Archives for old books

First Edition: ‘Five on a Treasure Island’ by Enid Blyton #oldbooks #bookcovers

In the midst of World War Two, Enid Blyton [below] continued writing. The first of her Famous Five series, Five on a Treasure Island, was published on September 11, 1942, in London by Hodder & Stoughton [below]. Next in the series was Five Go Adventuring Again, published in 1943. Illustrator of the first edition was Eileen A Soper, who illustrated her own books and those for Elisabeth Gould as well as Blyton. Her series of designs of children and animals were used for a china series by Paragon China in the 1930s. The current Hodder Children’s edition [above] dates from 2017. BUY The story Three children – Julian, Dick and Anne – spend their summer holidays with their Aunt and Uncle at Kirrin Cottage, in the village of Kirrin. There they meet their tomboy cousin Georgina, who prefers to be called George, and George’s dog Timmy. And so they become five. Exploring the nearby Kirrin Island, a storm descends and stirs up an old shipwreck from beneath the waves. Exploring the wreck, the five find a treasure map in a box and decide to find the gold. But when Uncle Quentin sells the box to an antique dealer, he wants the
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Categories: Book Love.

First Edition: ‘Couples’ by John Updike #oldbooks #bookcovers

John Updike became popular for his Rabbit series about Harry ‘Rabbit’ Angstrom and the film of his book, The Witches of Eastwick, starring a devilish Jack Nicholson. But Couples, first published in 1968 in the USA by Knopf [below], is hailed as the novel which brought the Sixties sexual revolution to literary fiction. First editions of the Knopf hardback can be found on eBay for $15, and £15 on Amazon UK. Perhaps one to lay down for the future? Updike won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction twice, in 1982 and 1991, for two of his Rabbit books. The current UK Penguin Classics edition [below] dates from 2007. Buy The story It is 1962 in Tarbox, Massachusetts. Against a backdrop of real historical events – the loss of the USS Thresher in 1963, the Profumo Affair, the Kennedy assassination – a group of ten promiscuous couples struggle to reconcile modern sexual freedoms with established Protestant sexual behaviour. The lyrical descriptions of sex made the book rather notorious. When asked about the difficulties of writing about sex, Updike said, “They were no harder than landscapes and a little more interesting. It’s wonderful the way people in bed talk, the sense of voices and
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Categories: Book design and Book Love.

First Edition: ‘1984’ by George Orwell #oldbooks #firstedition

A novel which needs no introduction, 1984 by George Orwell [below], first published in the UK in 1949, has populated modern culture with its terms. Big Brother. Doublethink. Thoughtcrime. Newspeak. Room 101. Memory Hole. It regularly features in Best Of lists. A first UK edition green jacket is for sale at Peter Harrington [above] for £4,000; the first impression was issued in either green or red jackets. Another UK first edition is also for sale, £9,750, owned and inscribed by friends of Eric Blair [Orwell], Eleanor and Dennis Collings. The current UK Penguin edition [above] dates from 2004. Buy The story The year is 1984.  Airstrip One is a province of Oceania, one of three totalitarian super states that rule the world. It is ruled by the ‘Party’, its ideology is ‘Ingsoc’, its leader is ‘Big Brother’. The people must conform to the system, spied on by the ‘Thought Police’ using two-way telescreens. Winston Smith is a member of the middle class Outer Party, he rewrites historical records to conform to the state’s vision. Winston has an affair with Julia, something which is an act of rebellion as the Party insists sex should only take place for reproductive purposes. Winston
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Categories: Book Love.

First Edition: ‘The Crying of Lot 49’ by Thomas Pynchon #oldbooks

I admit here that I read Thomas Pynchon’s post-modern novella The Crying of Lot 49 at university and enjoyed it without really understanding it. First published in 1966, it tells the story of Oedipa Maas and what happens after her ex-partner dies. Pynchon had fun creating wonderful character names, so unusual and clever they reminded me of Charles Dickens – Oedipa’s partner is Pierce Inverarity, her husband is Wendell “Mucho” Maas, Oedipa’s lawyer Metzger works for Warpe, Wistfull, Kubitschek and McMingus, and in a bar she meets Mike Fallopian. The plot is labyrinthine, it is a Marmite book, love it or hate it, and I suspects features on many people’s lists of unfinished books. It does, however, have some interesting cover design. The first edition in the USA was published by JB Lippincott & Co [above]. The current Vintage Classics edition [below] was published in 1996. Buy here The story In brief, Oedipa’s ex partner Pierce has died and she is named as co-executor of his will. The catalyst to the story is her discovery of a set of stamps which may, or may not, have been used by a secret underground postal delivery system called the Trystero. As she travels
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Categories: Book design and Book Love.

First Edition: ‘Lord of the Flies’ by William Golding #oldbooks

A moral for all times about self-governance, Lord of the Flies was the first novel of schoolteacher William Golding. It tells the story of a group of British schoolboys stranded on an uninhabited island and their disastrous attempts to govern themselves. It was not an instant hit, going out of print in the USA a year after publication, but it went onto be a bestseller. In the middle of an unspecified war, a plane crashes on a remote island in the Pacific. Fair-haired Ralph believes that grown-ups will come to rescue them, but Piggy says they should get organised. “Put first things first and act proper.” The novel explores the conflicting human impulses towards civilisation, social order, living according to the rules, with the pursuit of power. It is abrilliantly observed study of teenagers free of the usual rules and conventions imposed by adults. Artwork for the first UK Faber edition [above], published on September 17, 1954 is by Anthony Gross. The current Faber edition [below] was first published in 1997. Buy here. The story During a wartime evacuation, a British aeroplane crashes on an isolated island in the Pacific Ocean. The only survivors are adolescent boys. Two boys – fair-haired Ralph,
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Categories: Book design and Book Love.

First Edition: Ulysses

In 2009, a well-preserved first edition of Ulysses by James Joyce, first published in 1922, was sold for £275,000. It had hardly been read, except for the racy bits. The book had previously been lost, having originally been bought surreptitiously in a Manhattan bookshop despite it being banned in the USA. The book was banned throughout the 1920s in the UK and USA. Another first edition [below right] was defaced by a reader who condemned the book as pornographic; the book was still valued at €13,500. The novel was banned in the UK until 1936.  Ulysses was first serialised in parts in the American journal The Little Review between March 1918 and December 1920, before being published in its entirety by Syliva Beach [above left] in Paris on February 2, 1922 [Joyce’s 40th birthday]. Ulysses is the Latinised name of Odysseus, the hero of Homer’s epic poem Odyssey. The novel has a number of parallels with the poem including structure, characters. Leopold Bloom echoes Odysseus; Molly Bloom/Penelope; Stephen Dedalus/Telemachus; taking place in the 20th century.  A first edition dated 1922 [above] by Shakespeare & Company in Paris is for sale [at time of going to press] at Peter Harrington for
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Categories: Book Love.

First Edition: Mrs Dalloway

Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf was published in 1925 and was actually created from two short stories – Mrs Dalloway in Bond Street, and The Prime Minister. It is one of Woolf’s best known novels as all the action takes place on one day in June 1923. The story moves backwards and forwards in time, and in and out of character’s minds, as a picture of Clarissa’s life is constructed.  A first edition of the Hogarth Press 1925 edition [above right] is for sale at Peter Harrington, at time of going to press, for £1,750. Around 2000 copies of the first printing were produced. A rare first edition of the American book [below] with the Vanessa Bell dust jacket, published in 1925 by Harcourt, Brace and Company, is for sale at Raptis Rare Books for $5,500.  The story Clarissa Dalloway is making preparations for a party she will host that evening. The day reminds her of her childhood spent in the countryside at Bourton and makes her wonder at her choice of husband. She married reliable Richard Dalloway rather than the demanding Peter Walsh. When Peter arrives, the tension of her old decision resurfaces. The film A 1997 film starred
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Categories: Book Love.

First Edition: Rebecca

Never out of print, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier is loved for its opening line: “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” It is a timeless combination of romance, jealousy, intimidation, mystery & death. First published in 1938 it was an immediate hit and sold nearly 3 million copies between 1938 and 1965. Ultimately, there are a lot of secondhand editions out there. It has been translated into Chinese, French, Italian, Japanese, Russian, German, Portugese, Spanish, Persian, Hungarian, Romanian, Polish, Greek, Latvian, Dutch and Czech. That’s quite a list.  This first UK edition [above right] comes with a Menabilly headed letter from du Maurier which briefly discusses her Christmas and New Year, and is signed ‘Yours sincerely, Daphne du Maurier’. Rare, it is for sale [at time of going to press] by John Atkinson Books for £2,750. The story A naïve young woman marries wealthy older widower Maxim. When he takes her to his home, Manderley, the unnamed narrator, the young wife, learns about the first Mrs de Winter, Rebecca. Housekeeper Mrs Danvers continually tries to undermine the second Mrs de Winter, showing her contempt for the young woman, her inefficiency, her mousiness, her naivety. Believing Maxim still
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Categories: Book Love.

First Edition: The Hundred and One Dalmations

My first memory of the iconic children’s book The Hundred and One Dalmations by Dodie Smith, is actually the Disney animated film. This was quickly followed by a Puffin edition, which I sadly no longer have. That films are still being made of the story, and there is demand for old copies of the novel at rare booksellers, is, I think, testamount to the longevity of the book. Long may it continue, even if it includes no fight scenes, no dragons, no magic, no vampires or spaceships. First editions At bookseller Peter Harrington, there are three first editions available [at time of going to press].   A special edition by Heinemann 1956, £1,500, bound in white morocco with black onlay patches to resemble the coat of a Dalmation dog [above left]. The second example for sale is also a 1956 Heinemann first edition, £975, including black and white illustrations by Janet and Ann Grahame-Johnstone [above top right]. The third book, a pink leather first edition by Heinemann, 1956, £2,000, features an onlaid Dalmation on the front cover plus paw prints above lower right]. The story Pongo and Missis are a pair of spotty Dalmation dogs which live with Mr and Mrs
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Categories: Book Love.

First Edition: Jane Eyre

Is there a more iconic novel than Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte? Beloved by generations of teenage girls who identify with the eponymous Jane, her suffering, her fortitude and generosity, Jane Eyre also plays a key role in the acceptance of female authors. Bronte famously submitted the novel to her publisher under the pseudonym Currer Bell. First editions of Jane Eyre by Currer Bell are available rarely for sale. See [above] the title page of the first issue which did not include a preface by the author, something remedied in the second edition; you can read the preface here, the book is held by the British Library. The most recent sale of a first edition [above] was at Bonhams, London in 2013 for £39,650.  A three-volume edition published by London, Smith Elder & Co [above], available at Peter Harrington, is for sale [at time of going to press] for £4,500. This is a third edition; given the popularity of the novel when it was first published, around October 19, 1847, it was quickly followed by second and third editions on January 22, 1848 and April 15, 1848 respectively. This particular edition attracts a high price as there are a number
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Categories: Book Love.

First Edition: Jurassic Park

First published in the USA on November 20, 1990, Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton would, like HG Wells and Jules Verne, bring science fiction to the masses and to the movie screen. The book actually started life as a screenplay written in 1983 in which a graduate student creates a dinosaur. Then, given the fact that genetic research is expensive and there was no need to create a dinosaur, Crichton changed the story so the dinosaurs were made to put into an entertaining wildlife park. Another thing changed from first to final draft was the point of view: originally it was told from a child’s viewpoint, but Crichton changed it when everyone who read the draft felt it would be better told by an adult. A signed US 1st edition [above] is for sale [at time of going to press] on eBay for $225. Read more about the first edition of the 1991 UK hardback edition [below] published by Century at Biblio.  The story Following strange animal attacks in Costa Rica and nearby island Isla Nublar, one of the animals involved is identified as an extinct dinosaur. Palaeontologist Alan Grant and paleobotanist Ellie Satler are asked to confirm this, but are
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Categories: Book Love.

First Edition: The Secret Garden

First published as a US serial in The American Magazine beginning in 1910, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett [below] was first published as a book in 1911. The American edition by Stokes [below] featured illustrations by Maria Louise Kirk, while illustrations in the British edition published by Heinemann were by Charles Heath Robinson. Burnett was born in Manchester, England in 1849 but after the death of her father, she emigrated with her family to the Knoxville, Tennessee, USA in 1865. Read more about the Stokes first edition at Bauman Rare Books. The story Mary Lennox, born at the turn of the twentieth century to wealthy British parents in India who do not want her, is cared for by servants. After the death of her parents she is sent to England to Yorkshire, to live with her Uncle Archibald at Misselthwaite Manor. There she is bad-tempered and dislikes everything about her new home until Martha, a maid, tells her the story of Mrs Craven who loved her private walled garden of roses. When his wife died, Mr Craven locked the garden and buried the key. As Mary wonders about the secret garden, her humour and behaviour improves and she makes
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Categories: Book Love.

First Edition: A Passage to India

EM Forster was born in 1879 and was the author of a number of hugely successful novels. Many were turned into films including Where Angels Fear to Tread [1991], Room with a View [1985] and Howards End [1992]. A Passage to India was his last, and most successful novel, but he was to live on. He died in 1970 at the age of 91. This portrait [below] of Forster by Dora Carrington is dated 1924. This hardback first edition [above] is one of the rare examples which still has its dust jacket. Published in 1924 by London Edward Arnold & Co, it is now worth £9,750 at rare bookseller Peter Harrington. The story Set in the context of India during the British Raj of the 1920s, with the growing Indian independence movement, A Passage to India tells the story of four key characters: Dr Aziz, Cyril Fielding, Mrs Moore and Miss Adela Quested. Aziz is garrulous and naive, Adela something of a prig. During a trip to the Malabar Caves, Adela finds herself alone in a cave with Mr Aziz. She panics and flees. The assumption is made that Aziz assaulted her. The story of his subsequent trial examines the
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Categories: Book Love.

First Edition: An Ice Cream War

Published in 1982 by Hamish Hamilton in the UK, An Ice Cream War by William Boyd is a darkly comic novel set in colonial East Africa during the Great War. It is one of the first novels by Boyd which I read, the others being A Good Man in Africa and Stars and Bars. This first edition hardback is signed by the author and selling [at time of going to print] for £175. It was shortlisted for the 1982 Booker Prize, won that year by Schindler’s Ark by Thomas Keneally, and won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. The story An Ice Cream War follows the fortunes of several disparate characters, including an expat farmer and a young English aristocrat, as they are swept up in the fighting in German East Africa during the First World War, their lives converging amid battle, betrayal, love, comedy and tragedy. Temple Smith is an American expat who runs a successful sisal plantation in East Africa, near Mount Kilimanjaro. Before war breaks out in August 1914, Smith is on cordial terms with his German half-English neighbour, Erich von Bishop. These separate strands gradually converge as the complacency of the artificial world of the British expat
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Categories: Book Love.

First Edition: The Moonstone

Before Philip Marlowe, Sherlock Holmes and Adam Dalgliesh. Before Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. The first full-length detective novel ever published was The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. First serialised in Charles Dickens’ magazine All the Year Round, the story revolves around the theft of a precious stone. A diamond, actually, not a semi-precious moonstone. The title page of the first edition [below] shows the publisher as Tinsley Brothers, Catherine Street, The Strand, London in 1868. The story On her 18th birthday, Rachel Verinder inherits a large Indian diamond as a legacy from her uncle, a corrupt British army officer serving in India. However the diamond is not only valuable but has great religious significance, and so three Hindu priests dedicate their lives to recovering it. At her birthday party Rachel wears the Moonstone on her dress for all to see. Later the same night, the diamond is stolen. The Moonstone follows the attempts of Rachel’s cousin Franklin Blake to identify the thief, trace the stone and recover it. The first edition Of course there are many ‘first editions’ and not all date from the original publication, they may simply be the first printing by a particular publisher. Although I could find online
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Categories: Book Love.

First Edition: The Sea The Sea

The Sea The Sea by Iris Murdoch [below] won the Booker Prize in 1978. This hardback first edition, signed by the author, also features an inscription. Published by Chatto & Windus in 1978, the inscription is to Martyn Goff, administrator of the Booker Prize from the early 1970-2005. The distinctive cover features ‘The Great Wave off Kanagawa’ by Hokusai. The story Charles Arrowby withdraws from society to the seaside to write his memoir. There, he meets again his first love Mary Hartley Fitch. Again, he idolizes her and tries to persuade her to elope with him. When she won’t, he tries to kidnap her. This is a tale of obsession and arrogance To read the opening paragraph of The Sea The Sea, click here. The film The film Iris was released in 2001. Murdoch was played in youth and old age by Kate Winslet and Judi Dench, her husband John Bayley was played by Hugh Bonneville and Jim Broadbent. About their lifelong romance and then the sad descent of Iris into dementia. Watch the official trailer here. The current UK edition Still in print as a Vintage Classic edition, this is the current cover. Buy at Amazon Other editions My Triad Granada edition
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Categories: Book Love.

First Edition: The French Lieutenant’s Woman

I was a great John Fowles fan in the Eighties. This is my copy of The French Lieutenant’s Woman, dated 1981, a paperback edition by Triad Granada. It is well-thumbed, well-read, as are all my Fowles paperbacks including The Collector and The Magus. I remember being disappointed with the film, disliking the two-strand screenplay. I haven’t read the novel for years, but it remains on my shelf and I will re-read it soon. I find once the details of a story have been forgotten, the pleasure of re-reading increases exponentially. The story Famous for its multiple endings, The French Lieutenant’s Woman received a mixed reception on publication. It explores the relationship of gentleman and amateur naturalist Charles Smithson, and Sarah Woodruff, former governess and independent woman, with whom he falls in love. Set in the mid-19th century, Woodruff is a ‘disgraced’ woman who lives in Lyme Regis where she spends hours walking The Cobb, a stone jetty where she stares out to sea. Smithson arrives in town and, seeing this lonely figure beside the sea, is curious about her. The film  Starring Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons [above], this film was released in 1981 with a stellar cast, director [Karel Reisz],
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Categories: Book Love.

First Edition: Pride and Prejudice

I can’t remember the first time I read Pride and Prejudice. I read Emma at the age of 17 as part of my English Literature syllabus, my battered copy is dated August 1977 when I was 16. My copy of Pride and Prejudice [below] is dated January 1980 and was bought in my first year at university. The story Is this the most well-known story? Young woman meets young man, each dislikes the other on sight and are therefore destined to fall in love. But along the way, Jane Austen offers us a study of manners, a humorous portrait of a family of girls who have no fortune of their own and therefore must make a fortunate match. The first sentence is one of the most quoted: ‘It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.’ But this is so much more than a romance. The film For me, the best dramatic version of the book is the UK television series, broadcast in 1995 [below]. Featuring a young Colin Firth as Mr Darcy, it is famous for its ‘wet shirt’ scene. I prefer Jennifer Ehle as Lizzie
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Categories: Book Love.

First Edition: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Surely every child and adult knows the story of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll or has seen a film version. I remember receiving the LP [below] of a musical production for Christmas as a child and being enchanted. Perhaps it is a story we think we know, but re-reading may surprise us. Listen to my British musical version of the story, featuring Dirk Bogarde, Tommy Cooper, Beryl Reid and Frankie Howerd, at You Tube. The story Bored and drowsy one afternoon, a young girl called Alice notices a white rabbit, wearing a waistcoat. She follows him and falls down a rabbit hole, entering a fantasy world where she encounters fantastical creatures. She is questioned by a caterpillar smoking a hookah, plays croquet using a live flamingo, and attends the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. When Alice awakes, it seems that Wonderland was a dream. The American first edition  This is a first edition, second issue book featuring 41 illustrations by John Tenniel and published in New York by D Appleton and Co in 1866. The issue consisted of 1,000 copies. The selling price is $9750. The current UK edition Lewis Carroll’s Alice has been enchanting children for 150 years. Curious
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Categories: Book Love.

Inheritance Books: why I choose ‘Treasure Island’

Check out my father’s beautiful edition of ‘Treasure Island and what it means to me, in this interview with book blogger Rhoda Baxter. ‘Inheritance Books’ is a fascinating feature at Rhoda’s blog.Click here to read the full interview. And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: TREASURE ISLAND: my choice for Inheritance Books http://wp.me/p5gEM4-1nc via @SandraDanby @RhodaBaxter
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Categories: Book Love.