A central figure who keeps popping up is the London bookseller John Denley. Scholars of occultism will recognize him as the man who lent Francis Barrett many of the texts that he cribbed for his magnum opus The Magus, or Celestial Intelligencer, and who then bought the plates from auction after Barrett didn’t even offer him a copy of his book in gratitude. He is also recognized as the bookseller D—- who is referred to at the beginning of Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s novel Zanoni:
It is possible that among my readers there may be a few not unacquainted with an old-book shop, existing some years since in the neighbourhood of Covent Garden… But there, perhaps, throughout all Europe, the curious might discover the most notable collection, ever amassed by an enthusiast, of the works of alchemist, cabalist, and astrologer. The owner had lavished a fortune in the purchase of unsalable treasures. But old D— did not desire to sell. It absolutely went to his heart when a customer entered his shop: he watched the movements of the presumptuous intruder with a vindictive glare; he fluttered around him with uneasy vigilance,—he frowned, he groaned, when profane hands dislodged his idols from their niches. If it were one of the favourite sultanas of his wizard harem that attracted you, and the price named were not sufficiently enormous, he would not unfrequently double the sum. Demur, and in brisk delight he snatched the venerable charmer from your hands; accede, and he became the picture of despair,—nor unfrequently, at the dead of night, would he knock at your door, and entreat you to sell him back, at your own terms, what you had so egregiously bought at his.
It’s uncertain how much of this was accurate and how much was Bulwer-Lytton’s known gift for hyperbole.
Further research has shown that Denley was no hermit, but instead was very much part of the local occult scene. He also published the works of Robert Cross Smith, who would later publish a series of popular astrological almanacs under the name “Raphael.” He also formed an astrologer’s aid society locally and maintained a correspondence with the “cunning folk” of the countryside. For those in both town and country he provided a wide variety of books – including our Complete Book of Magical Science, a work which a young Hockley copied for his clients.
What I’d like to find now are some of Denley’s old catalogues. I’ve found a couple kept at Yale, but these are only two of what appear to be five distributed when Denley’s stock was sold off in 1840. I’ve also caught hints of another from 1820, and it’s likely there were others. I’m venturing into uncharted research territory here, though. If anyone can give me an idea of where to find these, I’d greatly appreciate it.