INSCRIBED BY HOUDINI: 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. $6200.
First edition of Houdini's controversial attack on fraudulent mediums and psychics, a work he described as his "monument," inscribed across an entire page in the year of publication to a columnist at The Morning Telegraph: "To Merle Sumner with best wishes, and hope my book will always bring back pleasant thoughts of Houdini. May 16/24."
"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. With 16 photogravure plates, including frontispiece of Houdini and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and numerous in-text illustrations; errata leaf tipped in between pages x and xi. Without very scarce dust jacket. This copy is inscribed to Merle Sumner, a columnist specializing on celebrity and society at The Morning Telegraph. In 1924, Sumner wrote an article offering the highlights of Houdini's career and announcing his new ambition to become a playwright. According to Houdini expert John Cox, the plot summary Houdini provided was identical to the 1919 film he starred in, The Grim Game. Houdini neither wrote the film nor had rights to it, suggesting that this may have been a publicity stunt. Tiny bookseller ticket.
Only mildest toning to interior, light rubbing and toning to extremities, cover gilt bright. A near-fine inscribed copy.