[UK]: [The Artist], 1941. First Edition, The Rare First Issue. Octavo, softcover (8 x 5 inches), stapled at spine. Original pictorial wrappers, the upper wrapper reproducing in colour an early design of the first trump, 'The Magician' (when the deck was eventually published the title of this card was changed to 'The Magus' and a very different design was used); stapled at spine. 20 pp. THE RARE FIRST ISSUE, with the title page intact. THE ARTIST'S OWN COPY, with her ownership inscription in pencil on the verso of the title page “Frieda, Lady Harris" and with a short shopping list in her hand (also in pencil) on the rear wrapper “Shoes - Hollywood, Pilchards”. The title page reads: “Exhibition of Playing Cards. The Tarot (Book of Thoth) 78 Paintings According To The Initiated Tradition And Modern Scientific Thought With Other Occult And Alchemical Designs. To Be Shown At The Nicholson Gallery (Nicholson & Venn) At 46 High Street Oxford From June 7 to June 21 1941 e.v.". Small circular stain to front cover, larger stain to upper corner of rear wrapper, corners a touch knocked; a very good clean copy. Item #313114
¶ The catalogue produced to accompany the first exhibition of Frieda, Lady Harris's Paintings for Aleister Crowley's Thoth Tarot cards, which was supposed to have been held at the Nicolson & Venn Galleries in Oxford, June, 1941. The catalogue commences with a two-page Introduction "THE TAROT (Book of Thoth)" followed by brief descriptions of the attributes of the 78 cards. The text is unsigned and is presumably by Harris but would certainly have been written up from notes provided by Crowley. The catalogue is also notable for having the first image of any of Crowley's Thoth tarot cards ever printed - the book to accompany the deck, THE BOOK OF THOTH, was issued in a limited edition with a few colour plates in 1944, and there were a few proof impressions of a few of the cards printed at that time (the deck itself was not issued in colour until 1973).
Frieda Harris began work painting the Tarot cards in 1939 and by 1941 she had finished preliminary (and in some cases final) versions of the watercolour paintings. Keen to exhibit them but wary of the public's response if it became known that Crowley was involved she made arrangements for a show to be held at the Nicolson and Venn Galleries in June, 1941. Crowley was persuaded not to attend and to keep his involvement with the exhibition as quiet as possible. Despite all these precautions, Nicolson and Venn withdrew from the arrangement at the last minute, fearful of the adverse publicity that it would attract. Harris was forced to move the exhibition to a rapidly rented room at the (conveniently close) Randolph Hotel.
Crowley was understandably furious when he was informed of their decision and in a letter to Lady Harris quickly wrote "I would like a package of catalogues with the names of any liars and thieves cut out". Lady Harris obliged, removing the lower half of the title page which bears the name and address of the gallery along with the dates of the ill-fated exhibition. Harris then re-used the catalogues at the new venue at the Randolf Hotel and there is no doubt that she clipped the title pages of the vast majority of copies as they are very rarely seen intact such as in this copy.
Lady Harris' signature and the short (shopping?) list in her hand, along with the unclipped "first state" nature of this catalogue surely shows that this copy was not distributed but retained by Frieda, Lady Harris; artist executant of Aleister Crowley's Thoth Tarot Cards.
Price (USD): $2,500.00