H. G. Wells began work on what would eventually evolve into The Time Machine nearly eight years before its publication as a novel. The original story was serialised in three parts in The Science Schools Journal (which Wells founded and edited) in 1888 as The Chronic Argonauts. After two further drafts, now lost, it was published as a series of loosely connected articles as The Time Travellers Story in The National Observer then edited by William Ernest Henley. Seven installments were published beginning in March 1894 and the final installment in June. The magazine never published the conclusion, owing to Henley accepting a position as editor of The New Review. Henley arranged to have the story published again under the title The Time Machine in five installments in the New Review from January to May of 1895. H.G. Wells was paid £100 for the story by Henley.

Henley asked Wells to make some changes to the story so that it would not appear to be the exact same story as it had previously been printed in The National Observer . Additions to the story were also requested to fill out short installments. As the story was being published in the New Review , Wells apparently was negotiating with Henry Holt as early as February 1895 to publish the story as a novel in the United States. The text of the Holt edition shows elements from the New Review articles. Wells later removed and replaced elements with text from the National Observer version before having the story published by William Heinemann, thus the Holt text is different than that of the the Heinemann edition. The Heinemann edition is largely the same text as published in The New Review but with some of the original elements from The National Observer put back and the additions from the New Review removed.


H.G. Wells lived at Tusculum Villa
23 Eardley Road, Sevenoaks when he wrote The Time Machine.

"I still remember writing that part of the story in which the Time Traveller returns to find his machine removed and his retreat cut off. I sat alone at the round table downstairs writing steadily in the luminous circle cast by a shaded paraffin lamp. Jane had gone to bed and her mother had been ill in bed all day. It was a very warm blue August night and the window was wide open. The best part of my mind fled through the story in a state of concentration before the Morlocks but some outlying regions of my brain were recording other things. Moths were fluttering in ever and again and though I was unconscious of them at the time, one must have flopped near me and left some trace in my marginal consciousness that became a short story I presently wrote, " A Moth Genus Novo." And outside in the summer night a voice went on and on, a feminine voice that rose and fell. It was Mrs. — I forgot her name —our landlady in open rebellion at last, talking to a sympathetic neighbour in the next garden and talking through the window at me. I was aware of her and heeded her not, and she lacked the courage to beard me in my parlour. "Would I never go to bed? How could she lock up with that window staring open? Never had she had such people in her house before, — never. A nice lot if everything was known about them. Often when you didn't actually know about things you could feel them. What she let her rooms to was summer visitors who walked about all day and went to bed at night. And she hated meanness and there were some who could be mean about sixpences. People with lodgings to let in Sevenoaks ought to know the sort of people who might take them. . ."

"It went on and on. I wrote on grimly to that accompaniment. I wrote her out and she made her last comment with the front door well and truly slammed. I finished my chapter before I shut the window and turned down and blew out the lamp. And somehow amidst the gathering disturbance of those days The Time Machine got itself finished."
—H.G. Wells

Experiment in Autobiography pp. 436-37

The first printing of The Time Machine as an independent novel was by Henry Holt shortly before May 7th, 1895, the author being credited as H. S. Wells. The error was corrected for the 2nd printing. William Heinemann produced the First British Edition on May 29th. Between May and August of 1895 Heinemann produced 6000 copies printed in softbound, and 1500 copies hardbound.

Both versions of the text can be found in print. The Heinemann edition has 16 titled chapters and an epilogue. The Holt edition has 12 titled chapters, also reading the opening sentence of the novel can determine if you have the Holt text. The Holt version reads: "The man who made the Time Machine—the man I shall call the Time Traveler— was well known in scientific circles..."

To make matters even more confusing, there are as many as seven different variations of Heinemann First Edition. The main difference between them is the number of catalog pages added at the end of the story. It is believed that Heinemann initially printed 10,000 copies all dated 1895 but did not bind them until more copies were needed to go on the market. Thus with each release the inclusions to the catalog changed but not the publishing date. Some of the "1895 First Editions" were not bound and released until after 1899 as the catalog pages have entries from works which were not printed until then.

The Time Machine
was the first book that Heinemann added a printed catalog to. It is thought that the Time Machine, being a rather short novel (under 40,000 words) and under a half inch in thickness was slow to sell so the catalog was added to thicken the look of the book thus appearing it was a longer read. All of the Holt First Editions (H. S. Wells) have 6 catalog pages.

"But he has found a copy of the book in which, somewhen about 1898 or 1899, he marked out a few modifications in arrangement and improvements in expression. Almost all these suggested changes he has accepted, so that what the reader gets here is a revised definitive version a quarter of a century old."
— H. G. Wells

The 'he' in this case is Wells himself
(preface to the 1924 Atlantic Edition)

Confused enough yet, we're just getting started. In 1924 Wells made minor changes to the Heinemann text, removed the chapter titles and combined some of the chapters reducing the number of chapters from 16 to 12 plus an epilogue. This version was published along with his other works as a set of 28 volumes as the Atlantic Edition of the Works of H.G. Wells. 1050 sets were published for the U.S. and 620 sets for the U.K.. The first volume of each set was signed by H.G. Wells and contains The Time Machine, The Wonderful Visit and Other Stories. This version is the most published version still today.

In 1927, The Time Machine was published as Volume 16 of the Collected Essex Edition of the Works of H.G. Wells with slight changes by Wells. This edition of The Time Machine also appeared as the first story in The Short Stories of H. G. Wells published by Benn in 1927 and was later retitled The Complete Short Stories of H. G. Wells. In 1933 it was again published as part of the Gollancz Collected Scientific Romances, again with slight changes by the author.

This doesn't cover any of the various spelling errors made by or corrected by the various publishers. That's another can of worms.

Now, what about those blue bunnies?

 

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