Lot 141: Very Early Letter by HG Wells Mentioning His Most Famous Work, The Time Machine
Presidential Letters, Free Franks & Speeches: Washington to Bush + Important Autographs in History, Science & the Arts
26 October 2016
New York, NY, USALive Auction
Description: Very Early Letter by H.G. Wells Mentioning His Most Famous Work, The Time Machine********** WELLS, H.G. (1866-1946). English journalist, historian and author of The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds and The Outline of History. ALS. (“H.G. Wells”). 4pp. 8vo. Woking, (November 11, 1895). On his personal Lynton stationery to noted publisher J.M. DENT (1849-1926) who created the Temple Shakespeare and Everyman’s Library series. ********** “I don’t think for a moment that what you offer is the highest price I could get out of you for a colonial Edition, but I agree nevertheless, because I fully appreciate your vigorous advertisement. But I’m a little afraid of America. Suppose Macmillan’s customers with a colonial edition smuggle from Canada to the U.S. can Macmillan’s with an American editor be relied upon to take legal proceedings? I would rather Canada was excepted, but I leave this to your discretion entirely. For the sake of clearness I will repeat your terms (with one trivial clause added) as I understand them. I am to have a penny a copy on all copies sold [by] Macmillan’s for a colonial edition, provided that they take up at least 3000 forthwith. By return I am to receive a cheque on account of ₤13. Two copies of the edition in paper covers are to be sent me. On the fly leaf opposite the title page, press notices of the Time Machine are to be printed such as you have on the leaflet inserted in some of your books (but not as I understood you to promise in The Wonderful Visit). To these terms I am quite willing to agree…” ********** “Impatient, irascible, and unpredictable,” Wells was remarkable for his foresight and imagination, (DNB). His works first appeared in print in 1895. Between January and May The Time Machine, his masterpiece of science fiction, was serialized in The New Review, and was published in book form in May by Henry Holt and Company. During the same year, Dent published Wells’ The Wheels of Chance, a comic novel about the newly popular bicycle. The subject of our letter is likely his fantasy novel The Wonderful Visit, also published in 1895 by Dent as part of Macmillan’s Colonial Library and “intended for circulation only in India and the British Colonies.” Our letter expresses Wells’ fear that the colonial edition, distributed in Canada, will lead to an American pirated edition unless American editors at Macmillan move to prevent it. ********** Trained as a bookbinder, Dent founded the publishing firm J.M. Dent and Company in 1888, focusing on small print runs and high quality volumes of such authors as Chaucer, Tennyson and Jane Austen. However, he found success by constantly evolving his business, eventually publishing textbooks, travel guides and children’s books and, in 1894, publishing his successful Temple Shakespeare series. He also remained competitive by marketing his books in foreign English-language markets such as Australia, Canada, South Africa, and the United States. A November 1898 issue of The Publishers’ Circular explains the practice of issuing a colonial edition: “For more years than we can remember it has been the rule to issue home and Colonial editions of British novels simultaneously, and it invariably happens that a book which has a good run in this country becomes popular in the colonies also,” (The Publishers’ Circular and Bookseller’s Record of British and Foreign Literature, Vol. LXVIII, No. 1690, November 19, 1898). ********** Folded and written in Wells’ compact hand. Docketed in ink and pencil in the upper margin, with some overall light age-wear and dust-staining. Letters by Wells this early and mentioning The Time Machine are rare.