Item #15228 THE RED ONE. Jack London.


New York: The Macmillan Company, 1918. 6 pp undated ads. Original brown paper-covered boards pictorially decorated in black, blue and orange, with dust jacket.

First Edition of this collection of four tales -- which consisted of only 5,342 copies, a very low number for London's books. By the time Jack wrote these (in Hawaii, in early 1916), he was dying. The title tale involves a wrecked alien spacecraft -- a giant red sphere -- worshipped by Melanesian natives, who need to offer it human sacrifices.

Jack reached down into his own unconscious and his knowledge that death was near, and set it boldly on the page. The most haunting of his final stories was "The Red One." In it, an explorer is dying slowly, in the hut of an old shaman in cannibal Melanesia. The explorer has passed through all the stages of savagery himself, and he waits for his inevitable death from the shaman's knife as he watches the old witch doctor cure the heads of other white men... Only one mystery remains unsolved, the melodious siren call that has lured the explorer into his particular heart of darkness... What the truth was, the story does not tell -- only that, in the total dichotomy between the hallucinatory message from the stars and the utter savagery of men, the boundaries of Jack's split personality lay. At last, he had the courage and awareness to declare himself, as he prepared for his own death. [Sinclair]

THE RED ONE, rather scarce in any event due to the small number of copies, is quite difficult to find in collectible condition because it is bound in paper-covered boards rather than cloth. This copy is just about fine, unusually clean and bright, with the slightest of wear at the foot of the spine. The scarce dust jacket, reproducing the frontispiece portrait of Jack, is in good-to-very good condition (price cut out of spine, some edge-wear, tape reinforcement on the verso). Sisson & Martens p. 98; Blanck 11977. Housed in a cloth clamshell case with leather label. Item #15228

Price: $1,950.00