A Miraculous Find: C.S. Lewis First Editions

Well, admittedly, that’s an overly dramatic title. But my son is turning fourteen and I have been working on Dad jokes, and bad puns fall well with that range (as this one will). And I can’t leave out cool forty-something old man street lingo. Fshizzle.

I did, however, have a cool find, if not a miraculous one. I managed to pick up a first UK edition, third impression of the 1947 version of C.S. Lewis’ Miracles for $20 CDN ($15 USD/£12 GBP)–about half the price of what I would normally expect to get shipped to my house on the edge of this continent. My copy is, as you might expect, just in fair to good condition. The dust jacket is in bad shape, but it is hard to find them at all from the era. And it has left the book in good condition, with some yellowing on the top edge but with clear, crisp pages. I collect Lewis first editions only for the words, so this is a great find for me.

This picture shows the printing history, the dedication to the Harwoods (important to Lewis’ spiritual development), and the only book markings. I do like having the dust cover, which shows fine reviews on the inside flap and back cover, including glowing notes from The Spectator, The Sunday Times, The Observer, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, TLS, and The Expository Times. We can also see the growing list of Lewis’ works, showing his strong wartime production. It shows The Screwtape Letters going into its 20th printing, and a large run of The Great Divorce at 50,000 copies, which is usually viewed as a soft seller. I wonder if this is the first time we see C.S. Lewis’ signature on display as part of his “brand.” I don’t know when this signature began circulating, but this is long before Narnia and really before Lewis was more than an interesting British controversialist and Christian broadcaster. Note how similar it is to signature used by the “Signature Classic” series issued by HarperOne:

The three pamphlets–Broadcast Talks, Christian Behaviour, and Beyond Personality–will become Mere Christianity in 1952. And this book, Miracles, will go through an abridgement and rewriting of the third chapter in the late 1950s, so that your copy of Miracles is likely a second edition and somewhat different than this one. In looking at this first edition I saw that there is an error in the printing of this edition of Miracles: A Preliminary Study. Here is the Table of Contents:

 But note the actual page number of Appendix A:

And the page numbering of Appendix B is also wrong:

I doubt this will drive up the price much, unfortunately. Frankly, I’m keeping the book so valuation doesn’t matter much. An even bigger miracle in Lewis book finds was a true 1st UK edition of The Great Divorce in good condition, which I got for $2 at a library fundraiser. I have also managed to get The Problem of Pain, OHELA Preface to Paradise LostSurprised by Joy, and Spenser’s Images of Life at various used stores for almost nothing. None of these are great condition collector books, though finding Lewis’ third letter collection for $40 was close. But they allow me to work in the first edition text without much cost. Not miracles in book-finding terms, but kind of fun!

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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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20 Responses to A Miraculous Find: C.S. Lewis First Editions

  1. Jennifer says:

    so cool! and yes, I’m a little jealous too!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Bookstooge says:

    I read this jive, it was def dashizzle!

    Good luck with that 40’s street slang 😉

    On a serious note, it is pretty cool that you’ve been able to pick up so many early editions so cheap. I like owning hardcover books, but first editions have never been a temptation for me, thankfully. Some of that stuff is just priced astronomically high…

    Like

  3. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    I haven’t reread Appendix B, but I’d call finding it ‘Providential’ – congratulations!

    It is good for scholarly use to have authoritative editions (if one can discover which these are – often, first editions: in this case, the first edition for the period between its appearance and that of the second edition, I assume; and then, one can compare the authorial revisions!).

    And delightful to have a dust jacket!

    Well-spotted page-numbering anomalies! Might they be Significant? (Did no one notice them after the first and second impressions? Or were they deemed not bad enough to correct? Or are they new to the third impression?)

    Like

    • Ha! Well done on that one.
      Yes, it began for me with a stable starting-point text. Well, actually, it began with Screwtape, then moved out from there. I love old dust jackets.
      I think–wait for it!–the page numbers are just accidents!

      Like

  4. Oh, you are soooo fortunate! I’m just happy when I find a Lewis hardcover, never mind a first edition. However I did manage to stumble upon a first US edition of Letters to An American Lady but that’s the best that I’ve done. If your editions go missing, you’ll know who to come looking for! 😉

    Like

  5. Yewtree says:

    I really liked “The Great Divorce” and couldn’t finish the Screwtape Letters.

    Nice finds — you were lucky to find a secondhand bookshop!

    There used to be a wonderful shop in Wallingford run by the then president of the Charles Williams Society. Don’t know if it’s still there.

    Like

    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      Are you thinking of Chris and Toby English? There is deep sorrow there, but also, I think some quiet sober joy – certainly for booklovers:

      http://www.tobyenglish.com/

      Liked by 2 people

    • That Toby story is kind of sad.
      I’ve found these over the last 3 or 4 years at various 2nd hand bookstores. I’ve also used Abe Books to purchase some, like Screwtape (which I understand your disinterest, but it’s my specialty!). My favourite is Great Divorce, and I hope to invite more and more people to read that forgotten book.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yewtree says:

        Great Divorce is awesome (and apparently best understood in the context of the doctrine of apocatastasis (which tragically did not become mainstream Christian doctrine but was declared anathema in the fourth century — boooo!!!) or possibly in the Orthodox Christian holistic view of salvation.

        Like

        • I don’t know apocatastasis, actually. I’ll have to look into it. I think Orthodox Christians have must to teach us.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Yewtree says:

            Apocatastasis is the Greek name for the concept of universal salvation. George Macdonald believed in it. And iirc Lewis once said his writing was saturated with Macdonald. It seems to be what the Great Divorce is about.

            For an excellent explanation of the Orthodox concept of salvation, Steve Hayes did a brilliant blogpost some years ago on his blog, Khanya. The descent of Christ into Hell is an integral part of the death and resurrection narrative and is mentioned in the Orthodox liturgy of Easter, I think.

            Also, book recommendation: Kallistos Ware (he’s brilliant on Orthodox theology but I completely disagree with his views on Paganism. Also I met him once: very saintly aura).

            Orthodox Christianity is very interesting indeed. An Orthodox acquaintance once told me that Lewis’ ideas are very close to Orthodoxy. Particularly the incident with the dwarves in “The Last Battle” who don’t recognize that they’ve arrived in Heaven. This ties in with the Orthodox idea that everyone arrives at the presence of God after death, but to those who have not lived in a way that is mindful of God, the presence and the light are experienced as flames, while to those who lived in a godly way, the light is beautiful. After a while (purgatory), the light burns away our sinful aspects and everyone experiences it as pure joy. Hence (eventual) universal salvation. I could never make out if this view is held by a majority of Orthodox or not, but it’s much better than the standard heaven and hell narrative.

            Liked by 1 person

            • I have been looking for where this comment has been tucked away and found my way back here. Thanks for these links. I know Kalistos Ware and Steve Hayes. There could be a lot of really cool links between Great Divorce and the things you are talking about.
              However …. The Great Divorce isn’t about the afterlife or heaven or hell, but about spiritual life now, in this moment.
              On universalism, briefly, Lewis didn’t believe in universalism because of consent. Ultimately, whatever the setting or time or context, we have to choose. To manipulate or overwhelm our choice is a kind of spiritual abuse, and so we can always choose. Lewis didn’t think, like MacDonald, that God would win our hearts in the end, but that is a possibility for some.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Yewtree says:

                Maybe that’s why the mainstream church rejected the idea of apocatastasis, then.

                Oh… I hadn’t realized that it was about spiritual life now… I’ll have to read it again. That’s not how I experience my spiritual life at all, though.

                The way I understand apocatastasis is that the change is a natural consequence of being exposed to the Divine light— that sin (hatred etc) cannot exist in the Presence, so it being purged away is inevitable.

                I guess I don’t see why you can’t continue to make a choice after death.

                As a Pagan, I don’t believe in any of it, but I find these ideas interesting.

                Also: Steve Hayes is lovely. We’ve been internet friends for ages.

                Like

              • No, I suspect it isn’t how you experience spiritual life! Lewis’ idea was that our spiritual life echoes the cross, the giving up of self with hope of new life.

                Liked by 1 person

              • Yewtree says:

                Yeah, kenosis and all that. Not my religion, not my spirituality, not my bag.

                If I was to attribute a shape to my spirituality, it would be a tree, connecting spirit and matter, the heavens and the Earth, the human and the divine. If you think about the shape of a tree, its roots mirror its branches. Hmm, interesting thought, which I might develop further.

                Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: What shape is your spirituality? | Dowsing for Divinity

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