The Magic Island

Cover of the book The Magic Island showing a plain cover with a stylized sunrise embossed on it
Adoption Amount: $500
Category: Preserve for the Future
Location: National Museum of African American History & Culture Library

The magic island

By William Seabrook (1884-1945). New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1929.

The Magic Island is an illustrated account of William Buehler Seabrook’s travels in Haiti and is considered the first popular English language text to confront the idea of zombies; soon after it was published, zombie movies came to dominate American cinema. A journalist and adventurer, branded a “great traveler and terrible human," Seabrook pursued full immersion of himself into the local and the bizarre. This saga details his experiences with a voodoo priestess who initiated him into the religion's pageantries; incidents that include drinking blood, soul transference, and resurrection.  The Vodou religion emerged after slaves arrived in Haiti and integrated their old African customs with the severe realities of slavery, and in so doing created the idea of the zonbi, a word that can be traced back to the Kongo word for soul. After its release in 1929, The Magic Island became a best seller, but after his death, Seabrook has remained mostly out-of-print and his social contributions have been unappreciated. The book includes twenty moving line drawings by Alexander King, an Austrian-born author, ad artist, painter, and television personality. 

Condition and Treatment: 

Spine lining has failed, compromising the structure of the book.  Conservators will separate the textblock from the case to reline the spine and then put it back into the case. A custom box will be constructed to house the book.

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