Most readers are aware of Jules Verne’s (1828–1905) science fiction, such as From The Earth to the Moon, Journey to the Center of the Earth, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and others. But Verne was a prolific writer, and many of his 60+ novels are not readily available—only around a dozen of his novels are “science fiction,” for example; many of the others were pure adventure tales, with a few horror stories and mysteries thrown in. In 1958, I.O. Evans envisioned a series of Jules Verne volumes that would introduce many of the Frenchman’s lesser-known novels to the public. Publisher Bernard Hanison signed a deal with Evans to produce such a series—which became known as the “Fitzroy” editions, as Hanison’s office was 10 Fitzroy street. Within a few years, 10 of the 63 “Fitzroy” editions were reprinted as paperbacks by Ace Books, featuring amazing covers by Jerome Podwil and portraits of Verne by Ron Miller.
Sadly, the “Fitzroy” editions haven’t been reprinted since, though many of Verne’s books are available as low-cost reprints and cheap Kindle scans. The Ace volumes command respectable prices on the secondary market, and eBay is full of $15-20+ listings. (Abebooks has a bunch in the more rational $1-5 range, though many copies still aren’t cheap.) Since most of the Verne novels had not been translated until the “Fitzroy” editions, very few of Verne’s lesser-known works exist in English in the public domain, even though their author has been dead for over a hundred years.
From the back dust jacket of some of the early “Fitzroy” hardcovers:
THE FITZROY EDITION OF Jules Verne
The intention of this new edition of one of the greatest of imaginative writers is to make it as comprehensive as possible, and to include his lesser-known, as well as his most popular works. Jules Verne is universally acclaimed as the founder of modern science fiction and as the author of a number of exciting stories of travel and adventure, but he also produced several historical novels and some acute studies of contemporary life.
The first three books in he series are selected to illustrate several aspects of his work. A Floating City is based on his own experiences when he crossed the Atlantic in the ill-fated Great Eastern, a vessel that was intended to be the greatest achievement of nineteenth-century engineering but which proved to be its greatest failure. The Begum’s Fortune, a remarkable work of science fiction, displays its author’s gift of foresight, for it contains not only what is probably the first idea of an artificial satellite but a grim foreboding of the modern totalitarian state. Finally, Five Weeks in a Balloon demanded inclusion, for it was through this book that Verne won his success as a writer.
The series is under the general editorship of I. O. Evans, F.R.G.S., compiler of Jules Verne: Master of Science Fiction, and for many years an admirer of Verne and a science fiction addict.