November 2011 | Nate Pedersen

Lord of the Flies Manuscript on Display

For the first time ever, the original manuscript of Lord of the Flies is on display to the public. The Bodleian Library in Oxford displaying the manuscript to commemorate the centenary of William Golding's birth in 1911. The exhibition will also display several Golding first editions, Golding family photographs, and the Nobel Prize he won for Lord of the Flies in 1983.

Golding wrote Lord of the Flies while working as a teacher at Bishop Wordsworth's School in Salisbury, England. He imagined how the privileged children he taught everyday would act when left to their own devices on a remote island. He wasn't exactly optimistic about the premise.
Golding shopped the manuscript to ten publishers, all of whom rejected it, before Faber picked it up in 1953. Golding was one of the first authors championed by Charles Monteith, an influential editor at Faber, whose literary tastes launched the careers of many talented young authors including Ted Hughes, P. D. James, and Philip Larkin.

First impressions of the first edition (with the dust jacket) from Faber start at about $3,000 online. The first American edition, published in 1955 by Coward-McCann, commands about half that price. Ironically, the first American edition is scarcer than the British edition. 2,383 copies of the first American edition were sold before the book initially went out of print. The first British edition, meanwhile, went through a print run of 3,040 copies.

An interesting gallery of the wide variety of Lord of the Flies covers produced over the years can be seen here.

The William Golding exhibition will be on display at the Bodleian through December 23.