Monday 29 March 2010

A Wordsworth to the Wise

Thought this might be an opportunity to give my readers a quick pointer to Wordsworth Editions. People may remember this publisher, who introduced us to the idea of the £1 classic back in the early nineties.

Well, they’re still going strong and their editions are still exceptionally "value for money" (ok cheap, then) ranging at prices from £1.99 to £2.99 which, when compared to the cost of many modern paperbacks and given the extraordinary array of books available from Wordsworth Editions, is truly staggering. They’ve recently released my favourite Jules Verne novel, Mysterious Island, as part of their range and I’d urge any interested parties to pick this up as soon as they can - I remember waiting ages for a special order of this novel only a few years ago and when it finally came through it cost about a tenner! Wish I’d waited until now.

Of special interest is their “Tales of Mystery and the Supernatural” series of classic reprints. There are some great “value for money” editions of some absolutely terrific titles lurking beneath the covers of these distinctive black and charcoal grey editions (with their odd embossed and spot varnished blood and skulls), many of which I might never have been aware of if it wasn’t for the existence of this company.

Richard Marsh’s truly amazing tale of The Beetle for instance, which outsold publication of its nearest rival Dracula (also available in an excellent Wordsworth Edition) by a significant margin, is on their listings... and once you’ve read it you’ll see why it outsold the Stoker classic - it’s fantastic. This was apparently the source novel for a silent film of the same title, so if anyone can get ahold of a copy or give me any information as to its status as either a lost film or something from which the footage still survives... please contact me.

If you’re a fan of recurring characters, they have some complete collections of some very interesting ones... for instance, “The Casebook of Carnacki the Ghost Finder” by W.H. Hodgson or “The Right Hand of Doom and other tales of Solomon Kane” by the legendary Robert E. Howard. Plus lots of stalwarts of the genre such as Edgar Allan Poe, H. P. Lovecraft and Arthur Conan Doyle (and not just his Holmes stories, although these are obviously all covered... my first read of the Professor Challenger stories was via a Wordsworth Edition called “The Lost World and other stories”).

Contemporary writers are also on board with this label, such as David Stuart Davies and his remarkable tales of Sherlock Holmes adventures “previously unwritten” (like The Tangled Skein, which pits Holmes and Watson against Dracula).

And for all you people who like to know where your movies and TV shows have grown from, an interesting batch of short stories await you from this sterling publisher... an M.R. James collection, for example, which includes his “Casting The Runes” most famously adapted as Night of the Demon (or Curse of the Demon depending on which version you know)... an Ambrose Bierce collection which features “The Damned Thing” (most recently made into a Master’s Of Horror episode)... Sheridan Le Fanu’s “Carmilla” (which was the basis for many vampire films based on tales of the Karnsteins - including Hammer’s three movies kicking off with The Vampire Lovers)...Lafcadio Hearn’s “Oriental Ghost Stories” (which includes the tales which were the basis of Masaki Kobayashi's masterpiece Kwaidan... or Kaidan, depending again on which edition you have)... the list goes on. Do some research because I think you’ll find it’s worth it.

I should probably stop gushing now... suffice it to say that I owe Wordsworth Editions an enormous debt when it comes to exposure to a lot of great tales which I might not otherwise have read. From D’Artagnan to Dr Nikola and from Robinson Crusoe to Rouletabille, these editions are not to be missed and I personally consider this particular publisher to be providing, frankly, a wonderful and much needed (in these jaded times) public service rather than running a business... although they seem to be managing to do both quite well.

For details of all their editions go here...


  1. It's true The Beetle is a gripping horror story and a really enjoyable step back into the past.

  2. Verification and recognition at last!