the dying earth hillman
Do you have a book you’ve searched for over the years? I visited hundreds of used book stories over the decades, but I never found a copy of Jack Vance’s The Dying Earth in the Hillman edition (1950). I have the very nice Lancer edition of The Dying Earth and maybe four or five other versions. But the original eluded me for 50 years.

A week ago, my sister Eileen in Arizona called me. “I found some old paperback books at a used bookstore. Do you want me to ship them to you?” Eileen asked. “Sure,” I said. When the two boxes arrived, I unloaded some vintage SF paperbacks. Near the bottom of the box, I pulled out a book wrapped in plastic: the Hillman edition of The Dying Earth! In pristine condition! I almost swooned! What an unexpected delight!

I had almost given up finding a copy of the original paperback of The Dying Earth. I’ve seen (and held!) copies at Science Fiction conventions. But they were very pricey. Now I have my own mint copy and Life is Good! What are you searching for?
“Turjan of Miir”
“Mazirian the Magician”
“Liane the Wayfarer” (also known as “The Loom of Darkness”)
“Ulan Dhor Ends a Dream” (also known as “Ulan Dhor”)
“Guyal of Sfere” (It mentions a “Lost Book of Kells”, but a later publishing changed the name as there IS a book of Kells.

36 thoughts on “FORGOTTEN BOOKS #377: THE DYING EARTH By Jack Vance

  1. Prashant C. Trikannad

    George, what a lovely early Christmas gift! I’m sure there are many in store for you. I’d have to pinch myself not once, but twice, if I stumbled across a vintage paperback in any genre. I love the old paperbacks with their wonderful cover illustrations.

  2. Deb

    Did your sister know this was a book on your “Holy Grail” list or was it just surrendipity? Either way, what a great find!

    I have a list of out-of-print/hard-to-find books I want to read–I’m not looking for particular editions, I just want to read the books in question. Most of them are mysteries from the 1930s through the 1960s. Stark House has been a great find–publishing lost gems from the golden age.

    1. george Post author

      Deb, my sister sending me THE DYING EARTH (and some other vintage paperbacks) was complete serendipity! I’ve spent decades trying to find this book…and it finds me! You might consider sharing your WANT LIST with us. I might have a duplicate copy of some of your needs that I would be happy to send you. STARK HOUSE is one of my favorite publishers!

  3. Jerry House

    First off, your sister is a keeper, George! Secondly, congrats! THE DYING EARTH (Lancer edition) turned me on to Jack Vance back in the day and made me a fan.

    You asked, “What are you searching for?” It’s easier to ask what I’m not searching for, because I can answer that one easily. Danielle Steel.

    1. george Post author

      Jerry, my sister Eileen is indeed a Keeper! She has sent me some great books over the years. But THE DYING EARTH was in that box completely by chance. Eileen had no idea of its rarity…or it’s importance to me!

  4. Jeff Meyerson

    Amazing! The fact that she had no idea of what she had and sent it to you anyway (undoubtedly on the sound theory that the odds were good you’d want it) makes the story even better. I’ve felt that way about old paperbacks like that many times while book hunting in England (sadly, those days are gone), and to this day I still have dreams where I walk into a newly discovered secondhand bookshop and find bookcases full of old paperbacks. I’m always happy when I wake up.

    I do have a long list of things I want to read, but not collectibles as such.

    1. george Post author

      Jeff, after searching for THE DYING EARTH for decades it was a shock to find it at the bottom of a CARE package from my sister! Complete surprise!

  5. Wolf Böhrendt

    George, it’s nice to be lucky from time to time!


    Though with Brexit we don’t really know what will come out of it …

  6. Deb

    Today, I can only think of the words of Morrissey:

    Panic on the streets of London!
    Panic on the streets of Birmingham!

  7. maggie

    Such a great find. I think one thing I loved is the chase!! I remember fondly the booking trip Beth & I had with you after the last Toronto Bouchercon. Finding the 3rd copy of Fill the World with Phantoms by Earl Emerson was a VERY BIG DEAL.

    I’m getting rid of 100’s of books. It’s sad, but I can’t keep them all. I lamented a damaged copy of a book and the friend who is helping me said “see, that never happens with a kindle” my response was a bit snarky But you can never get 100x what you’d paid for with a kindle. (I’d been hearing often that “it’s just a book”)

    1. george Post author

      Maggie, I’ll be donating about 30 boxes of books to SUNY at Buffalo in August. Like you, I’ve realized you can’t keep them all.

  8. Art Scott

    Nice windfall! It never hurts to tell friends, acquaintances, relatives etc. about your collecting interests, however bored they might be to hear about it. Once in a while this sort of thing might happen.

  9. Denny Lien

    I heard about THE DYING EARTH via a review in AMRA around 1962, back when the Hillman was the only edition and was already (as the AMRA article noted) extremely rare. But I added it to a “by the way, do you happen to have this” list in an order I was sending to one of my regular booksellers (Joseph Koestner (sp?) of Brooklyn — and a couple of weeks later, to my shock, received it. The price? As I recall, 23 cents. (Nope, not even 25; JK sold pbs at “five for $1.15 at the time.) One of my better bargains. . .

      1. Wolf Böhrendt

        Oh, those were the days when books were 25 or 35 cents …

        Though with the strong $ I paid around 2 Deutsche mark (German paperbacks were 1,50) – if I could get them.

        Just hoping that “The dying Earth” is not a bad omen – The Dying Europe doesn’t sound so good either …

        We’re having a really bad thunderstorm right now after 30 degrees Celsius for two days …

  10. Richard R.

    What a great story! Nice find! I trust you’ll enjoy having – perhaps re-reading – this long sought edition. Interesting cover.

    I think you’ll like my Friday book, when you get over.

  11. Kent Morgan

    John D. MacDonald’s Weep For Me heads my old paperback want list. I’ve been lucky in recent years to find two large lots of old paperbacks, mostly mysteries including many Gold Medals. The first came when a friend who had a small used bookstore called me about an estate sale he was at. He had bought a few paperbacks but said there were many more. I went over and started sorting through them. As they piled up, I went back out of the room and asked the estate agent how much he wanted if I took them all., which probably numbered 200. He said twenty bucks so off I went with two full boxes. I should add that the agent’s wife runs a used bookstore, but she doesn’t bother with old PBs. The second came after I dropped by a used bookstore in a small community on Lake Winnipeg. I had always figured that there had to be old PBs in many of the cottages that had been around for many decades. Hadn’t found much even though I once had posted bulletins offering to buy them along with sports exhibit cards that came out of arcades along the boardwalk. In the bookstore I spotted a few old PB mysteries that were priced at a dollar. I told the women handling the cash that I was always looking for old mysteries and left her my number in case she found any. She called the next week and said she had found some in boxes and would put them aside so it was back to the lake the next weekend. Again there had to be a couple of hundred going back to the 1950s and most were in good condition. Give me five dollars was her answer when I asked the cost if I took them all. I said they were worth more, but she said I just want them out of here. So I’m always optimistic that I will find the elusive JDM. The thrill is in the hunt.

    1. george Post author

      Kent, those are two great book find stories! Congratulations on Winnipeg’s First Round selection, Patrik Laine. Excellent player! The Buffalo Sabres went with Alexander Nylander. The Sabres need scorers.

  12. Todd Mason

    Outposts: Literatures of Milieux by Algis Budrys would be one of my grails at the moment…and various uncollected Avram Davidson and Margaret St. Clair stories…

  13. Kent Morgan

    George, Laine looks like a good one and the hype is over the top around here. It might surprise you that I haven’t been to a Winnipeg Jets game since the NHL came back. And I’m a guy who was an original Jets seacon ticket holder in the WHA days and the early NHL, a guy who stills plays twice a week at the rink where the Jets practice, and a guy who writes a Memories of Sport column in five Winnipeg weeklies. Nobody ever believes me. Laine could get me back into the MTS Centre. I see former Jet Evander Kane has got himself in trouble again in Buffalo.

    1. george Post author

      Kent, Evander Kane finds trouble everywhere he goes. This latest incident involves Evander grabbing some girls in a Buffalo bar. They complained.


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