Monday, February 7, 2011

Space Flight : The Coming Exploration of the Universe (1959)

Here is a book that most of you have seen I would bet. It is one of the commonest to find in used bookstores, etc. This is the original binding, it was also reprinted endlessly. The first was in 1959 with glossy board covers (24 cm.) and then again in 1961 as a "revised" edition with little or no changes in the text or illustrations.

Del Rey, Lester. Illustrated by Polgreen, John. Space Flight: The Coming Exploration of the Universe. New York: Golden Press. (56 p.) 21 cm. (1959)

The reason why this is so well remembered are the paintings by John Polgreen.  There had been a "space quartet" of books published in 1957-1958 known as the "Adventure in Space" series. I blogged about the first of these books last fall:

"Space Flight" worked as a synopsis of these books reusing some of the best paintings.

In the true 1st edition there is an interesting error. The first sentence is incorrect stating “The space age began on October 4, 1958…” A loose errata card was slipped into the 1st editions with the correct 1st sentence. 

This space suit is especially memorable with its claw-like hands and feet. As space suits were developed there were doubts whether the pressure in a suit would allow a person to flex individual fingers or ankles. So one idea was providing these claws for gripping.

The other solution was miniature space ships that would allow a longer time in space. Don't they remind you of the "pods" from 2001?
 A classic book, that is inexpensive and easy to find if you are looking for a few books to start a collection. Each painting is a space art jewel.


  1. one of my favourite and most seminal inspirations

  2. Wow! You're absolutely right about the last pic! "Open the pod bay doors, please, HAL."

  3. Thank you for publishing this. That book was a catalyst for me as a child to study Physics and Astronomy. I loved those illustrations!!