Orientations (1899) by W. Somerset Maugham - First Edition First Issue

Orientations (1899) by W. Somerset Maugham
Orientations (1899) by W. Somerset Maugham

Orientations (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1899)

Not long ago, I discovered that I held a treasure on my shelves without knowing it. Orientations, the first collection of short stories published by W. Somerset Maugham in 1899, just two years after his initial success with his first novel, Liza of Lambeth (1897). This is a third book with T. Fisher Unwin, which also marks the end of their collaboration.

Orientations - First Edition First Issue

Four years ago I wrote a post about Orientations, but those were my early collecting days. I wasn’t sure whether it was a true first and left it at that.

Recently I was flipping over Stott and a description of Orientations caught my eye.

Orientations (1899) by W. Somerset Maugham top edges
Orientations (1899) by W. Somerset Maugham
Top Edges

He describes two bindings, one Kendal green and the other Lincoln green. I have to confess that the differences are too subtle for me to be able to identify which colour my copy is, especially when the book is over a hundred years old.

In any case, according to Stott, he doesn’t find any evidence as to whether one came out before the other and assumes that they were used simultaneously.

Now, there is an intriguing detail. Stott describes the spine of the two bindings as identical and mentions that at the bottom “T. Fisher Unwin” is enclosed in a “lozenge-shaped frame.”

Orientations (1899) by W. Somerset Maugham spine
Orientations (1899)
by W. Somerset Maugham

From other evidence–the “[All Rights reserved],” the cut leaves on top with gilt, and the other edges roughly cut–, I am pretty sure that mine is the first edition, first issue. However, the “T. Fisher Unwin” is enclosed in a single rectangular frame.

Another error from Stott is about the typo, which took me a bit to locate. Instead of being on p. 66, “elasped" is on p. 63.

Orientations - First Edition

Unfortunately, none of the first issue is on the market, as far as I know. There are several copies of the second issue and the colonial issue, one is affordable in the way that one wouldn’t mind putting it in the basket offhand; the rest are all priced sky high (in my humble standard), taking into account that they are not even the first issue.

You can have a look at the first edition first issue of Orientations on the Internet Archive.

It is certainly a very pleasant surprise to find out that I have a rare treasure in my hand.

at AbeBooks


  1. Hi, After reading this, I checked my copy for that typo - it's there, as is the "lozenge-shaped" frame. I bought it a couple of years ago by someone who really didn't know what he had, but knew it was probably worth something, so he charged me around $115 for it. What did you pay for yours?

    1. I am very curious about the lozenge-shaped frame, any possibility of a photo? Which green would you assign yours?

      I paid US$75 plus postage. This is certainly a keeper.

  2. Hi. I just posted an entry on my blog about this book, plus anecdote.


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