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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