There’s an awful lot of bestselling fantasy on the market these days, and sometimes it seems it’ll be around forever. But I know from hard experience that the vast majority of it will be gone in five years. It’s the rare fantasy indeed that remains in print for a decade — much less 20, 30, or 50 years.
E.R. Eddison’s Zimiamvia trilogy has been in print, off and on, for an astonishing eight decades, since the first volume appeared in 1935. J.R.R. Tolkien called Eddison “The greatest and most convincing writer of invented worlds that I have read,” and in the decades that followed his reputation has only grown among serious students of fantasy. The three volume in the trilogy are:
Mistress of Mistresses (1935)
A Fish Dinner in Memison (1941)
The Mezentian Gate (1958)
Eddison was also the author of the fantasy classic The Worm Ouroboros, to which the Zimiamvia trilogy is a loose sequel.
[Click the images for bigger versions.]
I first encountered Eddison’s masterpiece in a Ballantine paperback edition from 1967, with a gorgeous set of matched covers by Barbara Remington. In October of 2015, Harper returned all four books to print with a handsome set of interlocking cover images.
But my favorite edition of these venerable fantasy classics is the single-volume, 985-page omnibus edition published by Del Rey in 1992, pictured at top. In addition to being a handy and compact edition of the novels, it includes an extensive 30-page intro by Paul Edmund Thomas that explains some of the mythological and historical references that may be a bit obscure to modern audiences. I wasn’t smart enough to pick it up when it first came out, but fortunately copies are relatively plentiful online. I bought an unread copy in pristine condition on eBay for about half the original cover price — and last I checked there were still half a dozen copies available, starting at $7.12 (including shipping).
Our previous coverage of E.R. Edisson includes:
Discover the Prototype for Lord of the Rings: The Zimiamvia Trilogy by E. R. Eddison
“It Is Neither Allegory Nor Fable But A Story To Be Read For Its Own Sake”: E.R. Eddison, The Worm Ouroboros, and Zimiamvia, by Matthew David Surridge
Zimiamvia: A Trilogy was published by Del Rey books in September 1992. It is 985 pages, priced at $16 in trade paperback. The cover artist is uncredited, but it sure looks like a Hildebrandt.
See all of our coverage of Vintage Treasures here.