Thursday, May 27, 2010


In an issue of the Antiquarian Bookman for 1952 Boris de Zirkoff described the term “Blavatskiana” as follows: I think it can be truthfully stated that there exists today a field that might be called ‘Blavatskiana’, considering the many editions of her well known works, and the projected editions of her less known and scattered writings and letters.Under this heading (first used in William T. Stead’s Borderland in the 1890s) we propose to feature an ongoing series that looks at books that fit into this category. Not just any books about or by Blavatsky, but those of undeniable merit, indispensable for a greater understanding of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky. The focus will also be on the copy.

The late Robert Lee Wolff, former head of the History Department at Harvard, used this term in his eminently readable Strange Stories and other Explorations in Victorian Fiction:

 The copy is usually but not always a first edition; it is usually but not always a copy inscribed by the author; it may be the dedication copy—that inscribed to the book’s dedicatee; but it is not necessarily any of these. The copy is one that so compellingly evokes for its owner the author of the book, the circumstances under which it was written, its impact on its time and on readers since its appearance, its meaning, in the largest sense of that term, that the owner smugly says: this is it, the copy.

In regard to one of HPB’s best known books, The Secret Doctrine, the copy might be the one she inscribed to Archibald Keightley:

To Archibald Keightley, my truly loved friend and brother, and one of the zealous editors of this work; and may these volumes, when their author is dead and gone, remind him of her, whose name in the present incarnation is
H.P. Blavatsky   

My days are my Pralayas, my nights—my Manvantaras.

H.P.B., Feb. 1, 1889    London

Until thirty years ago, such an inscribed volume might still have been picked up from an out-of-print book dealer for under $200. U.S. Today, it would be out of the range of most mere mortals. So, in this series, we have decided to look, on a less elevated level, at what the copy in theosophical literature might be for our times.

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