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Conjuror's Magazine in very poor condition at auction now

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Philip Graves

Joined: 07 Jan 2005
Posts: 436
Location: Europe

Posted: Sat Sep 04, 2010 1:05 am    Post subject: Conjuror's Magazine in very poor condition at auction now Reply with quote

This week's star spectator attraction at auction for astrologers and astrological historians looks set to be copies of the two-year run of the Conjuror's Magazine (1791-3), which was the first monthly periodical having substantial astrological content in the English language, to the best of my knowledge.

In my observation, this magazine is not all that scarce in absolute terms, with several sets having come up at auction one way and another, and occasional isolated volumes at fixed price, in the last several years.

When it is complete in text but lacking (as usual) most of the Lavater's Essays, it tends to command prices of $400-$500 per volume. If it has both the text and the Lavater's Essays on Physiognomy, complete, which is very uncommon since basically as far as I can gather all the bound volumes were issued without them (only subscribers to the original magazine on a monthly basis would have got these), then it can sell for up to $1500 per volume.

The difference with this set is that it is in the worst condition I have ever seen, with at least two missing leaves of main text in the first volume and one in the second, and further parts of other pages lost. You'll see the pictures.

So it's really what you'd have to call a breaker's copy more or less, or a reading copy at best. I decided to give chase to an early bidder to see what he thought it was worth. So far the answer seems to be 25 for the first volume and something over 34.02 for the second. In view of the extremely rough condition, this is quite a generous price for this early in the bidding. However, I suspect it will go considerably higher.

I don't have copies of this magazine. If it were possible to get these broken copies for under 100 for the pair together, it might just be worth it for the historical interest of the articles on astrology. But otherwise, it would very probably be wiser to wait for a better set.

As said before, despite its age, this is not all that scarce. It's just rare in that whenever it comes on the market it sells.

By comparison, some of our 20th century English astrological magazines are a lot scarcer: almost all issues of the British Journal of Astrology for example, and even the first ten years of the Astrological Association's very own A. A. Journal, are extremely scarce. I think it would take a long commitment and a lot of luck to collect complete sets of either of those, and I'm certainly nowhere even close, though I know a man who has managed this!

I suppose one way to regard this lot of the Conjuror's Magazine is precisely as I suggested earlier: a breaker's copy, and to consider that the missing pages mean that only eleven of twelve issues are present in each volume, but those issues are mostly complete in themselves (a few lines of lost text here and there excepted) and could be sympathetically rebound. If assigning an arbitrary value of 20 per issue to the complete issues, and nothing to the incomplete, you could potentially look at this lot as still being worth about 220 per volume. But it will be interesting to see what the market decides.
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Philip Graves

Joined: 07 Jan 2005
Posts: 436
Location: Europe

Posted: Thu Sep 09, 2010 6:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, the market has spoken, and it decided they were worth 102 per year (204 for the pair), which works out to about 9 per issue, which is not really too bad for the first astrological monthly printed, all faults considered.

By way of comparison, on March 12 2009 Bloomsbury Auctions sold a set answering to this description (i.e. slightly more complete in its main text page count, but still imperfect and lacking most of the Lavater's material) for 480 plus Buyer's premium, which at a typical 20% would mean 576, i.e. almost three times as much as the relatively condition-challenged set sold today.

Conjuror's Magazine (The),
or Magical and Physiognomical Mirror, 2 vol., 32 engraved plates (of 112) after Lavater, and engraved "Table of the Essential Dignities of the Planets", lacking two leaves (preface to vol. 1, and index to vol. 2), some leaves and plates stained and torn, one leaf with loss of text, contemporary calf-backed boards, lacking upper cover of vol.1, [Toole Stott: Conjuring 179], 8vo, W.Locke, 1971-1792

Who was it who originated the slightly irksome expression "You gets what you pays for"? Annoying though it is, it would seem apt here.
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