Green-fingered gardeners and fans of post-apocalyptic science fiction will enjoy seeing The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham on AbeBooks’ list of February’s most expensive sales. A first edition of the 1951 novel sold for $14,500 – a price that illustrates the significance of this book in science fiction circles.
British author John Wyndham Parkes Lucas Beynon Harris (1903-1969) wrote as John Wyndham for obvious reasons. He is also well known for The Kraken Wakes (published in the US as Out of the Deep), The Chrysalids (published in the US as Re-Birth) and The Midwich Cuckoos.
The Day of the Triffids is a horror story where mobile, murderous plants take over the world. Most humans have been blinded by a bizarre meteor storm, handing the Triffids their opportunity to seize power. Wyndham always acknowledged by H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds was a massive influence on The Day of the Triffids (even the titles are very similar).
The novel’s protagonist is Bill Masen, who avoids blindness because he is in hospital with bandaged eyes. The story sees society break down without vision with sighted survivors struggling to get along in a chaotic new order filled with killer plants.
Although the idea of rampaging plants is hard to grasp, The Day of the Triffids stands the test of time and will appear on many lists of all-time best science fiction books. The BBC has twice adapted the book into serials and also into several radio dramas.
1. The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham - $14,500
First impression of the first British edition published in 1951 and inscribed ‘Yours, John Wyndham / (John Benyon Harris) 22-8-51.’ Presented in a custom clamshell case designed by binder James Tapley.
2. Die Zukunft Einer Illusion by Sigmund Freud - $10,625
Second German edition published in 1928 by Psychoanalytischer, this copy was signed by the author on the front free endpaper and includes a typed letter in German which has been laid in, from Dr. R. Luzzatto presenting the book to an associate.
3. War and Peace 1812-1820 Vol I & II. By Leo Tolstoy - $8,875
Published in six volumes in 1886, this first printing of the first American edition and first English edition was translated from French by Clara Bell.
4. Erlkonig by Franz Schubert - $8,000
First edition of Schubert’s first published work and most famous lied (German for song), fully engraved, inscribed by Schubert on the final leaf. Presented in custom half morocco clamshell box, published 1821.
5. African Game Trails by Theodore Roosevelt - $7,500
Published in 1910, this first trade edition was inscribed by Roosevelt “Mr. L. DeSales Casey/with the best wishes of/Theodore Roosevelt/Oct. 18th 1918."
7. Historia Naturale by Ferrante Imperato - $6,338
Ferrante Imperato was an apothecary in Naples who created this book to present his natural history research, or cabinet of curiosities. It includes what were the first illustrations (engravings) of this type of collection. This, the second edition, was published in Venice in 1672.
8 . Reports of Cases Relating to Maritime Law by J.P. Aspinall - $6,337
Published in 19 volumes, without the index volume between 1870 and 1949. Reports include the full text of numerous court cases. Subject matter includes abandonment, arbitration, bankruptcy, carriage of goods and passengers, conflict of laws, enemy ships, loss, insurance, negligence, perils of the sea, personal injury, sale of goods, salvage, war and a host of other seafaring topics.
9. Persian Gulf and Red Sea Naval Reports 1820-1960 - $5,891
Published in 1993 by Cambridge University Press, this 15-volume set details material previously scattered through two government archives into a concise and convenient format. The Naval Reports cover the activities of the Royal Navy, and the Indian Navy until its dissolution in 1863.
10. How to Make Profits Trading in Commodities by W.D. Gann - $5,650
One of many books on trading written by Gann, in this one he discusses the cyclical nature of commodities as well as some of the basic rules of successful trading in commodities. Published in 1941, this edition contains W.D. Gann’s signature in blue ink.