Five primary school composition notebooks are the unassuming vessels for the important debut novel of one of the most legendary sci-fi writers of all time: Sir Arthur C. Clarke’s Prelude To Space. These influential blocks of neatly ruled paper, filled with 51,500 words in Clarke’s clear, cursive script, will be part of Heritage Auction Galleries’ March 6-7 Signature™ Rare Books Auction at the company’s Uptown Dallas headquarters.
When Clarke wrote the first draft of Prelude, his first published sci-fi novel, in 1947 — he was already a well-known writer of short stories by this time – the idea of space travel was not new to the human imagination. What set Clarke’s inconspicuous little triumph apart from the rest, and put him well on his way to becoming one of the greatest writers of the Golden Age of Science Fiction, was that it was the first piece of science-fiction to “realistically” deal with the idea of space travel; most importantly with the physical difficulty of shedding the grip of gravity to make it to a waiting space craft outside the planet’s atmosphere.
“Clarke wrote the entire novel in 20 days, a fact reflected in the ‘Production Sheet’ laid in at the front of volume I,” said James Gannon, Director of Rare Books for Heritage, “but the story was not published for another four years. In 1951 Galaxy Science Fiction published Prelude to Space in magazine format, and the expanded novel first appeared in book form in England in 1953 by Sidgwick & Jackson. The following year Gnome Press released the first American edition in hardcover and Ballantine Books published the novel as a paperback.”
While the technology that Clarke predicted in Prelude To Space never became more than theory, it did have a significant impact on the way people thought about space travel – specifically getting to the moon – and, in many ways, it was an early predictor of what would eventually become NASA’s Space Shuttle Program. It also set the stage for many more classic Clarke sci-fi endeavors, most notably his 1968 cultural touchstone, 2001: A Space Odyssey.
“Prelude isn’t a book about galactic power struggles or vast armadas of space ships,” said Gannon. “It’s a conceptually simple, and very influential look at the physics of getting to the moon. Clarke helped make people believe we could travel in outer space, and helped set the true Space Age in motion. This is a manuscript of great consequence and we’re thrilled to have it as part of our auction.”
Other highlights of the Heritage Rare Books Auction, March 6-7, include: Decretales Gregorii Papæ IX, circa 1266, a Thirteenth-Century Italian Manuscript on Vellum of the Decretals of Pope Gregory IX; J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, 1997, the first edition with all first issue points, and an illustrated Harry Potter card signed by Rowling mounted onto the inside back cover; Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, 1778, two volumes, the rare second edition of this great classic of modern economic thought, one of only 500 copies printed; James Joyce, Ulysses, 1922, one of 750 first editions printed on handmade paper; and Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own, 1929, one of 450 limited edition numbered copies signed by Virginia Woolf in her signature purple ink on the half title page.
To view this auction online, to read detailed descriptions and download fully enlargeable images, go to www.ha.com/6020, or call 800-872-6467.
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