Roald Dahl: Rare first edition of The Gremlins up for auction with personal note to wartime friend

Book is one of just 50 prototype copies Dahl had printed for his personal use

Roisin O'Connor
Saturday 25 April 2020 15:35 BST

A rare signed copy of The Gremlins by Roald Dahl is up for online auction in May, when it is expected to fetch around £4,000.

The first edition includes a personal note to Dahl’s RAF comrade, Wing Commander John Alexander, which suggests he had provided some inspiration for the work.

The note reads: “To John, who wrote the bloody thing anyway. Roald Dahl, 25/5/43.”

The Gremlins is about small creatures responsible for mechanical failings on aeroplanes. It was written for Walt Disney Productions in anticipation of a film being made, but this never came to fruition.

According to Hansons Auctioneers, the book also contains corrections made by Dahl in pencil. It is apparently one of just 50 books published for Dahl’s personal distribution.

Alexander’s daughter, Juliet, said her mother and two sisters grew up in Llandaff in Cardiff and often played with Dahl’s sisters as children.

“How coincidental, then, that later my father and Dahl served together in the RAF during the Second World War,” the 75-year-old, now based in Ontario, Canada, said.

“As the only living family member left in Canada, and without heirs, my intention is to ensure now that this copy earns the status it deserves, whether it be to an avid collector or a Dahl museum,” she said.

Jim Spencer, of Hansons Auctioneers, said the book was a “remarkable collector's item”.

“Not only does it take us back to Dahl's early days as a published author, that personal note provides an insight into the warmth of his character and regard for a wartime friend,” he said.

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