Book Description


CLARKE, Sir Arthur Charles. Mechanically reproduced typed letter signed (‘Arth[ur] C Clarke’) with autograph salutation (‘Mr Paul’), autograph annotation ‘PTO.’, and dated autograph postscript, [s.l.], 24 September 1971.

2 pp. on one l. on wove paper with autograph additions, quarto (254 x 204mm). Folded for despatch. (Extremities lightly rubbed and darkened, some marking, corners creased, 30mm tear at head with small loss and marking.)
Dealer Notes
Sir Arthur Charles Clarke (1917-2008) was an English writer of science fiction and non-fiction, whose best-known work was the script for 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), which was created in collaboration with Stanley Kubrick and based on stories by Clarke. Interested in space travel from a young age, Clarke had joined the British Interplanetary Society while still in school, studied physics and mathematics at King’s College, London, and began to write science fiction while working in the civil service in the later 1930s. An officer in the Royal Air Force during the World War II, he worked with American scientist-engineers and published an important technical paper on ‘Extra-Terrestial Relays’ in the journal Wireless World (1945), describing a ‘geostationary orbit’ that the International Astronomical Union later officially designated the ‘Clarke Orbit’. In 1956 Clarke settled permanently in Sri Lanka, where he had discovered his love for the weightlessness of outer space in the form of scuba diving – a passion cut short when he contracted polio in 1962 and, 22 years later, post-polio syndrome, which confined him to a wheelchair for the final decades of his life. Continuing his career as a writer, at the end of his life, Clarke had written ‘or collaborated on close to 100 books [...]. His works have been translated into some 40 languages’ (obituary, New York Times, 18 March 2008).

This is a form letter from Clarke to an unidentified Mr Paul in response to his letter which was, as the printed text explains, one of the ‘several thousand items of mail a year’ received by Clarke. The form letter is ‘designed to deal with about 90% of the questions I am asked’ and contains Clarke’s details including his correspondence addresses and those to which lecture requests and queries about rights should be sent; references for his biography, bibliography, and other information commonly requested by the media; and short paragraphs on ‘advice to authors’ and ‘2001’ (beginning ‘I cannot further comment on this subject!’).

Clarke’s autograph postscript dated 24 September 1971 forms an apology to Mr Paul, who apparently wished to meet with him: Clarke explains that he will be ‘leaving immediately after lecture for USA!’ due to a ‘lecture tour and Mars Flyby at J.P.L. Nov[ember] 13’, before apologising for the ‘haste – haven’t yet had time to prepare my lecture!’.

The ‘Mars Flyby’ was that of NASA’s Mariner 9, the first spacecraft to orbit another planet, which had been launched from Cape Canaveral on 30 May 1971 and was due to reach Mars on 13 November 1971 (‘J.P.L.’ refers to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab). On 12 November, the day before the mission reached Mars, Caltech Planetary Science professor Bruce Murray gathered a panel of thinkers to discuss this momentous event and its implications. Under the moderation of the New York Times science editor and its designated reporter on Mariner 9 Walter Sullivan, the conversation included Carl Sagan, Ray Bradbury, and Arthur C. Clarke, and was published in 1973 as Mars and the Mind of Man. Clarke commented: ‘We are now in a very interesting historic moment [...], the frontier of our knowledge is moving inevitably outward. [...] Carl [Sagan], you’ve gone on record as saying that Jupiter may be a more hospitable home for life than any other place, including Earth itself. It would be very exciting if this turns out to be true. I will end by making one prediction. Whether or not there is life on Mars now, there will be by the end of this century’ (cited in Maria Popova, ‘Mars and the Mind of Man: Carl Sagan, Ray Bradbury and Arthur C. Clarke in Cosmic Conversation, 1971’,
Author CLARKE, Sir Arthur Charles
Date 24 September 1971
Publisher [s.l.]

Price: £395.00

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