John Wyndham Novels and First Editions

John Wyndham (full name John Wyndham Parkes Lucas Beynon Harris) was a British science fiction author who wrote several classic novels, including The Day of the Triffids, The Kraken Wakes and The Midwich Cuckoos. His works are highly collectible, especially in first edition form. Here we take a look at the value of John Wyndham first edition books published under his own name during his lifetime.

John Wyndham was a British author who wrote science fiction novels and short stories. He is best known for his novel The Day of the Triffids, which was adapted into a film in 1962. Wyndham was born in 1903 in England. He began writing science fiction in the 1920s, but did not achieve commercial success until the publication of The Day of the Triffids in 1951.  The Day of the Triffids, in particular, is considered a science fiction classic. It tells the story of a massive attack by alien plants that leaves humanity struggling to survive. The Day of the Triffids was first published in 1951, and a first edition can sell for upwards of £5,000 / $7,000. As with all first edition books the dust jacket condition is everything and prices vary greatly.

the day of the triffids first edition 1951
The Day Of The Triffids First Edition 1951. This signed edition sold for £5,000 at Reeman Dansie, August 2017.

John B. Harris and John Beynon

However, Wyndham had actually been writing stories and short stories since 1925 under several aliases and pseudonyns. In 1927 he published a detective novel, The Curse of the Burdens, as by John B. Harris, and by 1931 he was selling short stories and serial fiction to American science fiction magazines. His debut short story, “Worlds to Barter”, appeared under the pen name John B. Harris in 1931. Subsequent stories were credited to ‘John Beynon Harris until mid-1935, when he began to use the pen name John Beynon. Three novels as by Beynon were published in 1935/36, two of them works of science fiction, the other a detective story. He also used the pen name Wyndham Parkes for one short story in the British Fantasy Magazine in 1939, as John Beynon had already been credited for another story in the same issue.

The Kraken Wakes

John Wyndham’s second novel was The Kraken Wakes which was first published in 1953, originally published by Michael Joseph in the United Kingdom in 1953, and first published in the United States in the same year by Ballantine Books under the title Out of the Deeps as a mass market paperback. . The novel is about an alien invasion of Earth by creatures known as the “Kraken”. The Kraken are giant sea creatures that are able to telepathically control humans. They use their powers to create a world-wide flood, which forces humanity to evacuate to the moon.

The novel was well-received by critics and is considered to be one of the classic science fiction novels of the 20th century. It has been reprinted several times and has been translated into multiple languages. The Kraken Wakes is considered to be one of Wyndham’s most accomplished works.

john wyndham the kraken wakes
John Wyndham The Kraken Wakes. A first edition in near fine condition with near fine dust jacket estimate £500 / $700 – £700 / $850

The Midwich Cuckoos

John Wyndham’s The Midwich Cuckoos is a classic of British science fiction. First published in 1957, it tells the story of a group of children who are born with strange powers after a mysterious event in the village of Midwich. The book has inspired many writers and has been adapted for movies and TV series many times. A first edition in near fine condition with near fine dust jacket estimate £2000 / $3,000.

John Wyndham The Midwich Cuckoos first edition 1957
This first edition, light browning to endpapers, original boards, dust-jacket, very light sunning to spine, light rubbing to tips of spine and corners, a few light spots, but near-fine generally, 8vo, 1957. Sold for £1,100 at Forum Auctions, August 2021.

Did you know?
Wyndham began work on a sequel novel, Midwich Main, which he abandoned after only a few chapters.

The Midwich Cuckoos, first American edition, AUTHOR’S PRESENTATION COPY, INSCRIBED ‘To Lawrence Bachmann/the full epic of that charmed village / gratefully from John Wyndham July 1960’. Sold along with a signed letter for £7,000 at Bonhams, London, December 2020.

The Chrysalids, Trouble with Lichen and Chocky

Price Variations

In writing this feature as with many that include price guides it is always apparent that their is massive variation in prices even for similar books and objects. The prices given here are for near fine copies, so copies in excellent order. First editions of The Day of the Triffids, The Kraken Wakes and The Midwich Cuckoos will always be popular and sort after.

Bibliography of books published in his lifetime under the name John Wyndham

The Day of the Triffids (1951)
The Kraken Wakes (1953)
The Chrysalids (1955)
The Midwich Cuckoos (1957)
Trouble with Lichen (1960)
Chocky (1968)

BBC interview and feature with John Wyndham

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