First Edition SCI-FI Books from Peter Harrington
As you may or may not know books are my first (split with comic books, films, series, Robert Mitchum, cartoons, marzipan and beards) love.
Been reading since I was five, met my hero Roald Dahl when I was six, found my fantasy/scifi niche when I was eight, read my first novel in another language (English) when I was ten, and was at twelve the first person in my whole school who read Harry Potter. I’m telling you this to underline how much books has meant to me since.. literally I was old enough to read. So when I got to spend a day in the magic bookshop Peter harrington in Kensingon, amongst first a gazillion amazing first editions, you might get an idea how thrilled I was. I had previously made a list on their website of books I dreamt of owning and that list was still there and the Peter Harrington people were kind enough to collect them so I could touch, smell and hold them. Hence a magic bookshop.
I chose a few of the most beautiful and exquisite of the copies I saw at the shop to show you guys.
H.G. Wells was a genius. He is without a doubt one of my all time favourite writers and storytellers. He was beyond his Victorian peers even if it was in fashion to create worlds to which we could escape to. In Peter Harringon I was presented exquisite copies of two of Well’s classic novels.
The Invisible Man
This is a first edition from 1897 and just holding it is quite breathtaking, a red paperback with 149 pages with 149 pages. It was first published as a weekly installation in Pearson’s Weekly but made into a novel the same year.
The Invisible Man has a significant meaning to me, and mostly because of the 1933 incredible movie adaptation of the novel, starring Claude Rains as Griffin. I’ve seen this film so many times and I actually saw the film like 10 times before I read the novel which I always trying to avoid.
Griffin is a brilliant scientist who has discovered a way for the body to not be reflected by the sun (or something similar to that..) hence making him appear invisible, which is not appearing at all actually. But when he can’t get the the effect reversed he turns to a friend who later betrays him. Griffin decides to murder him, and that ignites his reign of terror over the country. This novel was a major milestone in the Science Fiction genre, which all of his novels were. But this is closest to my heart by a mile because of the aftermath it made in shape of an absolutely perfect film.
The other Wells I saw is probably my favourite novel from him, The Island of Dr Moreau. It is told through the first narrative of Edward Prendick, a man who after being shipwrecked finds himself saved by a passing ship and revived by a man employed by a Dr. Moreau.On the ship there are numerous animals, all transported to the Nobel’s Island, where Dr. Moreau inhabits. When entering the island Pendrick remembers the work of Dr. Moreau, which he heard of in London.
Moreau was formerly known for doing highly gruesome experiments with vivisection with animals and disappeared soon after he was publicly exposed. During the night Pendrick hears awful screamings from Dr. Moreau’s quarters and the following days he starts to encounter strange creatures.. half animals.. half men. This novel scared the hell out of me when I read it, maybe that’s the reason why it’s my number one Wells’. It is such a gruesome story, with details like it would be a document of some sort. All the creatures are vividly described and you could really imagine it to be an amazing horror film. unfortunately no one has really captured that intensity or macabre terror yet.. as we all know. The copy in Peter Harrington is the first edition with that beautiful island print on the cover. In top condition
One of the first book I had the honor of seeing was a first edition of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. A novel I’ve read several times and I almost never read a book more than once. Dr Jekyll, a brilliant scientist, experiments with human nature and the two sides which we all have, the good and the bad.
Again my love of this story is enhanced by the fantastic movie adaptations existing out there. Three incredible actors have portrayed the title role in my three favourite versions with roughly 10 years between them. John Barrymore in 1920, Fredric March in 1932 and Spencer Tracy in 1941. All of them depicts Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde very similar but acting in completely different ways. Unfortunately due to the time these films were produced the story was altered from Stevenson’s original writing. For instance, a love interest was never present in the book but was added to the films to withdraw attention from the obvious homosexual references we can find in the book. It is a novel everyone knows about for a reason, the battle between good and evil, and both parts originate from the same place. This copy was the only one that actually looked as old as it was, and for the same reason was more beautiful to look at. It is a first English edition from 1886.. yeah suck on that. you can imagine I was terrified to even turn its pages.
The Lost World was written in 1912 and I think we all know this story.. Professor Challenger, a scientist who, for many years was ridiculed for his claim of discovering a part of South America where prehistoric animals are still in existence. Edward Malone, a news reporter desperately seeking an exciting story, are sent to Challenger to investigate his story. Challenger invites Malone and a few other scientists to this remote island to prove once and for all that his story is true, but on arrival they all get trapped after one of the locals destroy the only way out of there.
I am a massive fan of Arthur Conan Doyle, and even though his Sherlock Holmes mysteries will always be my favorites this dino-tale is obviously a classic as well. The book is a lighter blue (only 190 copies of this color) )with beautiful dinosaur footprints stamped on the cover, but that’s not the most exciting element of the book. Inside we see a clear signature from master storyteller himself. Of all the book I saw, this was most exciting I think, mostly because it was signed, aka ACTUAL proof that Doyle once held the very same book as me, exactly one hundred years earlier.
next I saw a copy of Robert A Heinlein’s Beyond This Horizon which was first edition and first print from 1948, also signed. This extraordinary story was written for Astounding Science Fiction as a two parter in 1942, and was turned into novel form six years later. In it the protagonist Hamilton Felix lives in a world where genetic modification in intelligence and health are the majority and ‘un-touched’ beings are rare and well-kept. Civility is controlled by duels, hence carrying arms is part of the society. However you could dress in a specific ‘civil’ way, but that would mean resisting duelling and therefore being seen as inferior. Hamilton is what you would call a superman. He is genetically formed to perfection but is missing an important part of humanity, long term memory. Heinlein, a legend amongst sci-fi readers for many reasons. He got his writing break through Astounding Science Fiction in 1939, a magazine which launched a number of renowned sci-fi and fantasy writers, and continued producing unforgettable stories well into the eighties. Beyond this horizon was serialized in 1942 but published as a novel in 1948, which was the edition I saw.
Just before I left the shop I was lucky enough to see a first an unbelievable first edition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Circa 1818, three volumes and so delicate I was afraid to touch it. Absolutely stunning, well worth the £135.000 price tag.
Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein 196 years ago and it still holds up as one of the great Gothic tales of horror. The novel starts out with a grim documentation of a man out in the arctic exploring and stumbles upon a sight of a giant man on sled, running from something or someone. Later they find a man, half starved and half frozen to death, and he starts to tell a story about over-ambitiousness. The book continue through Victor Frankenstein’s narrative which starts in his childhood and progresses through the reasons why he started experimenting with human life. Then the story gets deeper when his creation is proven to be more than he bargained for and his whole existence is in danger. This story is probably one of the most well known of them all and there’s been numerous of different adaptations since its release. I really prefer when books are written in a epistolary narrative, ever since I read Bram Stoker’s Dracula I have loved that type of writing. It just makes the experience more real, more documented. This incredibly old copy of the classic story was.. fantastic. Three volumes that looked like they belonged in a king's library. I can no believe I got to hold these books, so old, so fragile and so rare and absolutely stunning. Did I mention that it is 196 years old? yeah..
I saw many many many more books of course, all incredible first or rare editions, and it really felt like touching history. Peter Harrington is located on 100 Fulham Road, London and deals with art as well as books.
And yeah, here's ME! with The Lost World copy, just as a proof that I actually held it.