Item #15176 THE THIRTY-NINE STEPS. John Buchan.


[in light brown boards] Edinburgh and London: William Blackwood and Sons, 1915. 2 pp undated ads. Original light brown paper-covered boards with yapped edges, printed in black.

First (Colonial) Edition of Buchan's best-known book, the classic mystery that has withstood the test of time both as a book and as a film. It features a British mining engineer from the southern Africa colonies, bored on vacation in London, who inadvertently learns too much about a German plot, and flees to his homeland of Scotland to avoid his pursuers. This was the first of Buchan's five mysteries to feature the Richard Hannay (the others being GREENMANTLE, MR. STANDFAST, THE THREE HOSTAGES and THE ISLAND OF SHEEP). The tale was of course the basis for one of Alfred Hitchcock's most highly-regarded early films, released in 1935; there have been three other releases, the most recent (2008) for TV.

This was a cheaply-produced wartime book (price one shilling), printed on cheap paper that has always browned, with the result that it is now usually encountered in miserable condition. The usual binding for this book is light blue cloth over flimsy boards, with lettering in black on the front cover and spine (very rarely encountered with its pictorial dust jacket).

This copy, however, is in plain light brown paper-covered boards, with yapped edges -- but with the exact same lettering as on a standard copy. The front free endpaper bears a clue: a signature followed by "East Africa 1918". The "East African Protectorate" (or British East Africa) became the British colony of Kenya after the war, in 1920. This must have been a copy that Blackwood bound up for the colonies. It is most likely from that same first printing; if there had been a separate (earlier or later) printing just for the colonies, we would be seeing a lot more of these colonial copies. We see no difference between this copy and a standard first edition copy, except for the lighter-weight binding; it is trimmed down a bit to 18.1 x 12.0 cm (Blanchard cites 18.4 x 12.1 cm for a domestic copy).

Condition is very good: about a quarter-inch of each spine end is chipped away, and there are short splits in the joints near the ends; there is some understandable bending of the boards where they curl around the edges of the text-block. A very scarce book: we have never seen such a copy before, in our 43 years in business.. See Blanchard A32 (who makes no mention of this binding). Item #15176

Price: $1,750.00

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