Philadelphia and New York: Chilton Books. First edition, sixth printing. Hardcover. This is a jacketed first edition, sixth printing of Dune, signed twice by Frank Herbert. The author characteristically signed on the title page, crossing out his printed name and signing “Frank Herbert” along the slope of the stylized sand dune. Herbert additionally signed “Frank Herbert” on the front free endpaper with a different pen (and hence notionally on a separate occasion).
We conservatively grade condition as very good plus in a very good plus dust jacket. The publisher’s red buckram binding is square, clean, bright, and tight with sharp corners. Trivial shelf wear is confined to extremities, with a little wrinkling to the spine ends. The contents are bright with no previous ownership marks. Only the page edges show mild age-toning and very mild soiling and spotting. Sixth printing of the first edition is clearly denoted by the number line “67890 43210987” on the copyright page. The date of this sixth printing is unknown. Levack & Willard (Dune Master: A Frank Herbert Bibliography) note that the second, third, and fourth printings each respectively state 1968, 1970, and 1972 on the copyright pages while the fifth and later printings lack printing information beyond the aforementioned number line. We can reasonably infer that this sixth printing was published in the early-to-mid 1970s – not long after the time Herbert shed other forms of livelihood to become a full-time fiction writer.
The dust jacket mirrors the design of the first printing, the only differences being the publisher name and address on the lower rear flap and printing of the ISBN on the upper front flap. The jacket is complete, apart from being neatly price-clipped at the upper front flap just above the printed ISBN. The jacket is clean and bright, showing only mild wear to extremities and a hint of abrasion at the upper vertical center of the spine. The jacket is protected beneath a removable, clear, archival cover.
Half a century after it was published, Dune continues to be regarded among the greatest science fiction novels. In Dune, Herbert created a reality at once compellingly foreign and provocatively familiar in philosophical, political, and cultural strictures tightly woven by Herbert and then cathartically disrupted. Herbert populated this reality with characters personal enough for the reader to identify and invest, yet potent enough to serve as allegory. Dune was revolutionary, even within the genre. Classic science fiction elements of galactic empire and faster than light space travel interleave with Homeric tragedy, biblical exile, suffering, and revelation, mystic states of altered consciousness, ecological sustainability as an ethos, and socio-political tensions between order and anarchy, revolution and reconciliation.
Dune was long, complex, strange, and unprecedented – and predictably rejected by more than 20 publishing houses before being improbably accepted by Chilton, a Philadelphia operation known for auto repair manuals and hobby magazines. The odd path to publication was consonant with Herbert’s odd path to literary greatness.
Frank Patrick Herbert, Jr. (1920-1986) had worked as a writer for more than two decades before Dune, but had worked a wide variety of jobs and was both unrecognized and “chronically broke”. 1959 found a 40 year old Herbert on the sand dunes near Florence, Oregon, researching a story about a U.S. Department of Agriculture program to stabilize the shifting sands. The Oregon dunes proved fertile ground for creative epiphany.
Herbert’s research into dunes became research into deserts and desert cultures, thence two short, serialized novels that he then re-worked into the single, giant epic that became Dune. An unqualified critical success, Dune won both the 1965 Nebula and 1966 Hugo awards for best novel. Commercial success was slower, but the fan cult grew during the 1970s when this sixth printing was published, and Dune became a lucrative franchise, with a series of sequels. Item #006289