. The Satanic Rituals. University Books, Inc: Secaucus, NJ (1972).
Crowley, Aleister. White Stains. Duckworth: London (1973). 1000 copies; Introduction by John Symonds
Kiesewetter, Karl. The Occult: Irish Druids and Old Irish Religions. Ayer Co Pub (1976). Other author James Bonwick
Malak, Frater. The Mystic Grimoire of Mighty Spells and Rituals. Parker Pub Co: West Nyack, NY (1976).
Haislip, Barbara. Stars, Spells, Secrets, and Sorcery. Little Brown and Co: NY (1976). Full title-Stars, Spells, Secrets, and Sorcery: A Do-It-Yourself Book of the Occult
Crowley, Aleister. The Equinox Volume V, No. 3. Thelema Publishing Company, Nashville, TN (1980). Edited by Marcelo Ramos Motta; Contents include Crowley's versions of the Yi Jing [Yi King], Dao De Jing [Tao Teh King], Jin Gan Jing [Khing Kang King]; Full title-The Equinox Volume V, No. 3. The Chinese Texts of Magick and Mysticism The Official Organ of the A.A. The Review of Scientific Illuminism
Bleiler, Everett F. The Guide to Supernatural Fiction. The Kent State University Press: Kent, Ohio (1983).
Philosophy of Science and Occult. State Univ of New York Pr (1983). SUNY Series in Philosophy
Wagner, Karl Edward. The Book of Kane. Donald M. Grant Publisher Inc: West Kingston (1985). Signed Limited Edition; 400 copies; Illustrated by Jeffrey Jones
Gettings, Fred. Dictionary of Demons: A Guide to Demons and Demonologists in Occult Lore. Trafalgar Square Pub (1988).
Cantrell, Lana. Greatest Story Never Told. Biohistorical Press: Cottage Grove, MN (1988). Full title-Greatest Story Never Told - A Scientific Inquiry into the Evidence of the Fall Man From A Higher Civilization in Antiquity
Mebane, John S. Renaissance Magic and the Return of the Golden Age. University of Nebraska Press (1989). Full title-Renaissance Magic and the Return of the Golden Age: The Occult Tradition and Marlowe, Jonson, and Shakespeare
Crowley, Aleister. Amrita: Essays in Magical Rejuvenation. Thelema Publications: Kings Beach, CA (1990). Introduction by Martin P. Starr; Foreword by Soror Grimaud; Signed Limited Edition; 1000 copies; Contents: The Elixir of Life; Our Magical Medicine; The Elixir of Life I and II; The Order of the Purifications on Waking; Remarkable Experiment
Raleigh, A. S. Occult Geometry and Hermetic Science of Motion and Number. DeVorss and Company (1991).
Grant, Kenneth. Hecate's Fountain. Skoob Books Pub Ltd: United Kingdom (1992).
Basham, Diana. The Trial of Woman. Palgrave MacMillan: United Kingdom (1992). Full title-The Trial of Woman: Feminism and the Occult Sciences in Victorian Literature and Society
Prichard, Kate. Flaxman Low Psychic Detective. Ghost Story Press: London (1993). Illustrations by B. E. Minns; 200 copies; Other author Prichard Hesketh
Spare, Austin Osman. From the Inferno to Zos. First Impressions: Seattle and Thame (1993). 3 volumes; Edited and Compiled by Anthony Naylor; Other authors F.W. Letchford and W. Wallace
Greed, Clara H. Women and Planning: Creating Gendered Realities. Taylor Francis Ltd: United Kingdom (1994).
Semple, Gavin. Zos-Kia. Fulgur Ltd.: London (1995). 600 copies; Other author Austin Osman Spare; Full title-Zos-Kia: An Introductory Essay on the Art and Sorcery of Austin Osman Spare
Godwin, Joscelyn. Music and the Occult. Univ of Rochester Press (1996). Full title-Music and the Occult: French Musical Philosophies
Plangiere. Grimoirium Verum. Trident Books: Seattle, WA (1997). 500 copies
Yates, Frances Amelia. The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethan Age. Routledge (1999).
Sugimoto, Hiroshi. Hiroshi Sugimoto: Theaters. Sonnabend Sundell Editions and eyestorm: New York and London (2000). Signed edition; 1000 copies; Other author Hans Belting; Designed by Takaaki Matsumoto