The Time Machine (First Edition) by H. G. Wells



2015-06-26 10:26:52

The Time Machine is a science fictionhorror novella by H. G. Wells (1866-1946). The first edition of this work was published in 1895 by Henry Holt and Company, New York, and the English edition later the same year by William Heinemann, London. Background

Wells had been considering the idea of time travel, and his short story ‘The Chronic Argonauts’ explored it before The Time Machine did. The story also reflects Wells’s socialism, and late Victorian anxiety regarding industry.

The story was first published in serial form in the New Review. It was first published by Henry Holt and Company, New York, in 1895, and in England the same year by William Heinemann. The two texts have several differences, and are known as the ‘Holt text’ and the ‘Heinemann text’. The latter is the most accepted and reproduced.

Here, Wells coined the term ‘time machine’ which is now universally recognised to refer to a vehicle that allows purposeful and selective travel across time.

Plot, Characters, Themes

The protagonist is an English gentleman scientist and inventor, who is referred to as the Time Traveller. He regales his dinner guests with speeches about time being an additional dimension, and tells them he has built a vehicle that will carry a person through time.

At dinner the next week, he assumes the role of narrator as he tells them of his experiences travelling through time into a distant and strange future, and also to the end of time on a dying Earth.

This is one of the earliest works that created the Dying Earth subgenre of science fiction literature, taking place at the end of time or the end of life on Earth, and observing the failing of the laws of the universe, not from a catastrophe but from entropic exhaustion.


H. G. Wells was an English author, considered one of most significant developers of the science fiction genre.

Notable auction sales and collecting tips

While the American edition (1895, Henry Holt and Company, New York) was published slightly before the English (1895, William Heinemann, London), it is the English Heinemann text which is more popular, and used now for reproductions.

Christie’s sold inscribed first English edition copies for £4,700 in May 2000, $12,000 in June 2005, and £15,000 in June 2008.

Sothebys sold a first American edition for £2,040 in March 2005, and a first English edition for $25,200 in April 2004.

Heritage Auctions sold a first English edition for $3,107 in February 2008, and a first American edition for $5,676 in October 2008.

The original English first edition cover was designed by Ben Hardy. First editions are infinitely more valuable in their original bindings, in this case pictorial buckram cloth. Therefore it is not recommended to restore or rebind them.

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