The Beetle. A Mystery - Richard Marsh 1897 - Skeffington & Son, London - First Edition An outstanding and rare first edition of Richard Marsh’s best-selling gothic horror masterpiece. With four full page monochrome plates from illustrations by John Williamson.

'I saw him take a different shape before my eyes. His loose draperies fell about him…and there issued out of them a monstrous creature of the beetle tribe…'

The Beetle, published in 1897, is the tale of a shape-changing Egyptian creature that comes to London seeking revenge on a leading MP, which greatly outsold its close rival Dracula (published the same year).’

'Mr. Richard Marsh has, so to speak, out-Heroded Herod' –
The Glasgow Herald, comparing Marsh to Bram Stoker (1898).
'We cannot recommend The Beetle to persons whose nerves are weak...' –
The Speaker (1898).
‘Sordid and vulgar’ –
The Daily Mail (1898).
  ‘Born Richard Bernard Heldmann, Marsh (1857–1915) was a prolific professional author who wrote scores of novels and hundreds of short stories in a number of popular genres, including the Gothic, crime thriller, detective story, humour and popular romance; as Bernard Heldmann, he also produced school and adventure stories for a juvenile audience. Heldmann had become ‘Richard Marsh’ because of an unfortunate conclusion to a youthful misdemeanour: in his mid-twenties, Heldmann had briefly assumed a number of false, gentlemanly identities, living off bad cheques before the law caught up with him and he was sentenced to eighteen months’ hard labour. After this escapade, he adopted the pen-name ‘Richard Marsh’ and proceeded to live another kind of double life as a pseudonymous author. He was wonderfully prolific, publishing on average three volumes a year and in 1900 managing as many as eight.’ – Rediscovering Richard Marsh, University of Wales.

The Beetle, Marsh's most popular work, was first serialised in 15 instalments in 1897 in a magazine called Answers, which had a readership of up to half a million. It was then published as a novel and featured on The Bookman's bestseller list for six months. The first edition sold out instantly. By 1913 it was into its 15th impression, all the others having sold out. Owing to this popularity, a film version of the book was made in 1919, now lost’ – Graeme Pedlingham, Crawley Library.

Provenance: Nicholas Clayton, with his collection plate, and earlier indecipherable ownership inscription to front pastedown. Later from the collection of David and Patricia Cory, with their two bookplates.

Reference: Graeme Pedlingham, Crawley Library, ‘
The life and works of Richard Marsh’. Bleiler, Checklist of Fantastic Literature, 193. Bleiler, Science Fiction & Supernatural Fiction, 134.

Octavo (book size 19.3 x 13.5 cm), pp. viii 351 [1]. In publisher’s red cloth, spine and front board lettered in gilt and black, illustrated in black and pale green, rear panel with publisher’s logo in black, green leaf pattern endpapers. Professionally re-cased without removal of cloth or endpapers.
  Condition: Near fine, light wear to corners, internally clean with the exception of scattered spots, professionally re-cased without removal of cloth or endpapers.   Ref: 109442   Price: HK$ 22,000