H. G. Wells’ novel The War of the Worlds was first serialised in Pearson’s Magazine in 1897. By sheer luck, many years ago, I came across the complete bound set of that year’s issues in a little second hand bookshop in Ilkley selling for a few quid. So I’m lucky enough to have a copy of the first edition of the book. It’s a lot shorter than the final novel, Wells expanded it considerably afterwards, and the story is still a bit rough round the edges. What makes the magazine special, though, are the fantastic illustrations by Warwick Goble. These are the first pictures of the Martians and their tripods and, I think, the best. I’ve scanned in a selection of the illustrations so you can see how the invaders looked to the Victorians who bought the magazine to read in their parlours and on the train.
Warwick Goble’s Martians are very simple and functional. I always thought that later versions were too hi-tech and futuristic for the setting of the book. They also showed the Tripod legs as articulated, like a human’s or a spiders. In the novel Wells is at pains to point out that the Martian legs are rigid, which is how Warwick Goble draws them. The images on the left and below show them wading through the Thames and generally causing mayhem round the M25 corridor.
The rest of the pictures follow the sequence of the story, including a rare image of the Martian flying machine, pouring poisonous black smoke onto the land. The Martians are a bit too cute, though they are the first attempt to visualise beings from another world. It’s also nice to see a young lady having a pop at the invaders with her Webley revolver instead of swooning into a heap.
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