President Dwight D. EISENHOWER (1890-1969). - Roald DAHL (1916-1990).
The Gremlins. From the Walt Disney Production. A Royal Air Force Story. By Flight Lieutenant Roald Dahl. London and Glasgow: [printed in Great Britain] Collins, [no date, but 1944]. Quarto (10 7/8 x 8 5/8in; 276 x 220mm). Pp. [1-52]. 1 double-page coloured illustration, 12 full-page coloured illustrations, numerous uncolored illustrations, all from designs by Disney Studios. Condition of contents: excellent.
Deluxe binding of dark blue calf, upper cover titled in gilt 'The / Gremlins / from the / Walt Disney / Production' with a gremlin stamped in blind, pale blue 'cloud-effect' endpapers, top edge gilt. Condition of binding: poor overall – leather perished, dried out and detached, padding present but detached, boards and endpapers in excellent condition, the boards protected by a loose chemise formed from a patterned paper designed by Edward Bawden in 1936.
Provenance: Dwight D. Eisenhower (signature on front free endpaper); Patrick Buchan-Hepburn, Lord Hailes (1901-1974, Conservative MP and sometime personal secretary to Winston Churchill, by descent, sold at auction).
First UK edition, preceded by the first US edition of the previous year. An example of the very rare deluxe issue apparently produced for presentation. In addition, this copy is signed by General (later President) Eisenhower, probably at a special dinner in London in aid of the RAF Benevolent Fund.
As Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces in Europe it is unsurprising that Eisenhower should lend his support to the RAF Benevolent Fund (perhaps prompted by his second in command Sir Arthur Tedder of the RAF). Another possible connection may well have been Kay Summersby, Eisenhower's driver and then assistant: she apparently knew Roald Dahl socially.
This is Dahl's first book and his only collaboration with Walt Disney. 'The Gremlins' was written as a promotional device for a feature-length Disney animation that was never produced, partly because the studio could not establish firm copyright in the "gremlin" characters (Dahl claimed to have invented them, though they had been common currency in the RAF and had appeared in print at least once before) and partly because the British Air Ministry wanted final approval of the script and production. It was eventually agreed that royalties would be split between the RAF Benevolent Fund and Dahl. The book is still described on the title and the front cover as being "From the Walt Disney Production", although the Disney studio had written to Dahl in August 1943 cancelling any further preproduction work.
The US edition is much sought-after by Dahl collectors but is not especially scarce – the print run was 50,000 copies. The British edition was not so large (probably 2000 of the ‘ordinary’ issue) and is less often encountered.
The standard literature on Dahl’s works makes no mention of copies of ‘Gremlins’ in de luxe bindings: so far, this seems to be only the third recorded copy (and the second to contain Eisenhower’s signature): 1. Peter Harrington copy (extremities of the binding rubbed, for sale at 12,500 GBP); 2. UVA copy, fine condition, signed by Eisenhower (this came from the same source as the present copy); 3. The present example, leather dried out, cracked and detached from the boards which form the binding, internally fine condition. Nobody seems to have any record of the production of these special copies: e.g. the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre; the RAF Museum; and the HarperCollins archives.