The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham – Advance Proof State

The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham - Signed Proof Copy
The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham - Signed Proof Copy

The Painted Veil (London: Heinemann, 1925. Advance Proof State)

The private owner of this proof in the United States very generously let me show these photos of the advance proof state of The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham.

The Painted Veil must be the one with the most complicated publication history among Maugham's works. During the printing of its first UK edition it went through several states of correction.

Technically speaking, the true first edition is the US one, with a limited and signed edition and a trade edition, published roughly a month before, without exciting the indignation as in its English-speaking sibling and retains all references to Hong Kong.

Two libel threats provided a colourful background. First, the name had to be changed, from Lane to Fane, because someone with the same names were offended by the unfolding story of the couple, which I would surmise that either it was one of nature's uncanny coincidence or Maugham was too lazy to change the names of the people he had in mind.

Second, the Assistant Secretary of the Hong Kong Government found it unbecoming that such intrigue and adultery should happen on their soil. So, the place names had to be changed too, to get rid of further troubles.

"Unfortunately," by that time, something like 8,000 copies were already printed, and some were dispatched, which had to be recalled. Surprisingly, only 74 copies were unaccounted for. I did ask myself whether I would return mine under such circumstance, a real test of honesty.

However, it would seem that none of these 74 copies have yet resurfaced, or I better only claim that I have not heard of any.

The Painted Veil – Advance Proof State

The Painted Veil - Proof Copy
The Painted Veil - Proof Copy

Because of the aforementioned complaint from Hong Kong, any reference to it had to be removed and cancels to be put in the already printed copies; due to the numerous references, incomplete replacements were quite inevitable, resulting in two issues and five states, with variations of corrections.

The Painted Veil - Proof Copy, p. 16 - Hong Kong
The Painted Veil - Proof Copy, p. 16 - Hong Kong

Stott registers the advance proof state, which would be the closest to the so far unrecovered first issue, first state, which also has, or is supposed to have, the uncanceled title page. Stott observes that the most probable reason for its cancelled state is due to the change done to the windmill device, as can be seen in the first photo of this post, which is different from later design with a clearer base.

The Painted Veil - Proof Copy, Copyright
The Painted Veil - Proof Copy, Copyright

As can be seen in the first photo, Maugham signed this particular copy in 1936. There is no indication that Maugham is dedicating this copy to anyone, eleven years after its publication.

With courtesy from the private owner, whose father was, besides an extraordinary man, a dedicated Maugham collector, we know that no corrections have been introduced in the copy. I hope to write a little more about his collection soon.

The Painted Veil – First Edition

I realize that though I have two copies (unfortunately, not very exciting ones) of The Painted Veil I still have not written about it. The first US edition is relatively cheaper than its UK counterpart, but then one has to take into consideration, naturally, whether it is the limited and signed edition or the trade edition.

As for the UK edition, it depends of course on which issue and which state the copy is.

How to cite this:

The Painted Veil at AbeBooks


  1. Hi,
    I just bought the Heinemann second edition with the second (more appropriate) dust-jacket. It came out in 1928. According to Norman Moore, both dust-jackets are very rare. It's a good-looking early edition. I paid $75 for it. There's a copy of the first edition on either eBay or ABE for $1500 but the dust-jacket is a facsimile not an original. Another copy for sale is without dust-jacket for a ridiculous $1200.

    1. I'm trying to convince myself that my collection is enough for my humble station. I'm certainly convinced, since there's no alternative. I've become quite unwilling to pay much for any book now.


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