New into the Collection: Naked Lunch in dust wrapper, with a story attached.

Well bugger me two milestones in one week must be a record, yesterday achieved my first trade, detailed in my previous page. And today, with no credit due to this blog my copy of Naked Lunch, purchased at great cost but with a generous discount from the nice people at Adrian Harrington Rare books in Tunbridge Wells.

The significance for the collection is that, barring the “Melting” variant of “Dissolving” (a sad story related elsewhere in this blog), I have all of the Traveller’s Companion Series by Number, Edition and variant titles. This for the first time in 10 years, do I hear a round of applause, the distant “pop” of a cork, the rustle of silk on naked skin?

Do I fuck!, And at the risk of pissing on my own parade I want to tell you a little story.


Above is the item in question, see the lovely design on the wrapper, bet that was expensive to produce, in 1959, all that art work and in colour too, probably cost more than the book itself in production costs.

I have had so many copies of this book that it beggars belief, it is as common as muck, run a search on it see how many copies jump up, and surprise surprise, they all want  to be first editions, but they are not. If it does not have a green border on the title page an original Price of Francs 1500 (over-stamping is academic) if it has a dust-wrapper that too has Francs 1500.

No border on the title page 18NF on the back, NOT A FIRST EDITION, might be first edition papers with new Title Page without a border, but this edition was published in 1962 so how the fuck can it be a first edition when that was published in 1959.

The first bit of the rant over, the truth is that nobody wanted this book when it came out for years it was one of the easiest books to get in the series, but it never turned up in the dust-wrapper, I don’t recall seeing one until the 90’s, as previously stated I have had a lot of these and at one time had 6 copies, and one day purchased a copy advertised as for sale with an ill fitting dust-wrapper, well surprise surprise, when the book arrived it was not the dust-wrapper that was wrong but the book which was too big, the wrapper fitted comfortably on my other copies, but not fat boy, which was both taller and thicker, with a lighter cover than the other copies, no fucking way was that dust-wrapper or any other I have seen since going to fit on that behemoth of a Naked Lunch, obviously a non -Junkie fitness freak version of the tome.

The point of this being I have long believed that Naked Lunch was out and in some numbers, prior to the delivery of the expensive wrapper, and that someone had fucked up big time, because the two were incompatible, I believe that the book was reissued in a slightly smaller edition to accommodate the wrapper, I can’t prove it and I no longer have fat boy. But look out for a slightly chubby, pale green copy of the book, and if you are lucky enough to have a wrapper copy as well try the fitting test, get back to me if you get a result.

My conclusion, When Naked Lunch was first issued it did not have a dust-wrapper.

And on the subject of Bill Burroughs and Olympia Press, now so valuable and collectible, these books were as popular as the black death when they were published, no one wanted them, mainly because they were incomprehensible, and they did not sell in the 60’s or the 70’s, only to latter day hippies and they always stole their books on principal,  a lot of them started to turn up in the late 80’s, and at one point at a central London Book-fair around 92, I was approached by a Gallic gentleman, “Pssst do you want to buy a dirty book”, not really but he saw some of my Olympias on display and asked me if I would like to buy copies of “Soft Machine” and “Ticket That Exploded”, fine condition in dust wrappers for £35.00 each. Yes please was my rather strangled answer, -“How Many” said Jean-Paul, we were by now on first name terms, and I was already considering the advantages of a homosexual relationship, “why both of them please” said I, fluttering my eyes, now worried that Pierre (fickle bastard changed names on me mid conversation), was going to limit me to one of his two books for sale. “No you misunderstand me said Bertrand” (forget it), “How many copies of each do you want to buy, I have many” Now happily married Donatien (he did it again), and I look back and laugh at the day that we met like star crossed lovers. CUT

I purchased 5 copies of each from him all long sold, as I mentioned elsewhere I have had them all before, and many titles had the unnerving habit of turning up in stunningly fresh condition, at one point I wrote to Pat Kearney and asked him if he thought someone was running off new copies in Paris, an occurrence he thought unlikely. Though both he and I know the truth and the Englishman living and working in Paris who finds these caches of unsold, or seized Olympia titles. But more of that later.

Just to polish off this little story, i once had a perfect copy of Naked Lunch in wrapper, some silly bastard had scribbled all over the title page, name was Burroughs or something like that. Twat inking on someone else book, sold mine on eBay went for about £60 should have pulled it,, but was too out of my face, and a deal is a deal. On signed copies, hate them, unless they are part of a signed limitation, marginally more tolerant of contemporaneous signed copies, but Bill Burroughs signature in 1980 on a book published 20 years before is just silly, Burroughs would sign any fucking thing, if he didn’t have the hump on a particular day, “Hey” Bill sign my arse please”. Its harder to find a really clean copy of “Naked Lunch” that the pen wielding maniac has not signed.

Message from Pat Kearney received  19th June 2015;

Steve, Hi: I checked on the “Naked Lunch” piece on your blog, and added a short note. Subsequently, I fished my copy of the Wm. Burroughs bibliography out of the archive, and found this: “Miles states that the very first issues [of “Naked Lunch”] were released without the dust jackets; they were added after a month or so.” This from: William S. Burroughs : A Bibliography, 1953 – 73. Compiled by Joe Maynard and Barry Miles (Charlottesville : Published by the Bibliographical Society of the University of Virginia by the University of Virginian, 1978), p. 10. So you might be onto something. The limitation is : 5000 copies printed in July 1959. Reprinted “soon after the original publication” with a second 5,000 copies, and again in 1965. So, 15,000 copies in all. “There also exists two sets of unbound sheets for a special edition that was never issued. One of these is in the William Burroughs Archive, and the other in a private collection.” There is also “. . . a pirated edition (not examined), probably done in Formosa, copying the Traveler’s [sic] Companion format.” Warmest regards Pat

7 thoughts on “New into the Collection: Naked Lunch in dust wrapper, with a story attached.

  1. Interesting story, and the theory about an earlier & stouter printing than the one usually seen in ‘first edition in d/w’ condition is a bibliographical challenge. But quite plausible. Well worth a closer examination I think.

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  6. I have several copies of the Israeli Lolita and one of them is differently sized, shorter and narrower.

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