The Three Imposters, or The Transmutations by Arthur Machen


Only 1 remaining

London: John Lane, Boston: Roberts Bro's., Keynote Series, 1895. First edition. 290 pages, 14pp rear catalogue, further 16pp inserted at rear. Title-page and upper cover design by Aubrey Beardsley. Original dark navy cloth, spine lettered in gilt. Slight shelf-wear to edges, minor foxing present, corners rubbed to the extremities, binding tight and contents clean; an attractive copy usually seen in a much worse state. 

'A novel of several interconnected tales that culminate in a denouement of deadly horror, relating to a secret society devoted to pagan rites. The three impostors are members of this society who weave a web of deception in the streets of London, as they search for a lost Roman coin commemorating an infamous orgy by the Emperor Tiberius. 

Machen noted that a number of events in his life mirror themes in book, most notably a conflict within the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn between William Yeats and Aleister Crowley. 

In his autobiography Things Near and Far Machen writes;

"It was in the early spring of 1894 that I set about the writing of the said "Three Impostors," a book which testifies to the vast respect I entertained for the fantastic, "New Arabian Nights" manner of R. L. Stevenson, to those curious researches in the byways of London which I have described already, and also, I hope, to a certain originality of experiment in the tale of terror."

At least two of the novel's tales, "The Novel of the Black Seal" and "The Novel of the White Powder" influenced the work of H. P. Lovecraft. In his survey Supernatural Horror in Literature, Lovecraft suggested that these stories "perhaps represent the highwater mark of Machen's skill as a terror-weaver." Therefore highlighting the importance of The Three Imposters as a fundamental text in the history of weird, supernatural and horror fiction.