Lot 26: LINDSAY, David: A Voyage to Arcturus (1920, first edition, first issue)
August 28, 2016
Adelaide, AustraliaLive Auction
LINDSAY, David: A Voyage to Arcturus.
London, Methuen & Co., 1920 [first edition, first issue]. Octavo, [viii] (first leaf blank), 303,  (colophon), 8 (publisher's catalogue) pages. The catalogue is undated, but the first page contains Einstein's 'Relativity - The Special and the General Theory', the first edition of which appeared in August 1920. It went into at least two more editions before year's end. Details of specific editions appear as a matter of course in this catalogue, so presumably this listing is for the first edition of the Einstein. Red cloth with gilt lettering and double rules on the spine, and blind lettering and a single-rule frame on the front cover; bottom edges uncut; cloth lightly stained, marked and bubbled, with the spine slightly faded; extremities a little bumped and rubbed, with minimal wear to the head of the rear hinge; a contemporary newspaper cutting (175 x 50 mm) of a review of the 1946 Gollancz edition is mounted on the front pastedown; ownership details on the front flyleaf; 'Original publication' written in ink on the verso of the title page (and both words and the printed publication details are doubly underlined in ink); trifling signs of use (top corner crease to two leaves; tiny stain to the top edge, impacting very slightly on the top margin of three leaves; minimal light foxing to the leading and bottom edges); a very good copy.
Lindsay's novel, now considered a seminal work of science fiction, was not a commercial success, as the review (from the Adelaide 'Advertiser' of 4 January 1947) points out at some length. Even the 'venturesome, unorthodox Mr. Gollancz' reckoned he was taking a punt in reprinting it. When he read it, he 'welcomed it as a work of genius, if a minor one, and now, when, as he says, the public will apparently buy anything labelled fiction, he is taking a chance on people welcoming a second chance of buying' it. Gary K. Wolfe, in his work on David Lindsay (Starmont House, 1982), states that 'Out of a press run of 1430 copies, only 596 were sold', making a strong case for an upper limit to the number of copies comprising the first issue.