Item #15384 THE SECRET AGENT. A Simple Tale. Joseph Conrad.


London: Methuen & Co., (1907). 40 pp ads dated Sept 1907. Original deep red cloth with gilt-decorated spine.

First Edition of Conrad's tale of espionage sited in Russia. The idea for the story came from an actual 1890s revolutionary attempt to blow up the Observatory at Greenwich. Conrad initially planned this to be a short story (titled "Verloc"); however, as he "got into" it, he lengthened it into a full-blown novel. He then strove to make it a popular novel, one that would provide him with the cash he needed to get out from under pressing debts; however, after an initial flourish, sales dropped off and the book was not reprinted until 1914, after the success of CHANCE reawakened interest in Conrad.

The initial printing consisted of 2,500 copies, including 500 for the colonies plus 500 for Canada. However, the good initial reception of the book prompted the publisher to use the colonial copies for the domestic market instead, replacing the colonial half-title and title with the standard domestic one -- "there is no visible evidence of cancellation and for all practical purposes we must regard these copies as indistinguishable from the regular domestic issue" [Cagle].

This is a very good-plus copy (minor rubbing at the corners, spine slightly faded as usual); the original endpapers are intact, and atypically there is no foxing. In our experience LORD JIM, YOUTH and THE SECRET AGENT are the toughest of Conrad's first published editions to find in collectible condition. Supino A12.1.0; Cagle A12a(1); a "Modern Library 100" selection and a "Connolly 100 Key Books of the Modern Movement" selection.

Provenance: Indiana University bookplate of Fred Bates ["Pappy"] Johnson (1880-1963), who as an Indianapolis newspaperman was instrumental in the formation of IU's School of Journalism; he later went into the law. Item #15384

Price: $1,450.00

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