First Edition of Watership Down; Inscribed by Richard Adams to Madeleine L'Engle
Adams, Richard (Madeleine L'Engle).$11,000.00
Item Number: 99338
London: Rex Collings, 1972.
First edition of Richard Adams’ timeless classic novel. Octavo, original brown cloth, folding map. Association copy, inscribed by the author on the title page to fellow bestselling children’s author Madeleine L’Engle, “Yours sincerely, For Madeleine, on a very special occasion Richard Adams.” From the library of Madeleine L’Engle. Both Adams and L’Engle were unknown in the publishing world until their singular best-selling award-winning children’s novels were finally published after numerous rejections. Both authors’ works were also published in their mid-lives after they had married and had children. At the insistence of his daughters, Adams began writing the story he had told them on a car trip in 1966 at the age of 46 and after four publishers and three writers’ agencies turned down the manuscript, Rex Collings agreed to publish the work in 1972. The book gained immediate international acclaim and went on to win the Carnegie Medal, Guardian Prize, and was adapted into several feature films and television series. L’Engle’s best-selling work A Wrinkle in Time was also initially rejected by at least 26 publishers. It was not until a close personal friend of L’Engle’s mother introduced her to John C. Farrar of Farrar, Straus and Giroux that the work was finally published in 1962. L’Engle was 44 years old at the time of publication and A Wrinkle in Time went on to win the Newbery Medal, the Sequoyah Book Award, the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, and inspired two film adaptations, both by Disney: a 2003 television film directed by John Kent Harrison; and a 2018 theatrical film directed by Ava DuVernay. Near fine in a near fine price-clipped dust jacket with light shelf wear. Housed in a custom half morocco clamshell box. An exceptional association.
Although Watership Down was rejected by 13 publishers before Collings accepted it, it has never been out of print, and is Penguin Books' best-selling novel of all time. It won both the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Prize. The title refers to a hill in the north of Hampshire, England, near the area where Adams grew up. The story has its roots in the tales that Richard Adams made up for his young daughters during long car journeys. As he explained in 2007 in an interview with the BBC, he "began telling the story of the rabbits . . . improvised off the top of my head, as we were driving along." He based the struggles of the animals on the struggles he and his friends encountered during the Battle of Oosterbeek in 1944. The daughters insisted he write it down"they were very, very persistent." After some delay he began writing in the evenings and completed it 18 months later.