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Item #: OP001M-299
THE ASCENT OF EVEREST John Hunt 1st UK ed No Dust Jacket Very Good SIGNED as Ed Hillary
By Hunt, John. Chapter on the final assault written by Edmund Hillary
Price: $49.99

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This book is SIGNED on the title page by Edmund Hillary, as Ed Hillary

London, 1953, 1st UK edition. 300 pp, 48 plates. If you want to collect just one book signed by Ed Hillary, this is probably the one to have. It is the official account of the first ascent of Mount Everest; the first book written about the climb. Chapter 16 on the on final assault was written by Edmund Hillary. 

The book is a hardcover book in Very Good condition, which is bookseller speak for their being some minor flaws in the book, such as being slightly worn, or their being a previous owner's bookplate or inscription in the book, and there is no dust jacket. The signature is always on the title page and the signature and the page itself are Fine. Hillary signed many books for us, and we still an have adequate number of copies and wish to sell them at a faster rate, so we are offering them at a very reasonable price. 

Why did I ask Hillary to sign books that were Very Good condition, 
rather than Fine?

The first time I met Hillary was in the late 1980s, in Colorado. He actually visited my bookshop. He was already in his seventies, which to me seemed ancient. Now I myself am in my seventies, and it does seem ancient sometimes. I had no idea that we would ever meet again. Even though we were blessed to meet with over five times in the USA, and seven times in New Zealand, I had to expect that each time might be the last. So I bought every book that made sense for him to sign. I didn't worry about editions or dust jackets much. I did filter out books that were ugly, that nobody would collect. 

Why did Hillary sign his name as Ed Hillary, not Sir Edmund or E.P.?

Before the climb Hillary signed his name as E.P. Hillary. The P is for Percival, after his father. Probably the only things of importance he had ever signed before Everest were checks and letters to Louise, his wife to be. Besides the fame that was unwanted, he was also knighted by Queen Elizabeth without warning or even being asked. Hillary was not happy about that as few citizens of English colonies were Royalists. Like most New Zealanders Hillary did not feel that having the title Sir before his name was desirable. He never used the title; all his books are authored by plain Edmund Hillary. Certainly in 1953 he was not a status seeker. 

In 1953 when Hillary became world famous overnight, with no warning, there was an immediate demand for his signature in books, photographs, posters, menus, napkins, T-Shirts, bare breasts, everything. Two months after his climb this was the first book to appear, and as the official account of the expedition it has remained arguably the most important book on the most important climb of the most important mountain in the world. Edmund Hillary was in great demand as a speaker, author, pundit, film-maker and everything else that went with fame in the 20th century. So he signed many copies over the next 54 years and met many people.

At first of course everybody addressed him as Sir Edmund. Remember, the 1950s were old fashioned formal like the 1920s. I did once ask Hillary if he ever signed his name as Sir Edmund Hillary. He said only if he had to endorse checks that were made out to him like that! (So I wrote two check to him that day, made out to Sir Edmund Hillary, as a donation to his Trust as compensation for his signing books for us. I couldn't wait for the checks to clear. The endorsement blew me away. They were deposited by his wife June, and endorsed as "June Hillary." Ed never signed it! When your picture is on the nation's currency, your bank does not hassle you like it does the rest of us.)

Hillary wanted everybody to call him Ed, just as they had before Everest. But now he was meeting thousands of people and he had to tone down the "Sir" business. Signing his name as Ed was how he did it. He would still sign books as E.P. if he was asked to. He knew that some collectors valued an E.P. signature more than an Ed signature. I never asked him to sign as E.P. But he liked me. I respected him and I think he respected me. So on occasion he would sign books for Chessler Books as E.P. Hillary. He knew exactly what he was doing. It was a lagniappe.* 

I have never heard of any bookseller going after authors (and the book's subjects) the way we have. I am so happy that we did it. There will probably never again be a feat by a climber that resonates as much as what Tenzing and Ed did on May 29, 1953. I hope that centuries from now climbers and book collectors will appreciate what we did.   

We met with Ed Hillary many times in the 1990s-2000s. The photo of Ed Hillary below was taken in 2007 on the last day that he signed books and ice axes for us. He is on the rear deck of his home. The ice axe he is holding is the axe that he used when he summited Everest in 1953. It is a European Axe, made by Simond or Charlet (I forget which one), one of the major axe makers in Europe in the 1950s. This axe is now in display in the Auckland New Zealand Museum. I saw it resting on his casket during his funeral a few months later.

 

* From Wikipedia: A lagniappe (lan-YAP) is "a small gift given to a customer by a merchant at the time of a purchase" (such as a 13th doughnut on purchase of a dozen), or more broadly, "something given or obtained gratuitously or by way of good measure."



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