The Chemical Wedding by Christian Rosencreutz

John Crowley  - published November 2016

November 22, 2016 · trade paper · 212 pages · $16 · 9781618731081 | ebook · 9781618731098

A new edition printed in two colors celebrating the 400th anniversary of one of the most outlandish stories in Western literature. Illustrated throughout.

A Romance in Eight Days
By
Johann Valentin Andreae

In a new version
by
John Crowley

Illustrated by Theo Fadel.
Designed by Jacob McMurray.

Christian Rosencreutz receives a seemingly miraculous invitation to a royal wedding and so begins “one of the great outlandish stories in Western literature.” Often described as an alchemical allegory, John Crowley describes it as “the first science fiction novel. . . . It’s fiction; it’s about the possibilities of a science; and it’s a novel.”

Crowley has now produced his own version of this classic and accompanies it with an introduction, copious footnotes, and an end note. This edition is designed by Jacob McMurray and each of the Eight Days is illustrated with a unique woodcut by Theo Fadel.

New: Article on the book by Hunter Styles in the Valley Advocate:
“If the long book title, inked in faux-medieval Blackletter, didn’t give it away — let alone the robotic sheep on the back cover — The Chemical Wedding is one of the weirdest and most captivating novels to come out of Easthampton’s Small Beer Press this season.”

5/9/16 – 6/3/16 Hardcover Kickstarter. Goal: $50,000. Result: 1,317 backers pledged $72,378.
Secret List (of Secret Backers of Secret Books of the Masters of the Universe)
News: Easthampton publisher unearths early sci-fi book

Read a conversation between John Crowley and Kelly Link on LitHub.
Listen: Award winning author Jedediah Berry (The Manual of Detection) and John Crowley discussion The Chemical Wedding.
Watch: two videos of Theo Fadel and the press she built.
Sample pages now available: The Chemical Wedding - Sample (1234). [free pdf download]

Audiobook.

New England Book Show: Committee Pick

New England Book Show: Committee Pick

From the Introduction:

“The Chemical Wedding by Christian Rosencreutz was published in Germany in 1616 . . . It was presented as the work of . . . Christian Rosencreutz, or Christian of the Rose-Cross, a mysterious magus who died at the age of 106 in 1484 after a lifetime of traveling the world being inducted into the wisdom societies of several lands and forming his own secret society of wise brothers. . . . These little books, plus The Chemical Wedding, which is a very different affair, became the foundation of what has ever after been known as the Rosicrucian phenomenon, or movement, or scare, or hoax. (The Ancient and Mystical Order of the Rose-Cross, or “Rosicrucian Order,” is a modern fraternity founded in 1915 and related only in name to the older one.)

Excerpt

The First Day

It was just before Easter Sunday, and I was sitting at my table. I’d said my prayers, talking a long time as usual with my Maker and thinking about some of the great mysteries the Father of Lights had revealed to me. Now I was ready to make and to bake – only in my heart, actually – a small, perfect unleavened wafer to eat with my beloved Paschal Lamb. All of a sudden a terrible wind blew up, so strong that I thought the hill my little house was built on would be blown apart – but I’d seen the Devil do things as bad as this before (the Devil had often tried to harm me), so I took heart and went on meditating.
Till I felt somebody touch me on the back.
This frightened me so that I didn’t dare turn. I tried to stay as brave and calm as a human being could under the circumstances. I felt my coat tugged at, and tugged again, and at last I looked around. A woman stood there, so bright and beautiful, in a sky-colored robe – a heavens covered with stars. . . .

Reviews

“The long title of The Chemical Wedding by Christian Rosencreutz: A Romance in Eight Days by Johann Valentin Andreae, in a New Version by John Crowley depicts with crystalline clarity the layered vision essential to enjoying the best of the imaginative genre. The original version of the book, published in 1616, shows how indebted modern storytellers are to centuries-old conversations about what lies beyond the world we’re familiar with.”
— Nisi Shawl, Seattle Times

“John Crowley’s ambition in re-configuring Andreae’s forgotten book is laudable, and Fadel’s whimsical, dark illustrations add still more modern elements to the new edition. Re-imagining the text as science fiction is an exercise that makes outdated science feel alive and relevant, where it’s so often presented as stale and superstitious. I quibble, slightly, with the designation of The Chemical Wedding as a novel. Its fictional and romantic nature is all but uncontestable. However, the fact that so many readers took Andreae’s story as true (if not in event, than in allegorical content) says something about its context, its intent, and about the reverence its original audience had towards the written word. Despite its bizarre imagery and symbolism, it bears more resemblance to John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress than it does to any contemporary novels. Andreae did dismiss his own work later in life, but whether that is due to his youth and inexperience, or the book’s whimsical content is unknown and unknowable.
“Whether you consider The Chemical Wedding a religious text, a morality tale, or a work of science fiction, however, the fact that it remains so rich in interpretations is one of its greatest strengths. It’s a read that is simultaneously dry and bizarre, but it’s anything but tiresome. Its original uncanniness is only heightened by Crowley’s new edition, and the specificity of its historical moment made more familiar.”
— Emily Nordling, Tor.com

“Readers willing to surrender to its trippy rhythms and odd narrative choices will find many pleasures therein, from Fadel’s lively and grotesque drawings to Crowley’s erudite-yet-accessible footnotes. Especially interesting are the ways in which Andreae presents such a distinctive, funny, frightening and touching view of how the universe operates. Small Beer, Crowley and his collaborators have successfully mixed together disparate elements to create a strange literary concoction that fizzes with creative energy.”
— Michael Berry, Portland Press Herald

The Chemical Wedding is full of outlandish set pieces—candles that walk on their own; a queen’s gown so beautiful it can’t be gazed upon—that might suggest an allegorical reading. But their imagery, as Crowley points out in his footnotes, is inconsistent: any allegory is defeated by the book’s sheer incongruity.”
— Peter Bebergal, The New Yorker

“A fine specimen.”
Kirkus Reviews

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Hardcover editions were made available through a Kickstarter that ran from May 9 until June 3, 2016 and was featured on: Publishers Weekly · The Guardian · Tor · Huffington Post · Vatan Kitap (Turkey) · La Nacion (Argentina) · io9 · MobyLives · The Paris Review ·

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1) 26 lettered copies. $500.

  • Signed on a two-color tipped in page by the author John Crowley, the illustrator Theo Fadel, and the designer Jacob McMurray.
  • Includes a tipped in sheet of the Wedding Invitation handwritten by the author.
  • Accompanied by an exclusive woodcut hand printed, signed, and numbered in her studio by Theo Fadel.
  • Presented in a black cloth slipcase with gold foil titles and an exclusive alternate print.
  • Smyth sewn in oatmeal linen with black and red foil stamped cover designed by Jacob McMurray and including an illustration by Theo Fadel. Printed in black and red ink on a beautiful 70# Finch Opaque Vanilla paper with red endpapers and a red ribbon.

2) 200 numbered numbered copies. $250.

  • Signed on a two-color tipped in page by the author John Crowley, the illustrator Theo Fadel, and the designer Jacob McMurray.
  • Accompanied by an exclusive woodcut hand printed, signed, and numbered in her studio by Theo Fadel.
  • Presented in a black cloth slipcase stamped with gold foil titles.
  • Smyth sewn in oatmeal linen with black and red foil stamped cover designed by Jacob McMurray and including an illustration by Theo Fadel. Printed in black and red ink on a beautiful 70# Finch Opaque Vanilla paper with black endpapers and a black ribbon.

3) A trade cloth edition: 9781618731074. $30.
Smyth sewn in oatmeal linen with black foil stamped cover designed by Jacob McMurray and including an illustration by Theo Fadel. Printed in black ink on a beautiful 70# Finch Opaque Vanilla paper with matching endpapers. Not available in bookstores.

Launch Party: 11/17/16, 7 p.m. Join John Crowley and Theo Fadel for a reading, Q&A, signing and cask opening of a specially brewed beer at Abandoned Building Brewery in Easthampton, MA.
Reading: 12/3/16, 11 a.m. John Crowley, Northampton Book Fair, Smith College Campus Center, Northampton, MA

Praise for John Crowley’s books:

“Crowley is generous, obsessed, fascinating, gripping. Really, I think Crowley is so good that he has left everybody else in the dust.” —Peter Straub

“Ambitious, dazzling, strangely moving, a marvelous magic-realist family chronicle.” — Washington Post

“A master of language, plot and characterization, Crowley triumphs in this occult and Hermetic tale, at once naturalistically persuasive and uncannily visionary.” —Harold Bloom

“Like a magus, John Crowley shares his secrets generously, allowing us to believe that his book is revealing the true and glorious nature of the world and the reader’s own place within it.” —Village Voice

“[Crowley] transforms the lead of daily life into seriously dazzling artistic gold.” —Newsday

“So rich and so evocative and so authentic.” —Tom Brokaw

“[An] intricate and stylish romp … both a Gothic extravaganza and a picaresque adventure.” —New York Times Book Review

“An eerily authentic simulation of Romantic literature … beautiful.” — Boston Globe

“Though it’s an impertinent undertaking, it’s also a beautiful success.” —Seattle Times

“A complex, nested novel of literary and biographical reconstruction … A stunning, rewarding work.” —Vancouver Sun

About the Author

John Crowley was born in the appropriately liminal town of Presque Isle, Maine, in 1942, his father then an officer in the US Army Air Corps. He grew up in Vermont, northeastern Kentucky and (for the longest stretch) Indiana, where he went to high school and college. He moved to New York City after college to make movies, and did find work in documentary films, an occupation he still pursues. He published his first novel (The Deep) in 1975, and his 16th volume of fiction (Four Freedoms) in 2009. Since 1993 he has taught creative writing at Yale University. In 1992 he received the Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. He finds it more gratifying that almost all his work is still in print. He is a three time winner of the World Fantasy Award, including the Lifetime Achievement Award. He wonders if this last can be awarded twice, since he is still some years shy of a lifetime and has a couple more ideas.

About the Illustrator

Since illustrating The Chemical Wedding Theo Fadel has discovered she is the eleventh great grandniece of Robert Fludd who defended the Rosy Cross manuscripts in 1616. He mentions building his own wooden robots and other things impossible by “mere mathematics without the co-operation of natural magic.” Theo lives in Holyoke, Massachusetts with her spouse Ruth and four cats in a charmingly old house that stands by natural magic. A native Charlottean and enthusiastic somnambulist, she grew up within a half mile of PTL’s broadcast studio and Billy Graham’s mother, watching Star Trek and Batman in a Peter Max bathrobe. When science sacrificed the moon program she turned to Dungeons & Dragons. She has a BA in Archeology from Bryn Mawr College and a Master of Architecture from Columbia University. She studied drawing, sculpture and painting at the Art Students League, NYC, while working in an old German cabinet shop. Her first day there an aged Austrian said “One hundred years and you’re the first woman we’ve seen.” Currently her studio is in Easthampton, her website is theofadel.com, and she’s been in Massachusetts less than a hundred years. This is the first book she has illustrated.

About the Designer

Jacob McMurray is the Senior Curator at Seattle’s EMP Museum, where he has organized over twenty exhibitions. He also dabbles in graphic design, focusing on books and print ephemera. McMurray lives in Seattle with his wife, two daughters, two cats, three chickens, and 50,000 honeybees.

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