Collecting Wilbur Smith, a legend in his own life time
Written by guest writer Doug Nicholson from Dougfindsbooks
A writer now for around 50 years, one can say the Wilbur A. Smith (as he first wrote), is now firmly established in the pantheon of great adventure/thriller writers.
It was quite natural that most of his early books had a strong Southern African background, as, born in the region and educated in one of South Africa’s premier schools, he had the knowledge and interest to write a procession of adventure stories such as When the Lion Feeds, Gold Mine and Eagle in the Sky.
Apart from being most enjoyable reading, these early books (mostly published by his first major publisher, Wm. Heinemann of London) have become very collectable. First editions and signed and/or dedicated copies are in very short supply. They are recognisable by their thick matte paper and illustrated dust jackets — A must for the collector.
Later after many successful years, Wilbur Smith joined Macmillan Publishers and continued his great run of success. During this period, the author lost to cancer his inspirational wife of nearly 30 years, Danielle Thomas, herself a talented author.
People collect books for a number of reasons but usually to enjoy having a set of first editions. When considering buying a Wilbur Smith First Editions, always check the back of the title page. There are usually two dates which should be same: the ‘copyright’ and the ‘publication’ dates. It will not say first edition but “First Published in…”. If it also says, “reprinted before publication” it is not generally accepted as a First Edition. If it says ‘reprinted…’ it is not a First Edition.
Of course you do have Wilbur Smith titles published in countries other than the UK that can be regarded as ‘first editions ‘of that country.
If you are buying an unseen First Edition of the book (for example, online) ask for a copy of the back and front of the title page.
A well-priced First Edition will usually have a dust jacket. Beware of copies or jackets of later editions.
As the years pass the older titles, published in smaller numbers, become harder to find, particularly when they are author-signed or author-dedicated. This increases the price but also the re-sale value of the book.