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The Drawing of the Dark

Published in 1979 when Powers was only twenty-five, The Drawing Of The Dark marks the real starting point for his success as a professional author. It is from this novel that we can really trace the development of both his particularly original style and of the ideas that reappear time and time again in his work.

This is a historical fantasy set in 16th century Europe. Brian Duffy, an aging sword-for-hire is employed by the mysterious and ancient Aurelianus as a bouncer at the Vienna inn where Hertzwesten Beer is brewed. The story follows him on his travels and leads us towards the confrontation between East and West, a confrontation in which magic and the supernatural are the main weapons.

So many of the ideas that we see in later works are evident here. Not least is the author's ability to take historical fact and weave his fiction around it. Nothing happens by accident. We see also Powers' fascination with the correlation between blood, earth and magic. There is a wonderful scene in which Duffy discovers (unconsciously) how to "earth" himself against the magical attacks of his enemies, a phenomenon that occurs in The Anubis Gates with the Antaeus Brotherhood and also in Jack Shandy's adventures in On Stranger Tides.

The Drawing Of The Dark is centred around the legend of the Fisher King, something that turns up again in later Powers works. Here also is the kernel of the body switching concept so familiar to Powers readers, however in this case, though an unwelcome guest, Duffy's intruder is at least on the right side.

Particularly noteworthy in this book, is Powers expert ability to write about the act and the art of sword play. His action scenes flow swiftly and seamlessly and one can almost see the blades move exactly as he describes. His is not a generalised account of flailing and flapping swords, but a studied and accurate description of how people used these weapons in their every day lives.

US Editions

US Editions

The Drawing Of The Dark was first published in June 1979 by Del Rey. The Uncorrected Proof pictured above left markets the book as "An exciting new fantasy adventure for the ever-expanding market who welcomed The Sword of Shannaraand The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever . "

The first edition of The Drawing of the Dark was issued as a paperback original – pictured above centre. With cover art by Doug Beekman, the book carried the ISBN 0-345-27604-3-195. The cover price was $1.95. There were a number of subsequent reprints of this edition, and the over layout varies very slightly. On the third printing for example, the title lettering is red and white, rather than yellow and orange.

The Drawing of the Dark was subsequently repackaged and reissued by Ballantine under their new Del Rey Impact imprint. Over twenty years since its original release this new edition was part of a series of "seminal works of science fiction and fantasy – books that made the future," and was published in November 1999 as trade paperback. This edition carried the ISBN 0-345-43081-6 and was priced at $11.95.

Copies of the proof of The Drawing of the Dark are extremely scarce. It is without doubt the rarest of all Powers proofs and in nearly ten years of collecting the author's works, I have never seen a copy offered for sale. The first edition paperback original and its reprint variants are readily available however. Follow this link to Advanced Book Exchange to see the current state of the market. If you are specifically after a first edition, be sure to check the dealer descriptions carefully. Copies of the recent Del Rey Impact edition are also widely available. You can order a copy on-line from here by using this link to Alternatively, eBay may have copies available.

UK Editions

US Editions

In the UK The Drawing of the Dark was published in January 1981 by Granada publishing – an imprint of Grafton. The cover art was by the Italian artist Gino d'Achille. ISBN 0-583-133193, the issue price was £1.95. This paperback edition was the first time Powers was published in Britain, a market where he has subsequently become extremely popular – so much so that some of his later works appeared in the UK before they were published in North America.

A paperback reprint of The Drawing of the Dark (above centre) appeared in May 1987, published by Grafton. This edition carried the same ISBN as the edition listed above, but was priced at £3.50. It also featured the same cover art as the Granada edition, but with a slightly different layout as can be seen in the images above. Both these editions can be hard to find, though copies do come up on Advanced Book Exchange from time to time.

In November 2002 Gollancz published a new UK edition of The Drawing of the Dark as part of their Fantasy Masterworks series. This was a trade paperback edition priced at £6.99, ISBN 0-575-07426-4. The front cover shows a detail from "The Battle of Arbelles, or The Battle of Issus ", oil on canavas, 1602, by Jan Breughel the Elder. Cover design is by Richard Carr. You can order this edition from here by following this link to

The Hypatia Limited Edition

Hypatia Ltd Edition Image One

In 1988 Hypatia Press (alas there is no longer a web site for them) released an advanced reading copy of The Drawing of the Dark as a forerunner to their planed signed limited hardcover editions. Only forty of these proofs (above left) were ever printed, making them highly sought after by collectors. In good condition a copy can fetch about $300. With a Forward by K.W.Jeter, an Afterword by James P. Blaylock, this edition contained a limitation sheet signed by them and the author. It also included artwork which never appeared in the eventual editions which followed in 1991. When they did appear, they arrived in four different states — each appropriately named after a beer!!

  • Schenk (above centre) was the trade hardcover. Bound in light tan artificial pig skin with parchment endpapers, there were 825 copies printed of which 800 were offered for sale at $25.00 ISBN 0-940-841-14-2. Those not offered were presentation copies.
  • Bock (above right) was a mahogany tinted bonded leather edition, the endpapers featuring an illustration of a moslem invasion of vienna circa 1490. The bastard title, frontspeice and full title pages were sepia toned. 300 were printed of which 275 were offered for sale at $60.00 ISBN 0-940-841-13-4.

Hypatia Ltd Edition Image Two

  • Dark (above left) was also a leather edition, though a deeper shade of brown than the Bock, and this edition was issued with a slipcase. The black stamp foil illustration around the cover was repeated in brown on the endpapers and appears again in green on the title page. There were 70 copies printed of which only 64 — this edition numbered in Roman numerals — were offered for sale at $125.00 ISBN 0-940-841-12-6.
  • Dark Reserve (above centre) A further 30 copies lettered A to DD were also issued. These copies,which were not offered to the public , carried the ISBN 0-940-841-11-8. This state, similar to the Dark was bound in black leather with a matching slipcase.

Did I say there were four states? Technically true yes, but there is a fifth. The image above right is of one of only two copies in existence of a final proof produced just before the book was printed and released in the various bindings. One of these copies resides on the shelves of John Bierer who has kindly provided this image for the site. The Hypatia edition often change hands on eBay. The link will show you if any are currently on offer, but your best bet for a copy of one of these limited states will be Advanced Book Exchange.

Foreign Language Editions

Spanish Editions

  • Spanish Esencia Oscura was first published by Gigamesh (Barcelona) in 2000 (above left). A trade paperback edition with the ISBN 84-930663-4-6. The cover art by Yannick Sánchez and translation by Rafeal Marin. Gigamesh released a second edition of this title in 2005 with varient cover art (above right) by Corominas, ISBN 84-96208-18-4.

Italian Editions

  • Italian Il Re Pescatore was first published by Editrice Nord (Milan) as a trade paperback issued in June 1986. Translated by Guarneri Annarita, this edition (above left) featured cover art by Janny Worts. There was a subsequent reprint in June 1992 with a varient cover layout. Neither edition lists an ISBN.

Czech Editions

  • CzechStáčení temného piva. There have been two editions published in the Czech Republic. The first in 1999, a small format paperback published by Talpress, ISBN 80-7197-083-2. The translation is by Richard Podany and the cover art by Jan P Krasny. The same translation was published in a later edition, this also a small format paperback, released by Laser Books of Prague in 2006. Both editions also feature an afterword by the translator.

Polish and Russian Editions

  • Polish Serce Zachodu, a paperback published by Wydawnictwo Amber, Warsaw, 1996. ISBN: 83-7169-159-9. Cover art by Paul Youll, translation by Slawimir Kedzierski. Long out of print.
  • Russian Tchyornym po Tchyyornnomu. Published by EKSMO-press, 2002. This edition was a hardcover issued without a dust jacket (pictorial boards), unpriced, and carries the ISBN 5-699-00144-1. Translated by S.Cheredov, cover art by Don Maitz. 384pp. Approximately 5000 copies issued. The translated title is Black on Black.

French and Hebrew Editions

  • French Les Chevaliers de la Brune, a paperback edition issued by Editions J'Ai Lu, Paris in 1997. ISBN 2-290-04375-7. Translated by Arnuad Mousnier-Lompre.
  • Hebrew Meshichat Hakehah. A trade paperback edition published by Opus, 2005 with the ISBN 0-345-430816 and with translation by Vered Tochterman. Published to coincide with Powers’s visit to Israel as guest of honour at the 2005 Israeli Science Fiction Convention.

Croatian Editions

  • Croatian Kad Tamno Istekne, A trade paperback edition published by Zagrebacka Naklada, Zagreb in 2011. ISBN 978-9-532-52098-9. Translated by Marko Fancovi, cover art by Zeljko Pahek.

"If but we Christians have our beer
Nothing's to fear." –Sir Willam Ashbless