"STAPLEDON CHOSE THE LARGEST SUBJECT POSSIBLE, THE MEANING OF THE UNIVERSE, AND HE TACKLED IT COURAGEOUSLY": ODD JOHN, 1935 FIRST EDITION IN SCARCE ORIGINAL DUST JACKET
STAPLEDON, Olaf. Odd John. A Story between Jest and Earnest. London: Methuen, (1935). Small octavo, original blue cloth, original dust jacket. $3000.
First edition of Stapledon's "story of a superhuman child born ahead of his time," in scarce original dust jacket.
"The story of a superhuman child born ahead of his time, taking up the theme of Beresford's Hampdenshire Wonder and extrapolating it by allowing the feral superchild to grow to adulthood and discover others of his kind, operating meanwhile as an uncompromising observer of human failings" (Barron). "For a long time sf had no sharply defined identity. In Britain, occasional novelists wrote stories in the Wellsian tradition… Olaf Stapledon, author of Last and First Men (1930) and Star Maker (1937) has a claim to being the greatest. Stapledon did not call his books 'science fiction'—the term is supposed to have been invented in America in 1929—but he was certainly aware that his self-imposed task was to illuminate, in fictional form, the perspectives of modern science. 'To romance of the far future,' he wrote in the Preface to his first novel, 'is to attempt to see the human race in its cosmic setting, and to mold our hearts to entertain new values'… Stapledon chose the largest subject possible, the Meaning of the Universe, and he tackled it courageously" (Pringle, Science Fiction: The 100 Best Novels, 9-10). Currey's first issue, second state, with eight-page publisher's catalogue at rear dated "835" (rather than "535" in the first state), noting that neither state has any claim to priority as both were bound up into first-issue copies published October 3, 1935. Currey, 378. Barron, Anatomy of Wonder II-1070.
Mild foxing to first few leaves and text block edges, spine mildly toned. Scarce original dust jacket with shallow chip to spine head and mild edge-wear, a few archival mends on verso at spine head, mild soiling to rear panel, front panel bright and clean. An exceptionally good copy of this rare early scifi classic.