“IT NEVER WAS A WAR, ANY MORE THAN THERE’S WAR BETWEEN MEN AND ANTS”: SCARCE PUBLISHER'S PRESENTATION FIRST EDITION OF WELLS’ WAR OF THE WORLDS, FROM THE COLLECTION OF WELLS’ SCIENTIFIC CONSULTANT AND FRIEND SIR RICHARD GREGORY
WELLS, H.G. The War of the Worlds. London: William Heinemann, 1898. Octavo, original gray cloth, uncut.
First book edition, publisher’s blindstamped presentation copy, of H.G. Wells’ classic and enormously influential “scientific romance.” From the collection of Sir Richard Arman Gregory, Wells’ frequent scientific advisor and lifelong friend.
"Wells' finest piece of sustained imaginative writing" (Bergonzi, 123), The War of the Worlds is the archetypal tale of alien invasion. Inspired by his brother Frank's wondering how English civilization would fare if "beings from another planet were to drop out of the sky suddenly and begin laying about them here," and informed by his own misgivings about the British Empire's destructive policies in Tasmania, Wells created a gripping, immediately popular "tour de force whose innumerable fictional offspring include numerous adaptations and homages, by far the most effective of which was Orson Welles' Mercury Theater radio broadcast of 1938" (Anatomy of Wonder II-1234). Wells' haunting vision of a mighty society abruptly brought low—as well as his appeal for "anticipation, education, and… the concerted efforts of the species" in meeting formidable challenges (Smith, 67)—has never failed to find appreciate audiences. First printed serially in Pearson's Magazine (April-December 1897). Without extremely rare dust jacket. With 16-page publisher's catalogue at rear dated Autumn 1897, Currey's Form A (Currey, 426). Hammond B5. Wells Society 14. Cutler & Stiles, 154. Publisher's small "Presentation Copy" blindstamp to title page. This copy from the collection of noted British scientist and Wells' lifelong friend Sir Richard Arman Gregory. In Wells' first work of fiction, he dedicated the work to Gregory as his "dearest friend." A professor of astronomy, Gregory also possessed expertise in physics, chemistry and other disciplines; he wrote several textbooks and eventually assumed the editorship of the journal Nature, to which Wells frequently contributed. The author often turned to Gregory, and to the experts Gregory contacted on Wells' behalf, for insight and encouragement when writing his famous "scientific romances." "As early as 1893," in fact, Wells and Gregory "had discussed Martian dwellers… [and] the supposed sighting of Martian canals" (Smith, 64). Throughout his life Gregory was a passionate advocate for science—"It is necessary to believe in the holiness of scientific work," he once declared—and "an optimist about man's future" (Horrabin, in New Scientist, April 11, 1957).
Interior generally clean. Spine slightly toned; spine ends, joints and corners lightly rubbed. An excellent publisher's presentation first edition of a seminal work, in near-fine condition, with significant provenance.