The Soft Machine (1967) by William S. Burroughs – Signed First Edition
True First Edition, 1967
Softcover, The Olympia Press
Bound in green Travelers Companion series wrappers, with original dust jacket designed by Brion Gysin
Signed on full-title by William S. Burroughs on October 21, 1982, with “Detroit” handwritten below the title.
This true first edition of William S. Burroughs’ cut-up novel The Soft Machine is a crown jewel for any serious Burroughs collector.
The densely poetic, abstract prose of The Soft Machine is an enigmatic display of Burroughs’ talent, and his ability to channel the vast frontiers of his consciousness. The Soft Machine has been variously compared with Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake—both for being a profoundly challenging read, as a masterful achievement in Burroughs’ development of a vernacular style of storytelling all his own.
The Soft Machine—this extremely rare Olympia Press first edition in particular—is also an artifact of a particularly momentous period of productivity and artistic growth Burroughs undertook during his time in France. Much of The Soft Machine was completed at the Beat Hotel in Paris, and the heavy influence of Brion Gysin (whose asemic calligraphy adorns the dust jacket) is evident through the cut-ups from which it was compiled, as is the influence of French poetry, notably Rimbaud, Lautréamont, and Saint-John Perse, the Dadaists and Surrealists.
This Olympia Press edition is also a unique version of the text itself. Though The Soft Machine remains in print, the text has undergone several major revisions (Burroughs himself removed and replaced 82 pages in the second edition, and reordered the remaining pages), and has never been reprinted in its original form, which can only be found in the first edition.