Till We Have Confusing Book Titles: Guest Post by William O’Flaherty

Essential_CSLWilliam O’Flaherty is like a digital C.S. Lewis handshake. He is a technological rainmaker, drawing together Lewis resources through his various posts, blogs, podcasts, interviews, and news items at Essential C.S. Lewis, a feature site of the Middle Earth Network. William has also been featured in my Great Links occasional blog. Here he gives us an informative and humorous look at the strange ins and outs of C.S. Lewis publication.

That Hideous Strength Tortured Planet by LewisNot long ago Brenton wrote a piece about his discovery of a shorter preface to That Hideous Strength. It turns out that the mysterious second preface originated from an abridged version of that story which was approved by Lewis entitled The Tortured Planet. Confused? Sit back and get ready for your head to spin as I unveil other madness involved in books by Lewis that have either multiple names or the same name that is actually a different version!

Let’s begin with That Hideous Strength, first published on August 16, 1945 in the UK and on May 21, 1946 in the US. According to Walter Hooper in his excellent C.S. Lewis: A Companion & Guide (aka C. S. Lewis: A Complete Guide to His Life & Works), there are many differences between the two books. Hooper notes that the UK edition is superior to the US volume.

But wait, didn’t I mentioned another shorter edition? It was published in 1946 by Avon Books of New York (the first US edition was by Macmillan). My copy of The Tortured Planet notes on the cover that it is “Specially abridged by the Author.” To make matters more interesting, Hooper points out that this shortened version contains some minor revisions by Lewis. From what he states Lewis used the UK version, which already had changes that were likely made by the editor. Thus, Hooper concludes if “a critical edition” is ever created “it should make use of the corrections and improvements found in the Abridged Edition.” Beyond all this, it’s worth noting that Brenton isn’t crazy for claiming to have a copy of That Hideous Strength that contained the preface for the abridged The Tortured Planet. That’s because there is an edition (first published in 1955) from Pan Books of London that published this shorten version of the book using the original That Hideous Strength title!

Perelandra by CS LewisThe previous book in the Ransom Cycle, Perelandra, has a less confusing situation (sort-of). While there is no published abridged version of it (although Lewis actually created one), the same book is available under two other titles: Voyage to Venus (Perelandra) and Perelandra: World of New Temptation. While the latter is not really a dramatically different title, its subtitle could create confusion to the casual reader. As for that never published abridged version, Walter Hooper mentions that a copy remained in Lewis’s library during his lifetime and it shortens the book by about 25%.

1952’s Mere Christianity is a classic that some aren’t aware were three previously published books. Those who are might still be confused because that single volume is divided into four sections that are labeled as books. The reason for this is that they are based on four sets of radio talks from the 1940’s on the BBC. The first two broadcasts were initially published as Broadcast Talks in the UK. When released a year later in the US the publisher obviously realized a different title was needed because no one in the United Stated had heard the material over the air…so it became The Case for Christianity.

CS Lewis Apologetics Books Mere Christianity Miracles ScrewtapePrevious to the release of Mere Christianity was Miracles, Lewis’s last book containing all new material that had an apologetic theme. The original covers contained the subtitle A Preliminary Study when it came out in 1947. Then in 1960 a revised edition (with changes to the third chapter) was published. US editions didn’t catch up until 1978. However, in 1958 (prior to the revised version), Lewis created an abridged copy for The Association Press and it carried the original title, Miracles: A Preliminary Study!

While Lewis was still living he oversaw several works that were collections of shorter material. In 1949 he published Transposition And Other Addresses in the UK that carried the title The Weight of Glory And Other Addresses in the US the same year. These books were Weight of Glory by CS Lewis signatureidentical. However, in 1980 a revised version of The Weight of Glory came out that included additional essays (and one that had been previously expanded after its 1949 release).

After his death there have been more than a few books collecting his essays. In fact, too many with overlapping inclusion of his shorter works to discuss in this post (so many that another article could easily be written). There is, however, one worth noting related most directly to our present theme. It is God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics. It was first released in the US in 1970. The exact same book came out a year later in the UK as Undeceptions: Essays on Theology and Ethics. Then in 1979 God in the Dock: Essays on Theology was published containing less than half of the material.

Wow, a confusing journey! Many thanks Will! Check out his various resources on EssentialCSLewis.com.

About Brenton Dickieson

“A Pilgrim in Narnia” is a blog project in reading and talking about the work of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the worlds they touched. As a "Faith, Fantasy, and Fiction" blog, we cover topics like children’s literature, apologetics and philosophy, myths and mythology, fantasy, theology, cultural critique, art and writing. This blog includes my thoughts as I read through Lewis and Tolkien and reflect on my own life and culture. In this sense, I am a Pilgrim in Narnia--or Middle Earth, or Fairyland. I am often peeking inside of wardrobes, looking for magic bricks in urban alleys, or rooting through yard sale boxes for old rings. If something here captures your imagination, leave a comment, “like” a post, share with your friends, or sign up to receive Narnian Pilgrim posts in your email box. Brenton Dickieson is a father, husband, friend, university lecturer, and freelance writer from Prince Edward Island, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter, @BrentonDana.
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17 Responses to Till We Have Confusing Book Titles: Guest Post by William O’Flaherty

  1. Fun post! Thanks for this.


  2. clisawork says:

    Love my copy of “God in Dock” although if I have the shorter version I will feel cheated! I purchased it after 2000 new from Amazon so I will have to figure out which version I actually have. Fascinating!


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  4. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    I don’t know how long Undeceptions went on being available in the UK; the ‘full’ God in the Dock simply did, in the U.S.: Ifor example, got my copy (Eerdmans paperback, “Reprinted, June 1982”) in the college bookstore while working on Williams MSS. at Wheaton four years after the UK God in the Dock appeared (1979).

    In the last-named little volume, Walter Hooper writes in the “Preface” (dated “August 1978”), of “all the essays in this book”, “They are reprinted from, and represent about half the contents of, Lewis’s Undeceptions” (p. 8), while the back of the title page (p. [4] as we geeky analytic and descriptive bibliographers might tend to put it) begins, “First published in UNDECEPTIONS”.

    So, back in the late 1970s/early 1980s, when you tended to encounter books in a shop and handle them before deciding to purchase them, it would have been easy to be ‘undeceived’. The most likely problematical situation then would have been, if you (as an owner of Undeceptions or the US God in the Dock) had heard of the title and asked your bookseller, or written directly to the publisher, to order it, without having seen an adequate description.

    The ‘undeceived’ might, of course, still think it a handy selection/format/weight, at 95p, 2.95 Canadian dollars, or whatever, to carry around in its pocketses.

    In First and Second Things: Essays on Theology and Ethics (1985), the back of the title page (p. [4]) tells us “First published in Undeceptions”, and in the “Preface” Walter Hooper explains “that the recession has made it unwise to reprint that large book”, Undeceptions, and that “One Fount paperback, God in the Dock, consists of selections from Undeceptions. This is another selection from the parent book” (p. 8).

    More problematical, in various ways, were other of the little “Fount Paperbacks”, such as Fern-seed and Elephants and other essays on Christianity (1977 reprint from 1975 Fontana edition) where Walter Hooper’s “Preface” informs the reader (p. 8) that two of the eight essays had never appeared in the UK before, five had been collected and reprinted, variously, before, though they are described as “out of print for some time”, and one “has never been published anywhere before.” So, one might well be faced with wondering if one wanted to buy the whole book, for the four-and-two-thirds new pages?

    Happily, we live in the age of Lewisiana.nl, where my friend, Arend Smilde, provides “C. S. Lewis’s essays, short stories and other short prose writings as published in collected editions, 1939–2013”, which helps you discover anything and everything you need to know (and if not, by any chance, I am sure Arend Smilde would welcome any and all corrections and additions).


    • I do love Arend’s work. Arend, to me, is the master of Lewisian “transtextuality”–the text beyond the text. Lewis himself is paratextually rich, adding a lot to the reading experience beyond the sentences and paragraphs of the text. Walter Hooper, in the essays, takes that to a new level! Your reply was a blog, really, about trying to dance between the publications of essays.
      In the end, I found almost all of them. I am missing a couple of the collections.


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