1911 The Phantom of the Opera: Gaston Leroux

1911 The Phantom of the Opera: Gaston Leroux


The Phantom of the Opera was first published in French as Le Fantome de l’Opera as a serial in the magazine Le Gaulois from 1909 to 1910. It first appeared as a book in March 1910 under the same title, published in Paris by Pierre Lafitte. The story was based on some of the myths and stories associated with the Opera Garnier in Paris and a plot element from Carl Maria von Weber’s production in Paris of his best-known opera Die Freischutz.

Gaston Leroux (1868-1927) wrote more than sixty novels, but is now only remembered for the Phantom, largely because of the many stage and film versions that it has inspired, culminating in the now immortal musical version of Andre Lloyd Webber in 1986.

The first edition in English appeared in 1911, published in New York by The Bobbs-Merrill Company, with a coloured frontispiece and four double page folding coloured plates. This is the edition that most English-speaking collectors want to find. The dust wrapper is famously rare and most copies don’t have the dust wrapper present. 

Here it is the book and its wrapper.

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1902 The Hound of the Baskervilles: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

1902 The Hound of the Baskervilles: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle


Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s (1859-1930) most famous creation, Sherlock Holmes, mostly appeared as the hero of short stories that were first published in The Strand Magazine, before being published as collected stories by the magazine’s publisher George Newnes. All of these are highly collectible, but the real prize for the book collector are the first editions of the four Sherlock Holmes novels; A Study in Scarlet (1887), The Sign of Four (1890), The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902) and The Valley of Fear (1915).

The Hound of the Baskervilles is clearly in the Gothic tradition, with the misty, boggy Dartmoor setting, the tales of a supernatural hound, a cursed family, a dreadful face hinting at a ghastly death, and the Gothic Baskerville Hall. Doyle himself described the story as a “Victorian Creeper”.

 The story first appeared in serialised form in 1901-1902 in The Strand Magazine, accompanied by the very apt illustrations by Sidney Paget. The first book form, published by Newnes in 1902 is the most elegantly bound of all four of the Holmes Novels and is highly desirable. The top board, designed by Alfred Garth Jones, is shown below.



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1897 Dracula: Bram Stoker

1897 Dracula: Bram Stoker


Abraham “Bram” Stoker (1847-1912) was an Irish writer and theatrical manager, who spent most of his working life as the theatre manager and friend of the great actor Sir Henry Irving.
Stoker worked for about ten years to produce his most famous work, Dracula in 1897.

Part of the inspiration for Dracula came from a family holiday that Stoker spent at Whitby in Yorkshire in 1890, together with some childhood memories of seeing dessicated corpses in the crypt of a Dublin church. The result was Dracula, published by Constable in 1897 in a striking yellow cloth binding with blood red text. His publisher felt that the original text was a little too long and encouraged Stoker to edit his work to produce an abridged edition. This was published by Constable in 1901, in the most collectible dust wrapper of the 20thcentury.

The book has spawned more films and more imitators than any other book of the 19th or 20th centuries. Images from the 1922 silent film Nosferatuwith Max Schreck as Count Orlok and the 1931 film of Dracula starring Bela Lugosi in the title role have become modern icons.

The 1897 first English edition cover from 1897 and the famous dust wrapper from the abridged version of 1901 are shown below. Both were published by Archibald Constable.




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1894 Trilby: George du Maurier

1894 Trilby: George du Maurier


George du Maurier (1834-1896) was a Punch cartoonist and an occasional author. He was also the father of the actor Gerald du Maurier, grandfather of the author Daphne du Maurier and grandfather of the five Llewellyn brothers who inspired Peter Pan.

He was famous during his lifetime for his cartoons in Punch which gently mocked British society. His most famous cartoon was The Curate’s Egg, which introduced that phrase into the English language. He is best known today as the author of Trilby, a story which was initially serialised in Harpers Magazine in 1894, before appearing in book form in 1895.

It tells the story of an Irish girl, Trilby O’Ferrall, who worked as an artists model in the bohemian art world of Paris in the 1860s, and particularly gained its fame for the hypnotic relationship between the tone-deaf Trilby and her manipulative singing coach, Svengali. It has given us the words “Triby”, for the hat that Trilby wore, and “Svengali”, for a malevolent, dominant man. It also is the first instance of the phrase “in the altogether” meaning naked.

Generally speaking, the first appearance of a novel in parts or in a magazine the most collectaible form of that work. However, in this instance, most collectors would prefer the 1895 book edition to the magazine parts. My copy of the first English edition of 1895 is shown below.

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1891 The Picture of Dorian Gray: Oscar Wilde

1891 The Picture of Dorian Gray: Oscar Wilde


The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde’s famous story of a portrait which ages while its human subject stays young, was first published in the July 1890 issue of Lippincott’s Magazine. The story was regarded as quite immoral by many at the time; indeed, the editor of Lippincott’s Magazine, J. M. Stoddart, removed about 500 words from Wilde’s original manuscript, without the author’s permission, because he held it to be indecent due to its homoerotic content. 

The first edition in book form followed in 1891, and because of the widely-voiced criticism of the initial version, Wilde wrote a preface to the book defending his point of view, although he did also agree to edit out a few of the more contentious passages. A complete uncensored version, in which all Stoddart’s excisions and Wilde’s enforced additional amendments have been reversed, was not published until 2011 by the Belknap Press.

The 1890 magazine form of the novella is famously scarce and the book form is much more likely to be accessible to the keen collector. Lippincott’s Magazine cover for July 1890 is shown below.

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1886 The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde: Robert Louis Stevenson

1886 The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde: Robert Louis Stevenson


Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) had already made his name with the adventure story Treasure Island, published in 1883. While asked about the inspiration for this, his famous macabre story of good and evil, he claimed to have conceived The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in a dream. According to his family, he wrote the first draft in a frenzy in 3 to 4 days. He then spent about a week revising his manuscript for the publisher.

The story was a sensation from its first publication in the first week of January 1886 in both Britain and the USA. It sold more than 40,000 copies in the first six months of that year and has never been out of print. For many readers, it represents a fundamental duality in the make up of all people; an internal struggle between good and evil. The phrase “Jekyll and Hyde” quickly entered the language to express differences in the moral behaviour of individuals from one situation to the next. More than 100 film and dramatic versions of the story have been produced.

For any collector, the first issues of the English or American editions, in their paper wrappers are the most desirable forms, but these are exceedingly rare. The hardback book form which first appeared later in January 1886 is also highly desirable. A picture of my copy of that first edition of the hardback version of the book on the right is shown below alongside the very rare paperback edition on the left. Both were published by Longmans Green and Co. in January 1886.


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1872 Carmilla (from In A Glass Darkly): Sheridan Le Fanu

1872 Carmilla (from In A Glass Darkly): Sheridan Le Fanu

Joseph Thomas Sheridan le Fanu (1814-1873) was an Irish journalist who worked steadily in his craft until the sudden death of his wife in 1858. He then turned his hand to writing Gothic and supernatural stories and produced several important works. The most important one is Carmilla, a short story published in a magazine, The Dark Blue, in 1871 and then, in the following year, in a collection of five short stories called In a Glass Darkly.

 The story is about a female vampire, Carmilla, the alias of Mircalla, Countess Karstein, who befriends and then preys on a young woman called Laura. The relationship between Laura and Carmilla is one of lesbian eroticism as well as vampiric, and some of the writing is very explicit for its time.

The story had been reprinted many times and has been the basis of several other books and several films. The iconic image below of Carmilla approaching a sleeping Laura, with Laura’s father watching in the background, was drawn by David Henry Friston, and first appeared in the magazine The Dark Blue in 1871. This image has been reprinted many times. 

It is this first appearance of Carmilla that is the collector’s most desirable version, but the first edition of In a Glass Darkly in 1872 is also very collectableAn interesting more recent edition of In a Glass Darkly is that published in 1929 by Peter Davies, with illustrations by Edward Ardizzone. 

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1853 Bleak House: Charles Dickens

1853 Bleak House: Charles Dickens


Charles Dickens was clearly influenced by the earlier Gothic novels, and several of Dickens’ stories have elements of the Gothic, such as the Christmas Stories, with their supernatural themes, the highly gothic situations in Oliver Twist and Great Expectations, and the gothic setting and situation of Dickens’ unfinished masterpiece The Mystery of Edwin Drood

Not withstanding all these, I regard Bleak House as Dickens’ Gothic high point. The whole setting of the book is a bleak vision of London as a threatening Gothic city, mired in mud and swathed in fog. The main plot line concerns the interminable legal case of Jarndyce vs Jarndyce, perhaps showing Gothic excesses of the system operating in the Courts of Chancery. The book is also highly collected by detective fiction collectors, as it features one of fiction’s earliest detectives, Inspector Bucket.

The Gothic narrative is reinforced by the some very fine illustrations by Hablot K Browne (Phiz) that are found in the second half of the first edition. These have been specially created by a novel effect of cross hatching on the plates with some fine diagonal lines, which create a feeling of extra gloom. These are called the so called ‘Dark Plates’ of Bleak House, and made very strong visual statements, which enhanced the narrative and were an innovation in 19th century book illustration.

The desirable edition is the first edition, published by Bradbury and Evans in 1853 with the ten dark plates, which can be found for around $2000. A more expensive alternative is to find a complete set of Bleak House in the original issue in 19 parts, which will cost more than $10,000. 

Two examples of the Dark Plate illustrations are shown below.



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1847 Wuthering Heights: Emily Bronte

1847 Wuthering Heights: Emily Bronte

As well as the bicentenary of the publication of Frankenstein, 2018 is the 200thanniversary of the birth of Emily Bronte (1818-1848), the author of Wuthering Heights. The novel caused great controversy on its publication, and the energy and passion of the writing, together with bleak, threatening setting of the story on the Yorkshire moors left many commentators confused. Critics were quite divided about the book. Many asserted that only a man could have written such a raw and powerful story about lust, passion and selfishness!

The first edition of Wuthering Heights was published by Thomas Cautley Newby in 1847 as the first two volumes of a three-volume publication, with Anne Bronte’s short novel Agnes Grey as the third volume. The author’s names were given as Ellis Bell and Acton Bell, respectively.

The true name of the author did not appear on the title page of the second English edition of Wuthering Heights, which was published in 1850, but this edition did include a biographical note by Charlotte Bronte, as Currer Bell, in which the origin of the sisters’ pseudonyms was explained. This may have been prompted by the publication of the first American edition of Wuthering Heights by Harper & Brothers in 1848 as “by the author of Jane Eyre”, which was incorrect of course, as Jane Eyre had been written by Charlotte Bronte, not Emily Bronte.

Book collectors are very happy to own any of the editions mentioned above, but all are rare and expensive. Another possibility for collectors is the first edition published in English in Europe by Bernard Tauchnitz in 1851, as this tends to be less expensive.

As a rough guide to prices, the English first edition (1847) sells for more than $20,000, the American first edition (1848) for around $10,000, the English second edition (1850) for around $5000 and the Tauchnitz edition (1851) for around $2000.

The title page of the first English edition is shown here.


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1847 Jane Eyre: Charlotte Bronte

1847 Jane Eyre: Charlotte Bronte

Jane Eyrewas the first novel to be published by one of the Bronte sisters, appearing on October 16th 1847, a few weeks before the combined publication of Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey by Charlotte’s sisters Emily and Anne respectively.

The three Bronte sisters had published their combined book of poetry, Poems, in 1846 under the names Acton (Anne), Currer (Charlotte) and Ellis (Emily) Bell. The three pseudonyms had been deliberately chosen to sound masculine, without being definitive about gender. Only two or three copies of the 1846 edition of Poems were said to have been sold. 

The first English edition of Jane Eyre in 1847 was followed by the first American edition of Jane Eyre, published by Harper & Brothers in 1848. On both the English and American first editions, the author’s name is given as Currer Bell.

Jane Eyre is a romance, but with Gothic elements, such as the Byronic Mr. Rochester, the mysterious Thornfield Hall and the strange ‘mad woman’ who disrupts life at Thornfield. Jane Eyre inspired the creation of the later novels Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier and Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys.

The first English edition of Jane Eyre is one of the most desirable books in English Literature. It is the first book published by a Bronte sister and only 500 copies were printed. The second edition is also of interest as it is dedicated by the author to William Makepeace Thackeray, and contains a preface written by Charlotte Bronte, in which she robustly challenges and refutes some of the views of her critics.

I show here the title page of the very scarce English first edition of Jane Eyre, published in three volumes by Smith Elder, and Co. in 1847.



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