INSCRIBED BY HOUDINI TO SCOTLAND'S MOST FAMOUS VARIETY ENTERTAINER IN THE YEAR OF PUBLICATION: FIRST EDITION OF MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS, 1924
HOUDINI, Harry. A Magician Among the Spirits. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1924. Tall octavo, original gilt-stamped blue cloth, original dust jacket. Housed in a custom clamshell box. $8500.
First edition of Houdini's controversial attack on fraudulent mediums and psychics, a work he described as his "monument," illustrated with 16 photogravure plates, including frontispiece of Houdini with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, boldly inscribed by him in the year of publication: To my good friend Sir Harry Lauder best wishes Houdini July 14—1924."
"Houdini, whose real name was Erik Weisz, was one of the most famous magicians and escapologists of all time… In this book, published in 1924, he described the mediums and psychics whom he revealed as fraudulent, exposing the tricks which had convinced many notable scientists and academics… The book is a fascinating account of superstition and gullibility" (Cambridge Library Collection). "No phase of Houdini's career created more controversy and furor than his attacks on fraudulent spirit mediums and psychic swindles… The wave of spiritualism that followed WWI had been fanned to the proportions of a tempest by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle when he toured America affirming his belief in spirit communication…. In taking the opposite side of the question, Houdini automatically plunged himself into something more than a controversy; namely, a full-fledged career" (Gibson & Young, Houdini on Magic, 121-22). Houdini described A Magician Among the Spirits "as his 'monument…. Once again the title had that brash irony that Houdini had made his trademark. A magician could never be among the spirits; the spirits were precisely what the magician dispelled" (Phillips, Houdini's Box). Copyright page with "First Edition" and code "C-Y" indicating publication in March 1924. This copy is inscribed to Sir Harry Lauder, "Scotland's Greatest Ever Ambassador" according to Winston Churchill. Lauder was a Scottish singer, vaudevillian, and comedian. By 1911, he was the highest paid performer in the world. Lauder was so famous that "his death drew a leading article from The Times, tribute to his enormous standing within British public life, and only his most hostile critics would deny him a position among the leading half-dozen variety artists of all time" (DNB).
Book near-fine, with faint offsetting to inscription page and only light rubbing to cloth extremities. Rare price-clipped dust jacket very good, with a bit of dampstaining to extremities, wear and toning to extremities and large repair to rear panel. An extremely good inscribed copy with fascinating provenance.