The Pedigree of the Time Machine

This text was posted with an item on eBay early in AD 2000; we at Aetherco have no further information as to the original seller or buyer, and are not offering this item for sale. However, the text does illustrate some of the rich history of H.G. wells' seminal work on time travel, which is the sole reason we repost it here. Spelling errors have not been corrected, and we make no warrant of the accuracy of any links or information that follows:

Wells, H[erbert]. G[eorge]. [1866 - 1946]: The Time Machine, An Invention; New York; 1895; Henry Holt and Company, publishers; small sextodecimo; 216 pages, collated: flyleaf: blank; [i - ix] [being: i: half-title; ii: advertisement; iii: title page; iv: copyright; v1: tissue guard; v2: tissueguard; v: frontispiece, bound in reverse; vi: blank; vii: numbered as, "v": author's note; viii: blank; ix: contents; x: blank] [1 (unnumbered)] [2 - 216] [i: blank; ii: blank] [iii: advertisement; iv: advertisement; v: advertisement; vi: advertisement] [vii: blank; viii: blank]; First Edition, with the title page reading: "H. S. Wells," preceding the British Edition [London; 1895; William Heinemann and Company, Limited, publishers], placed on sale shortly after having been received by Publishers Weekly as a sample copy of new books in print by Holt, on May 18th, 1895, after having been received by, and entered into cataloguing by the Library Of Congress on May 7th, 1895, and, hence, preceding by as much as 11 days, the issuance of the Heinemann edition], but which differed substantially in text First state of issue, additionally, with the frontispiece bound in upside down. Holt recalled the book from sale almost immediately, once it was realised that the author's name was misspelled. A new first sheet was printed, and the original issues rebound to correct the error.

Conservatively, about Very Good, in the publisher's original woven oatmeal-tan cloth-covered boards, titled and credited in violet on the backstrip [The | Time | Machine | –– | Wells | publisher's device: $ | Henry Holt], titled and decoratively stamped in violet with the figure of an owl on the front board; top edge gilt; fore-edge and bottom edge untrimmed, showing hints of wear to extremities; thin, fragile corners softened somewhat; backstrip titling faded but readable, and hints of foxing and offsetting to pastedowns and adjacent endpapers. Of the handful of surviving copies (authorities differ widely here; some saying as many as twenty; others as few as a dozen) in the publisher's binding, this must be among the finest existing copies of this almost mythical volume. It is, to the best of our knowledge, the only copy with the front illustration bound in reverse.

"The Time Machine is H. G. Wells' first - and, many of his readers would add, his greatest - 'scientific romance.' Certainly it is his most ambitious, at least in its temporal scope. Certainly also, it exemplifies the principles underlying his science fiction more clearly, and expounds them more fuly, than does any other work he afterwards attempted in that genre." - Survey Of Science Fiction Literature (Edgewood Cliffs; 1979; Salem Press) [Frank Northern Magill, editor]: pages 2287 to 2291.

"The concept of a 'time machine' has been brilliantly conceived by Wells, a concept never before used, and now an entire category within science fiction." - History Of Science Fiction (London; 1976; Hamlyn Publishing Group, Limited) [David Kyle, editor]: pages 32 - 34.

"... The Time Machine is remarkable not only for its literary merits, but for its complex bibliographical history, which must be unparalleled among works of modern fiction." - Bernard Bergonzi, in SF: The Other Side Of Realism (Bowling Green; 1971; Bowling Green University Popular Press) [Thomas D. Clareson, editor]: pages 204 to 215.

"Critics have emphasized the splitting of humanity into Eloi and Morlocks so much as Wells' vision of the outcome of the Marxist class struggle that its implication, taken from Thomas Huxley, that humanity cannot control the cosmic evolutionary process, and is, therefor, its victim, has not been adequately emphasized. One should not overlook the fact that the book's vivid climax is the scene of the dying earth. It must be read as being extremely pessimistic. The final speech of the traveller reveals the inner tensions within Wells that may explain why he turned increasingly to heavy didacticism." - Anatomy Of Wonder: A Critical Guide To Science Fiction (New York; 1987; R. R. Bowker Company, Publishers) [Neil Barron, editor]: 1-103; ibid: 1976 edition: 2-161.

"The time traveller tells of his visit to a future epoch in which the human race has become divided into helpless Eloi and brutish Morlocks. He then travels on to witness the earth's last days. Beautiful and gripping; a supreme masterpiece of SF." - The Ultimate Guide To Science Fiction: An A to Z of SF Books (London; 1990; Grafton) [David Pringle, editor]: page 322.

"The Time Machine might be considered the first modern work of SF, and it is still the classic statement of an important subgenre..." "[being] ...a fictionalization of Wells' social concerns and he is at some pains to explain the curious bifurcation in human evolution, and the resultant degeneration." "A remarkable work, and necessary reading." - Science Fiction: The Early Years (Kent; 1990; Kent State University Press) [Everett F. Bleiler, editor]: page 2325.

The Encyclopedia Of Science Fiction (London; 1993; Orbit Publications) [John Clute and Peter Nicholls, editors]: pages 1312 to 1316. Faces Of The Future The Lessons Of Science Fiction (London; 1975; Elek/Pemberton, Publishers [Brian Ash, editor]: pages 50 to 53. The Early H. G. Wells: A Study Of The Scientific Romances (Toronto; 1967; University Of Toronto Press) [Bernard Bergonzi, editor]: pages 46 to 61. H. G. Wells' The Time Machine: Its Neglected Mythos (Wayne C. Conelly, in Riverside Quarterly V) [1972] pages 178 to 191. Novels And Novelists (New York; 1980; Saint Martins Press): page 234c. Twentieth~Century Literary Criticism; Volume VI (Detroit; 1982; Gale Research, Publishers) [Ford Madox Ford, editor]: pages 532 and 533.

Wells began work on The Time Machine nearly eight years before its publication in the form we have come to know as one of the most imaginative novels of the nineteenth century. Originally serialised in three parts in The Science School Journal, [London; Students' Press; Royal College Of Science] in 1888 as The Chronic Argonauts. having, in that form, only the faintest notion of time travel, encompassed within a few lines. After two further drafts, now lost, and presumed later destroyed by Wells in an effort to dismiss the earlier forms of his work, it was republished in The Fortnightly Journal [London; 1891] as The Rediscovery Of The Unique and, early in 1892, was again set in type for The Fortnightly Journal but not republished there, under the title The Universe Rigid. William Ernest Henley, then editor of The National Observer asked Wells to rewrite the novel, and began serialising it as The Time Travellers Story [London; March through June, 1894], though the magazine never published the conclusion, owing to Henley accepting a position as editor of The New Review wherein, finally, The Time Machine was eventually published, almost in accordance with the Holt edition, from January to May of 1895.

And now, with bibliographical references neatly out of the way, what does one say of Wells' first novel... even today, cited by critic and scholar alike as the finest offering in his illustrious career? Certainly, it is social commentary, on the basest of levels. Indeed, it is the basis for all which has come after it, in the more than one hundred ensuing years. The first pure science fiction novel? It has been called this by many of its proponents. The cornerstone of Post-Victorian imaginative literature? It's been christened this as well, though perhaps a Mssrs. Verne and Stoker would take issue with the statement. By whatsoever words one calls it, the true first edition - "the H. S. Wells," as it is referred to in hushed tones by collectors and bookmen alike - is a thing of legend - "...the Loch Ness Monster of the book world," as it was called recently by the conservator of a certain New York auction house. Unrecorded sales by private treaty notwithstanding, the last public sale of a Holt edition was in 1991, almost a decade ago.

In an effort to further gild the lily, this sparkling little gem is offered with:

Wells, H[erbert]. G[eorge].: Clipped Signature; No Place; No Date, but contemporary with the publication of The Time Machine, being probably between the years 1889 and 1895. One leaf, 35mm by 60 mm (approximately 1* inches by 2* inches), on white foolscap, mounted to a page from a collector's book, circa 1880. Very Good, with one apparent corner-crease, not affecting signature, and a couple of scattered spots of foxing. A magnificent, and immense Wells signature, spanning 50 mm in length, and 24 mm in height. An example of Wells' signature as a young man, before his writing style became further and further cramped, and the earliest example we have personally handled - the perfect item for laying in against this legendary volume. To fully appreciate the scope of this signature, please visit this link [], where we've scanned - to scale, for comparison - this and six other Wells signatures from our current rather modest inventory [224 kb.]. For a high-resolution scan of the signature [102 kb.], we invite you to visit this hypertext link []. Provenance: from a private collection, assembled between 1880 and 1910, through the auspices of one of the United Kingdom's largest and most respected dealers in historical documents and autograph material.

Offered with the extremely modest minimum bid of five thousand dollars, and sold without reserve. Graded strictly according to the standards set down by AB Bookman's Weekly.

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We are pleased to extend credit terms (without additional charge) of six months, on items up to ten thousand dollars, and terms of up to one year, on titles in excess that amount, with one-half the purchase price to hold articles.

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Again, Aetherco has no further information as to the original seller or buyer, and does not possess this item, nor is offering this item for sale.

Posted 2001.06.28