Three years before the mass market edition of The Eyes of the Dragon was published by Viking Press in 1987, a limited edition slipcased hardcover was released in a unique way from Stephen King’s own Philtrum Press.
Limited Philtrum Press Edition
Mass Market Edition
At the time, best known for his horror fiction, King released the unexpected work of classic fantasy and dedicated it to his daughter Naomi.
The author wrote the book for Naomi, who had never read one of his books, professing disinterest in his spooky, supernatural, creepy-crawly horror stuff. Although she began reading Eyes of the Dragon (originally called “The Napkins”) with some reluctance, it soon had its desired effect: she loved it, couldn’t stop reading, and didn’t want it to end.
In an essay titled “The Politics of Limited Editions,” King explains why he had chosen to publish certain books in limited runs, stating that he didn’t think his general public would like such books as Eyes of The Dragon, Cycle of the Werewolf or The Gunslinger. Three years later, however, King would bow to public pressure, releasing a revised trade edition of Eyes of The Dragon incorporating new illustrations by David Palladini.
The synopsis of the book is as follows:
King Roland, ruler of Delain has two sons, Peter and Thomas. Queen Sasha died when Thomas was born. Although Roland loves both of his sons, he favors Peter because Peter is like his mother. Thomas is more like Roland both in temperament and looks.
King Roland is easily led by Flagg, the court advisor. Flagg, a reoccurring malevolent character in Stephen King’s fiction, first appeared in the novel The Stand as a demonic figure who wreaks havoc after a plague kills most of the population. He makes his second appearance in The Eyes of the Dragon as an evil wizard attempting to plunge the fictional medieval city of Delain into chaos. Flagg made several more appearances in King’s epic series The Dark Tower.
When Roland is murdered, Prince Peter is unfairly convicted of the crime and is imprisoned in a tall tower. Young Prince Thomas, the new ruler is twisted by Flagg. Before Flagg’s final plan for Delain is underway, Peter must find a way to escape and retake his throne.
The original limited edition of Eyes of The Dragon was sold by lottery (at least 3 were conducted). Three ads ran in Fantasy & Science Fiction magazines to announce the book.
Apparently the demand for the limited copies was such that a raffle system was devised and names were drawn at random. The lucky 1,000 winners were notified by letter (an example is below).
The print run for the rare book was as follows:
- 1,000 copies, numbered (1-1000) in black ink, with slipcase.
- 250 copies, numbered (1001-1250) in red ink, with slipcase.
- 26 copies, lettered (A-Z) in black ink. Originally reserved for private distribution and not intended for sale to the public.
The cost of the limited edition volume with shipping was $127, a pittance now for a book that is now valued at almost $1,000.
250 copies of the book were sent to Stephen King’s family, friends and associates as an elaborate Christmas present, similar to his episodic story, The Plant.
A visual and tactile sensation, the book stands over 13” tall and is 314 pages in length. The interior paper was intended to feel like fine linen napkins, a key element within the story. Designed by Michael Alpert, the highly sought after fantasy novel features decorative boards and cloth spine back with gilt titles in a matching slipcase. King signed the book on a special limitation page bound in back. Kenneth R. Linkhauser provided the striking black and white illustrations.
An interesting side note, the SyFy channel plans on bringing Stephen King’s, The Eyes of the Dragon to life via a made for TV movie or perhaps a TV mini-series in the near future.