First edition, first printing of Dune by Frank Herbert

(copy pictured is a different first edition, first printing copy than one sold in January)

In the realm of science fiction, few books carry as much significance as Frank Herbert’s Dune series. With more than a dozen books and short stories written by two generations of Herberts, the Dune universe is deeply interwoven into science fiction culture.  Signed first editions of the book that started it all are treasured by collectors of science fiction and modern firsts. The $15,000 copy that sold last month was the third copy of Dune to be sold by AbeBooks priced over $5,000.

Herbert wrote the first Dune novel after a 1957 visit to the Oregon Dunes – the largest expanse of coastal sand dunes in North America.  Rumor has it he was supposed to research the dunes for a magazine article. However, the dunes so enthralled him that his research far outstripped the article requirements, and the seed for the series was planted.  He spent the next six years researching and writing Dune, far longer than typical science fiction of the era, only to have his manuscript rejected again and again until Chilton, a company mostly known for car repair manuals, decided to publish the book in 1965.  Sales were slow at first, but picked up over time. Critical acclaim followed when Dune won the Nebula and Hugo awards the following year.  Dune is often cited as being the bestselling science fiction novel of all time with sales of more than 10 million copies.

Another interesting item on last month’s list of expensive sales was a 2002 facsimile edition of the Lindisfarne Gospel – one of the most famous of all illuminated manuscripts.  The original priceless manuscript is said to have been written by a monk named Eadfrith, who was the Bishop of Lindisfarne from 698 until his death in 721.  William Shakespeare, H.G. Wells, Ayn Rand and Franz Liszt are also on a stellar list.



Januaryís Most Expensive Sales on AbeBooks

1. Dune by Frank Herbert - $15,000
Signed first edition of Herbertís classic novel published in 1965 by Chilton. This copy was complete with the first issue dust jacket and the $5.95 price on the front flap.

2. The Works of H.G. Wells: Atlantic Edition by H.G. Wells - $9,500
A signed and numbered set of 28 volumes, limited to 1,050 sets, published in 1924 by Scribner.  This set came with the publisher’s original wooden shipping crate.

Now in November by Josephine Johnson
Now in November
by Josephine Johnson

3.The Letterpress Shakespeare by William Shakespeare - $9,105
Published by the Folio Society, this 28-volume set was issued separately with each volume having a limitation of 1000 to 3750 copies (mostly the former).  Shakespeare’s texts are reprinted from the Oxford Shakespeare editions in fine large folios and most are bound in half-goatskin with marbled-paper sides, the Tragedies bound in red, the Comedies in green, the Histories in blue and the Sonnets and Poems in turquoise.

4. The Lindisfarne Gospel facsimile edition - $9,026
The Lindisfarne Gospels is an illuminated manuscript produced around 700 AD on the island of Lindisfarne off the coast of Northumberland.  The original, considered one of the finest works of post Roman Britain art, is on display in the British Library in London.  This facsimile was produced in limited numbers (980 copies) in 2002 and contains two volumes of commentary.

5. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand - $7,500
Published 1957 by Random House, this sophisticated (partially enhanced) first printing was signed by Rand on a laid-in signature.

5=. Les Grandes Decades by Titus Livius - $7,500
A third edition, published in 1530 in three volumes bound in a single cover. This work describes Romeís history from its early days until the death of Drusus (the adopted child of Emperor Augustus) in 9 BC.

7. Now in November by Josephine Johnson - $6,500
A first edition, first printing, published in 1934 by Simon and Schuster. Signed and dated by Johnson on the year of publication. The author won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1935 at age 24 for this, her first novel.

An autograph letter signed by Franz Liszt
An autograph letter
signed by Franz Liszt
8. An autograph letter signed by Franz Liszt - $5,993
A handwritten two-page letter, with its envelope, written by the composer Franz Liszt to A. René at Feodosiya.  In the letter, he thanks him for a musical manuscript, and tells him that he will spend the winter in Budapest as usual. Signed “F. Liszt” 

9.The 100 Greatest Books Ever Written - $5,656
A brand new set of leather-bound books published by Easton Press.

10.Poemas De La Única Poetissa Americana; Musa Dezima, Sor Juana Inés De La Cruz, Religiosa Professa En El Monasterio De San Gerónimo De La Imperial Ciudad De México by Sor Juana Inés De La Cruz - $5,547
Three volumes of poetry from the days of New Spain (which was Mexico, large parts of the US and also much of South America).  Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, (1651-1695) was a religious writer of poetry, drama and prose. She was nicknamed the Phoenix of America and the Tenth Muse.

Is Dune the best science fiction novel ever?

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