This was how I first encountered Watership Down. It was my twelth birthday, and a twelve year old boys are not meant to be interested in talking bunnies. I was no different. That day was to be a busy one, I had to go to London for some reason or other, we (My mother, brother and I) caught a train from Southampton to Waterloo at around 08:10. That was one of those events that changes one's life. As those in the UK may know, Waterloo is one of the world's busiest railway stations at that time of day, and the train was full. I couldn't sit with my mother, and like any twelve year old, got bored sitting by myself surrounded by pinstripes and umbrellas. I went to ask my mother what I could do. She, much to my dismay, and not a little embarrasment, produced this book, which she had brought along 'just in case'. I took it and went back to my seat. I did read a little, ten pages in fact, but by the time I got off that train my life had indeed changed; twelve year old boys do read about talking rabbits after all.... you can read my essay about Watership Down and I.
I am, or was, standing at the top of the down with track to Nuthanger Farm just to my left behind me. I selected rabbit's eye view. I need not tell you what I was reading.
I now have a lot less hair on top and a beard. I am still scruffy... but I still have the very copy of the book I was reading in the photo above and you can see it and some of my other copies of Watership Down here, and read my essays on Watership Down here.
This is the front cover, fly notes and title page from a 1979 printing of the Rex Collings second edition of 1974 (the back cover is blank). I beleive the first edition is similarly colured but the cover illustration is simpler, just two rabbits (presumably Hazel and Fiver, which was Adams' original title for the book) and a notice board with the title. I understand there were a few minor edits between the first and second editions. This second edition had the same foldout colour map as the first edition. I have seen one copy of the elusive first edition; my school had one in the library. It was taken off loan when they realised what it was worth - in 1978 you would have had to pay £250 at auction for one, and a lot of water has passed under the bridges of the Test since then.
I got this copy at a book signing, so while it looks personalised it isn't really. You just stand in the queue and when it's your turn you tell the author what to write, cheating really :-)
I also have a paperback in Dutch, which is a problem as I don't understand Dutch. I used to have a pristine copy of the 1976 Illustrated Edition, with drawings by John Lawrence. I lent it to someone....