RARE FIRST EDITION, PRESENTATION COPY, OF ROALD DAHL'S THE WITCHES, WARMLY INSCRIBED IN THE YEAR OF PUBLICATION BY ROALD DAHL TO HIS SON'S CLOSE FRIEND, AN AFTER-SCHOOL EMPLOYEE AT DAHL AND SON ANTIQUES, WHO HELPED WITH SCHOOL DETAILS IN BOY AND MAY HAVE SERVED AS THE MODEL FOR BLAKE'S COVER ILLUSTRATION
DAHL, Roald. The Witches. London: Jonathan Cape, (1983). Octavo, original blue-green cloth, original dust jacket. Housed in a custom clamshell box. $13,500.
First edition, presentation copy, of Dahl's Whitbread Award-winning children's novel, with in-text illustrations by Quentin Blake, warmly inscribed in the year of publication across the entire front endpaper to a close friend of Dahl's son, Theo, and a frequent visitor to Dahl's writing hut during the writing of Boy: "To Justin with love, Roald Dahl. Oct. 28th 1983."
"Roald Dahl knows every bit as well as Bruno Bettelheim that children love the macabre, the terrifying, the mythic. In his latest book, The Witches, a 7-year-old orphan boy, cared for by his Norwegian grandmother, discovers the true nature of witches and then has the misfortune to be transformed into a mouse by the Grand High Witch of All the World… It is a curious sort of tale but an honest one, which deals with matters of crucial importance to children: smallness, the existence of evil in the world, mourning, separation, death… The Witches is finally a love story – the story of a little boy who loves his grandmother so utterly (and she him) that they are looking forward to spending their last few years exterminating the witches of the world together" (Erica Jong, New York Times). "Dahl seems to have made an art form of the rediscovery that children tend to warm to the sorts of horror that make lesser mortals (adults) squirm with displeasure… He is undeniably special" (Connolly, 104). The recipient of this copy was a close friend of Theo Dahl, the author's third child and only son. The owner spent considerable time at the Dahl house in Great Missenden and even managed to secure an after-school job at Dahl and Son Antiques on the High Street, run by Theo and Roald Dahl's sister, Alf. He also frequently accompanied his stepfather, the Dahls' handyman, on jobs at the Dahl's home. During the construction of a bungalow on the property, the recipient found his way into Roald Dahl's writing hut, where he played on the floor and discussed boarding school. Dahl began writing Boy during this period. In a recent statement, the recipient recalled meeting Quentin Blake outside the hut as Dahl was completing Boy and said that Blake sketched him in ten minutes, using him as the model for the cover. This is one of five books Dahl specially inscribed to the recipient.
A fine inscribed copy with an outstanding provenance.