"ONE BY ONE A COW CAME BY HOWLING AROUND FOR THE MOON…": ROALD DAHL'S RARE FIRST BOOK THE GREMLINS, IN SCARCE ORIGINAL DUST JACKET, TWICE INSCRIBED BY DAHL
DAHL, Roald. The Gremlins. A Royal Air Force Story by Flight Lieutenant Roald Dahl. New York: Random House, (1943). Slim quarto, original half red cloth, pictorial boards, pictorial endpapers, original dust jacket. Housed in custom pictorial clamshell box. $13,500.
Presentation first edition of Dahl's rare first book, with 14 vibrant full-page illustrations by Walt Disney Productions, twice inscribed by him: on the half title, "To Joe and Steve with love from Roald Dahl 10/5/47," and opposite the half title, "One by one a cow came by/ Howling around for the moon/ They asked me where the hell it was/ I said it's gone you dopes—you're much too soon. R." An exceptionally elusive and desirable Dahl first edition in any condition, particularly in the original dust jacket and inscribed by him.
Dahl was sent to Washington in 1942 as an assistant air attaché for the British Embassy. After having a story published anonymously in the Saturday Evening Post, he was encouraged by C. S. Forester. He produced The Gremlins, a children's story expanding on a mythical creature enshrined for years in RAF lore (notwithstanding Dahl's claims to have invented the word) and sent it to Sidney Bernstein, the head of the British Information Service, who sent it on to Walt Disney. Disney decided to make it into a movie, at one point bringing Dahl to Hollywood to work on the screenplay. The story was published in Cosmopolitan in December of 1942, and as a book by Random House six months later. The film project, however, was sidelined and has never been produced. The story was received positively: Eleanor Roosevelt read it to her grandchildren, and invited Dahl to the White House. There are three existing editions: American, British and Australian; this, the American edition, is the first. According to Connolly, "This book is virtually unknown" (Modern First Editions, 90); Dahl chose never to republish The Gremlins. Text with two small ink corrections, probably in Dahl's hand.
Book nearly fine, with one small rub to front cover. Scarce dust jacket with two small chips and minor rubbing to extremities. A beautiful, near-fine copy.