In a recent video chat with the cast and maker of director Denis Villeneuve's Dune adaptation, due in theaters in December, host Stephen Colbert referred to Frank Herbert's 1965 novel as "a coming-of-age story, not just for Paul Atreides but for humanity." Heavy, but accurate the reason so many young readers revisit the science-fiction classic time and again in their middle age. If you read Dune once, chances are you've read it several times and seen, repeatedly, the movies and TV shows based upon the novel.
To think, Dune almost went unpublished as a novel, as 23 publishers rejected Herbert's longform version. Had it not been for editor (and writer) Sterling Lanier, the houses Atreides and Harkonnen, the Gom Jabbar, the spice and the sandworms might never have seen the light of day in book form and become one of science-fiction's best and best-selling novels.
Lanier reminds the reader as much in his personal copy of Dune's first edition (estimate: $7,500), which is being offered Oct. 15-16 during Heritage Auctions
' Rare Books event.
"This is my edition of Dune, which I got into print and forced through countless editorial meetings," the former Chilton Books editor scrawled on the tome's title page. At the time, the Philadelphia-based company was best known as the publisher of auto-repair manuals. The book contains Lanier's endorsement: "It is a good book!"
To see this copy come to auction at any time would be noteworthy enough. That it's available now, in the shadow of Villeneuve's anxiously awaited adaptation, makes it nothing short of an event.
Lanier provides a brief history of Dune's publication which began in 1957, when Herbert, then a Seattle-based journalist, began writing about the sand dunes encroaching upon the grasslands near the Oregon coast.
Inside the front cover, which bears a bookplate noting this copy is "From the Library of Sterling Lanier," he writes of reading the serialized Dune in Analog magazine. Herbert's three-part "Dune World," which first appeared in Analog in December 1963, was edited by John W. Campbell, who helped shape the work and careers of no less than Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke. As Lanier notes: "I felt that if John Campbell, the Ultimate SF Ed. of all, felt that way, it had to be super!"
Lanier notes, too, that Dune was intended to be a "one-shot," and says he rejected Herbert's offers to publish Dune's myriad follow-ups. "The sequels, etc. are not worth reading," Lanier laments.
"People like something that has to do with the history of the book's publishing," says James Gannon, Heritage Auctions' Director of Rare Books. "That's what makes this is a really special copy of Dune. It's already an important, highly sought-after book. But there is only one like this copy."