Wodehouse's First Book

The Pothunters

London: A&C Black, 1902

8vo, pp. 272. Original blue boards, lettered in silver to spine, loving cup in silver to front panel. One small and slight scuff mark to centre of spine, light wear to spine ends, corners a trifle bumped. Offsetting to endpapers, and very light and very occasional spotting to text edges. Lettering bright, and with no sunning to spine.

First edition of the author's first book. First issue, with no advertisements, and with silver loving cup to front board. First published in serial (and slightly condensed) form in Public School Magazine, January--March 1902.

'[I]n 1900, [boys' magazine] The Captain appeared, and in the first number was a serial by Fred Swainson called Acton's Feud. It began, I remember, 'Shannon, the old international, had brought a hot side down to play the school...' and if there has ever been a better opening line than that, I have never come across it. It was something entirely new in school stories -- the real thing -- and it inflamed me to do something in that line myself. If it hadn't been for Acton's Feud, I doubt if I would ever have written a school story.'
(PGW to Richard Usborne, 11 January 1952, cited by Ratcliffe)

Three cheers, then, for Fred Swainson: Wodehouse's first book is a vivid, funny, exciting boy's story, with all the genre's usual moralising and sentimentalism swept away, and written by someone who, at the time of its publication, was still barely more than a boy himself -- just twenty years old. Wodehouse knew his audience, and The Pothunters set his course for the rest of the decade.

Not as scarce as the first books of most major authors, for some reason, but very scarce in such eminently collectable condition.

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