Barr, James. The Witchery of The Serpent. London: Gay & Bird, 1907.
First edition. 8vo. Publisher’s ochre cloth beautifully decorated in black with a wraparound images of young lady, cliffs and titular sea serpent. Minor edgewear and bumping, a very good, very clean copy indeed. Internally clean, fore-edge untrimmed. Book plate of Jim Whitford, noted collector of the weird and criminous, to front paste-down. A scarce work from a Canadian author of science fiction, giving a vivid and fluidly written account of the mysterious appearance of a giant sea serpent upon a Scottish beach and the chaos its arrival and subsequent disappearance, causes. Notable at the time for its detailed insight into the unsavoury career of Fleet Street journalism, it also carries a rather romantic subplot and a healthy dose of head shaking oddity. Throw in a bit of gender politics regarding “New Women” and lady journalists, and a fair amount of jaunty purple prose and you have a rather neglected Wodehouse-ian sea serpent romp. The title, I was actually rather surprised to learn, comprises a whole phrase often used in tabloid journalism of the time to refer to the hypnotic and fatal effect of meeting the gaze of a snake...also in typical misogynist fashion it refers to the way in which women can turn a chap’s head away from decency. Very rare.