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Black Magic! Classic piece of Gothic horror sells for £1,200

A 1909 first edition of Black Magic by Marjorie Bowen

A 1909 first edition of Black Magic by Marjorie Bowen – an influential piece of Gothic fiction – has sold for £1,200 on AbeBooks. Signed and inscribed, this book is very rare with just three other copies from 1909 listed for sale on our marketplace.

Black Magic begins with the ominous line: “In the large room of a house in a certain quiet city in Flanders, a man was guilding a devil.” That man is Dirk Renswoude, a loner from a noble family who has been mistreated in some unspecified way. He meets Thierry, a young scholar on his way to study in Basle and they discover a shared fascination with the black arts. Their experiments lead to murder.

The Viper of Milan by Marjorie Bowen

Bowen (1885-1952) wrote many books, including historical romances, supernatural horror stories, history and biographies. Bowen was one of several pen names she used and her actual name was Margaret Gabrielle Vere Campbell Long.

Graham Greene mentioned Bowen when he was interviewed by the Paris Review in 1953: “I chose Marjorie Bowen [as a major influence] because as I have told you, I don’t think that the books that one reads as an adult influence one as a writer…But books such as Marjorie Bowen’s, read at a young age, do influence one considerably.”

Born on Hayling Island, Hampshire, Long came from a poor family and she had no formal education. Her first novel – The Viper of Milan, set in 14th century Italy – was published when she was just 21 after being rejected by 11 publishers. The author was paid £60 for her work, according to The Independent, and she became the breadwinner for her impoverished family.

Greene wrote a foreword to a 1960 edition of The Viper of Milan, a romance, published by the Bodley Head.

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