This is a gallery of all the major Colin Wilson publications as documented in the first section (section A) of Colin Stanley’s exhaustive bibliography (Paupers’ Press, 2015) An entire Wilson collection is housed at the Manuscripts and Special Collections department of Nottingham University in the U.K.
[Note on numbering]. The numbering system, which can be seen by tapping on each book cover, is drawn from the bibliography – the ‘A’ stands for a primary, first edition text within the central Wilson corpus: these are “wholly or jointly” written by Wilson. In the bibliography secondary items (short fiction and nonfiction, books with forewords and afterwords by Wilson, books about, etc, are B, C, D and so on; the current bibliography, at over 600 pages, ends at the letter N). An item with the smaller letter ‘b’, ‘c’ etc refers to second or third editions – so the first UK Arthur Barker Man Without a Shadow (A8b) pictured here was issued slightly later than the original US Dial Press first, which isn’t in my collection. All are UK firsts with the exception of A24, A32, A39, A47, A55, A60, A79, A95b, A130, A133, A151, A152, A165, A170 and A175 which were mostly published in the US or elsewhere. Gaps in numbering refer to either the few impossible to find items not in the collection (A138 and A144), to items not available in English such as his sequel to The Space Vampires which was only published in Russian (A139) and texts in Japanese (A77, A97, A120, A135, A137, A140). The remaining missing numbers are items I have chosen not to include as they were essentially repackages, more or less, of other texts, or dry runs for full length books – the ‘World Famous’ series of cheap 99p paperbacks originally sold in Asda supermarkets! – or the Dorling Kindesley picture books for children. A few pamphlets produced via Paul Newman’s Wilson fanzine Abraxas are not included if the material was issued elsewhere (A141 and A143a) and A164a is an e-book only. Variants of quite a few texts are scattered throughout the rest of the site, more or less on their relevant page (philosophy, crime etc). Most of the Panther/Granada paperbacks pictured there date from my first involvement with Wilson’s books before I started collecting; some, like the Savoy version of The Killer are superior to the U.K. first, and others are studies of his work. These have the publisher and date but not the number from the bibliography.
This first decade of Wilson’s large and diverse oeuvre began with his explosive debut in 1956, and despite the severe critical backlash in his native Britain shortly after, he continued to write. His Outsider thesis was developed over another five volumes (A2, A3, A7, A9, and A14). Even at this early stage his divergent interests (criminology, mysticism, music) are already apparent, and his fiction is original and notable.
As the sixties progressed, the five volumes of the ‘Outsider Cycle’ series were summed up in the masterful Introduction to the New Existentialism in 1966. His novels continued to break new ground (A20) and his interest in mysticism and esoterica remained a subliminal part of his fiction (the eccentric figure of August Strindberg is dramatised in A29). An “interim report” (A24 and A28) paved the way for his welcome back into the critical fold with The Occult (1971) which is ironically more of a part of his ‘new existentialist’ work than it’s title suggests.
After the success of The Occult, Wilson wrote a full length study of Abraham Maslow and his humanistic psychology (A33) and developed his thoughts on criminology (A34) and literature and it’s place in the imaginative culture of romanticism, existentialism and modernism (A45). While working on a sequel to The Occult (A52) he produced small press items on Tolkien, Hermann Hesse, Borges, Wilhelm Reich and on film director Ken Russell, as well as a book on alcohol (A37) to add to his eclectic reputation.
Mysteries was the equally bulky sequel to The Occult and it appeared in 1978. It had a troubled creation as Wilson, now very overworked, had been suffering panic attacks (discussed with typical forthrightness in the book). It was around this time that he began to write about split brain theory (A57) changed his mind about poltergeist phenomena and offered, not for the first time, repackaged extracts from his occult books. There was a handsome coffee table tome about astronomy (A58) an intriguing Sartre obituary (also available in a signed limited edition of only 65 copies) studies of Gurdjieff and an expanded book on Wilhelm Reich (see also A44). The Space Vampires was turned into the enjoyably kitschy film Lifeforce, much to Wilson’s chagrin. The novel’s lengthy sequel has only ever been available in the Russian language, save for an excerpt which was once published in the Wilson fanzine Abraxas.
The catalogue on Bouvier de Cachard, a painter with a brain injury (A64) is a very rare but secondary Wilson item, of interest to collectors only. Access to Inner Worlds documents the strange creation of automatic poetry and art in Finland. Witches features illustrations by Una Woodruff, the Jung and Rudolf Steiner books are short and informative biographies (A78 is an expanded paperback of A59). Perhaps A Criminal History of Mankind is the standout book of the eighties, at least as far as criminology is concerned. The Essentual Colin Wilson looked back over the previous three decades of writing and research and remains a excellent primer. The Bicameral Critic is an intriguing collection of rare essays, compiled by Wilson biographer Howard F. Dossor. The underrated novel The Personality Surgeon anticipates the present era of digital manipulation and the Encyclopaedia of Modern Murder (a sequel to the pioneering A6) was compiled with Donald Seaman; for those with less sensitive stomachs, they also offered an amusing book of scandals (A80).
An Essay on the New Existentialism, which went back to his masterpiece of 1966 with renewed vigour, was produced by the cottage industry publisher Paupers’ Press, who would essentially become the ‘hub’ of all things Wilson, cataloguing his work, republishing obscurities and so, so much more over the next few decades. A90 and A96 are very personal essays which also found a home there. The Crowley book follows in the series on Gurdjieff, Jung and Steiner; The Misfits was a controversial study largely about the eccentric Charlotte Bach, and Wilson returned to Whitechapel with A86. Beyond the Occult (“probably my best book”) was the third and final part in the occult trilogy. An excellent novel about Rasputin is somewhat overlooked, perhaps due to it’s rarity, The engrossing Spider World series started and Existentially Speaking is another fantastic collection of vintage essays. Marx Refuted isn’t really in my top 100 Wilson texts though.
Written in Blood is a huge book on forensic detection “made manageable, but not exactly readable, by small print” according to a quip in the bibliography (the US version was split into three volumes). A99 continued where A91 left off and became “a bibliographer’s nightmare” according to Wilson’s own bibliographer (see also the ‘World Famous’ books). It is essentially a compendium of previous crime titles (A22, A34, A68 and A98). Paupers’ Press continued to offer Wilson rarities such as the chapters not included in the U.K. version of Wilson’s provisional autobiography (A25) as two booklets (A103 and A106). Around about this time the late Paul Newman had started his fanzine Abraxas – I found out about it via the back page of the Ouspensky biography (A117) – which was offering signed Wilson books (it was based in Cornwall) and doing off the cuff pamphlets such as the Outline of the Female Outsider (A122) and a Wilson Festschrift (A166) which are all now very scarce.
The cottage industry dedicated to rare Wilsonia gave us a treat with A130, Wilson’s notes from his personal copy of Introduction to the New Existentialism, and A133, letters to the Henry Miller scholar Henk van Gelre. There was also an essay on beatniks and angry young men if you were an Abraxas subscriber. Below the Iceberg:Anti-Sartre and Other Essays is one of Wilson’s best and rarest books. The Books in My Life and Alien Dawn were engrossingly eclectic successes with his fans. Overground, Wilson had another bestseller with Before the Sphinx – or From Atlantis to the Sphinx as Virgin preferred to call it.
A164 returned to Lovecraftian themes with his former collaborator John Grant, and there were several more true crime volumes, but the best part of Wilson’s final works looked back to the Angry Young Man period (A173) and indeed back over his entire life (A168). His philosophy was summed up in a book aptly titled Superconsciousness. Like The Devil’s Party (A140b) this was originally issued in Japan several years before the English language text. Some chapters were cut from the latter book but appeared in A151.
The final works listed in the bibliography are the Paupers’ Press books (all are now glossy covered, bound volumes rather than stapled matte paper) which include the bulky volume (A176) ‘The Death of God’ and other plays and the collection of critique (A178) Existential Criticism: selected book reviews which revisited texts from Eagle and Earwig (A15) and elsewhere. Two slimmer volumes, Comments on Boredom and Evolutionary Hunanusm and the New Psychology: Two unpublished Essays (A180) and Introduction to the Faces of Evil: an unpublished book, (A181) were both put together by Wilson scholar Vaughan Rapatahana. (A181 is the last book numbered in the 2015 bibliography). The first collects two essays from the 1970’s, one on boredom (“firstly, that idiot Warhol”) and the second on psychology; the Faces of Evil, which was planned in the mid-70’s, never got past the lengthy introduction, so that is the book (with illuminating commentary). A176 includes the scripts for The Death of God, The Metal Flower Blossom, Necessary Doubt and Mysteries – the latter eventually became the novel The Janus Murder Case. There are also two square softcover picture books (A177 and A179) which investigate the supernatural and crime, rather like the Dorling Kindersley titles (A148, A149, A154, A155) and appear to be for younger readers. Since 2015, there have been reissues of scarce titles and even more Wilson scholarship has appeared. There have been two successful international conferences, a collection of Wilson essays on philosophers and philosophy (A183), reprints of some of his early works and several full length studies including Gary Lachman’s biography Beyond the Robot. A182 “was the book Wilson was working on when he had his final stroke in the late summer of 2011. Although he lived for another two-and-a-half years he was unable to write” so the book was completed by his son Damon. (With thanks to Colin Stanley for the numbering of the volumes up to October 2018).
Lulu: an unfinished novel (A184) is what’s left of Wilson’s never completed project and the most recent of his posthumous books….so far. So the remaining two images – a review slip for A20 and the remnants of the promotional band from A4 – are placeholders for the next books to be scanned and indexed whenever they appear.
© Philip Coulthard/Colin Wilson Online 2018