Lord of the Flies

Title:Nineteen Eighty-Four
Location:London, United Kingdom
Published:June 8, 1949
Genre:, ,
Print Run:26,575

Lord of the Flies cover

Lord of the Flies is a novel by , published by in 1954.

First Edition Identification Points

All of the following points must be present to ensure a true first edition / first printing.

  • The copyright page has the following text:

First published in mcmliv
by Faber and Faber Limited
24 Russell Square London W.C.I.
Printed in Great Britain
Latimer Trend & Co Ltd Plymouth
All rights reserved

  • Front flap of dust jacket has a synopsis that starts “This is a story for adults about small boys…”
  • Front flap of dust jacket states “JOHN O’LONDON’S BOOK OF THE MONTH” at the bottom over the price “12s 6d net
  • Back flap of dust jacket is completely devoted to review blurbs for the book CHRIST RECRUCIFIED by Nikos Kazantzakis, published by Bruno Cassirer Ltd and distributed by Faber & Faber Ltd
  • Back cover of dust jacket features a list of NEW FICTION titles starting with “MINE BOY” and ending with “CHRIST RE-CRUCIFIED”
  • A wrap-around band was included with positive review blurbs from MANCHESTER GUARDIAN, OBSERVER, B B C, DAILY MAIL, EVENING NEWS, and GLASGOW HERALD

Later Editions’ Identification Points

The applicable printing numbers are listed in brackets when known.

  • Copyright page adds impression number and year. For example, the fourth printing would look like this:

First published in mcmliv
by Faber and Faber Limited
24 Russell Square London W.C.I.
Second impression mcmliv
Third impression mcmlv
Fourth impression mcmlvii
Printed in Great Britain
Latimer Trend & Co Ltd Plymouth
All rights reserved

  • Front flap of dust jacket has “Lord of the Flies” and “WILLIAM GOLDING” in two lines at the top [2]
  • Front flap of dust jacket features review blurbs starting with Evening News‘ and ending with New Statesman and Nation‘s [2]
  • Front flap of dust jacket states Jacket design by Anthony Gross at the bottom above the price [2+]
  • Back flap of dust jacket features review blurbs starting with ARTHUR CALDER MARSHALL’s and ending with Time and Tide‘s [2]
  • Front flap of dust jacket has “By WILLIAM GOLDING” and “LORD OF THE FLIES” in two lines at the top, under which it states “E. M. Forster’s choice as the outstanding novel of the year:” [4]
  • Front flap of dust jacket features review blurbs starting with The Observer‘s and ending with Manchester Guardian‘s above the price “15s net” [4]
  • Back flap of dust jacket features review blurbs starting with New Statesman and Nation‘s and ending with Time and Tide‘s [4]
  • Back cover of dust jacket lists two books “Also by WILLIAM GOLDING“: THE INHERITORS and PINCHER MARTIN, each accompanied by their respective blurbs [4]
  • Back cover of dust jacket adds two additional works by William Golding: FREE FALL and THE BRASS BUTTERFLY [5]
  • Back flap of dust jacket states: “(This book is also available in the Faber Paper Covered editions 5s net)” at the bottom [5]

Publication History

One night in the winter of 1951, William Golding told his wife Ann of an idea he had to write a book for grown-ups. The idea was about children marooned on an island, but to have these children behave more realistically than in the stories (Treasure Island, Coral Island, The Swiss Family Robinson, etc.) that William and Ann read to their own kids. Golding had two pictures in mind: a boy playing on a beach, delighted to be at last on a real coral island and then the same boy being hunted down by other little boys-turned-savages. Ann was enthusiastic and so William began the work. He wrote the book between (and sometimes during) classes while teaching at Bishop Wordworth’s school in England, and occasionally read passages aloud to his students. The manuscript was completed on October 2nd, 1952 under the title Strangers From Within.

On January 1st, 1953 Golding sent the manuscript and a cover letter to Jonathan Cape. They rejected the book but suggested submitting it to André Deutsch. Deutsch rejected the book as well, and over the course of the next seven months so did Putnam & Co., Chapman and Hall, Hutchinson, the literary agent Curtis Brown, and The Bodley Head, in that order. On September 14th, Golding sent the book to Faber and Faber where it was also tossed in the reject pile by a reader named Polly Perkins with a note that it was “…rubbish and dull. Pointless.” A young new editor named Charles Monteith happened to pull it from the pile and despite the physical evidence (disheveled and yellowish pages, especially towards the beginning) that the manuscript had already been sent around a number of times, he decided to read it. At that point the book started with a description of a future nuclear war, which Monteith did not care for. But he became engrossed by the story of the boys on the island, and despite finding other issues at the next Book Committee meeting he recommended meeting with the author to suggest a re-write. The sales director called the book “un-publishable” but Geoffrey Faber said Monteith could meet with Golding and suggest the changes, as long as he made it clear the firm was not committed to publishing it.

Monteith and Golding met in December 1953 and discussed the book and the changes that needed to be made. Golding was receptive and soon sent Monteith a number of updated drafts which completely struck the nuclear war opening and made the character Simon less obviously Christ-like. The Book Committee approved the new version and Geoffrey Faber even increased the usual first-time author’s advance of £50 up to £60 due to Golding’s patience. The firm also demanded a title change, and various editors and Golding himself came up with numerous suggestions. Editor Alan Pringle was the one who eventually suggested Lord of the Flies. Faber and Faber attempted to drum up some positive publicity before publication, but found only modest success in that endeavor; a periodical called John O’London’s Weekly named it the “Novel of the Month” (this distinction is indeed listed on the front flap of the first printing) but then ceased publication the week before the accolade was to be conferred and the book was to be released. Lord of the Flies was published on September 17th, 1954 at a price of 12s 6d and in a print run of 3,000 copies. The book was largely praised upon its release and was favorably commented upon by authors C. S. Lewis, E. M. Forster, and T. S. Eliot. A 2,000-copy second printing was called for in October and film rights were being discussed.

Not everything was rosy, however. The film talks stalled due to censorship issues, which frustrated the Golding family who were not well-off. Despite its positive critical reception, Lord of the Flies sold only 4,662 copies by the end of its first year, not making it a best-seller. Golding was interested in getting the book published in America, but between June 1954 and April 1955 the book was unceremoniously rejected by 12 major publishing houses. In mid-April Coward-McCann offered to publish Lord of the Flies in America and later released their edition on September 22nd, 1955 in a print run of 5,000 copies. It sold poorly, moving only 2,383 copies; Coward-McCann later flatly rejected Golding’s sophomore effort The Inheritors. Back in England, Monteith and Faber and Faber remained firmly in Golding’s corner. His follow-up books were not as warmly received, but Lord of the Flies continued to sell and additional printings were called for in 1955, 1957, and 1959. In August 1959 Capricorn Books, a division of G. P. Putnam’s Sons released a paperback version of the book. This version sold 4,300 copies that year, 15,000 copies in 1960, 75,000 in 1961, and an estimated half million by the end of 1962 at which point the plates wore out and had to be replaced. In 1961-2 Golding was living in America and giving lectures on college campuses across America. These tours, the growing ubiquity of the cheap paperback, and the well-received 1963 film adaptation all contributed to the novel’s snowballing popularity and ever-increasing sales numbers. Around this point Golding was able to retire from teaching and become a full-time writer. The book was a bonafide hit and in 1983 Golding would be given the Nobel Prize in Literature.