New York: Walker and Company, 1969. First edition, first printing. Hardcover. This is the first printing of the first hardcover edition of Ursula K. LeGuin’s Hugo and Nebula Award winning novel, retaining its original dust jacket and accompanied by an unattached bookplate signed by LeGuin. This copy would be in near-fine condition if not for tape stains – ironically from a previous, non-archival dust jacket protector – manifest on the edges of the covers and the endpapers. The grey cloth binding is otherwise clean and unfaded with only a modest forward lean and a trivial hint of shelf wear to extremities. The contents are likewise clean apart from the aforementioned tape stains and an additional yellow adhesive smudge on the final free endpaper verso between the tape stains. The contents show no spotting and no previous ownership marks. The blue-gray topstain retains strong, even color. The untrimmed fore edges show some age-toning, but no soiling. Laid in is a 4 x 3.25 inch (10.2 x 8.3 cm) unaffixed signed bookplate on fine paper with a decorative printed border signed “Ursula K LeGuin” by the author. The unclipped dust jacket is entirely complete, with no loss or tears and the original “$4.95” price intact on the upper front flap. We note only a barely discernible hint of toning to the jacket spine and quite faint, ghosted hints of tape stains echoing those on the covers. The dust jacket is newly fitted with a removable, clear, archival cover.
The Left Hand of Darkness is a stand-alone part of LeGuin’s Hainish Cycle, set in a fictional universe explored by other short LeGuin stories and novels, though none perhaps as well-known, enduringly praised, or widely read as this. In the tradition of the best speculative fiction, LeGuin uses the larger stage afforded by humanity’s notional expansion beyond the confines of Earth to question how else we may – or may not – be able to expand our more proverbial horizons. The Left Hand of Darkness is at once a compelling story about the complexities of interstellar community, a meditation on the persistent deficiencies of human empathy and comity, and an intimate story of interpersonal contact unmoored from gender conventions. It is also just an excellent read – an engaging story tremendously well-told.
The Left Hand of Darkness won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for best novel in 1970. Immensely popular at the time, LeGuin’s novel definitively established her as a speculative fiction author. Half a century of significant social and technological development later, the book remains both an engrossing and a perspective-bending read. The book definitively established LeGuin – a fact which surprised nobody more than the author herself. Writing about the book many years later, LeGuin candidly acknowledged “its structure is complex, it moves slowly, and even if everybody in it is called he, it is not about men. That's a big dose of "hard lit," heresy, and chutzpah, for a genre novel by a nobody in 1968.” (LeGuin, 2017) Indeed, until this book, LeGuin had no literary agent and submitted all of her work to publishers herself. This book was originally accepted by Ace for publication as a paperback. That acceptance gave LeGuin the confidence to approach an agent about selling it as a hardcover, which was promptly accomplished and led to this publication by Walker and Company of New York. Item #005779