KAFKA, Franz Ein Landarzt Kurt Wolff Verlag, Muenchen, 1919.
8vo. Publisher's beige cloth, titled in maroon to upper cover and spine; pp. [viii], 189, ; a very good copy, sound, with some light uniform toning to paper stock and top edge, a little faded along the spine.
First edition. Kafka's second short story collection (after Betrachtung or "Contemplation" in 1912) published in 1919 by Kurt Wolff. The collection consists of 14 short stories in the absurdist/surrealist vein for which Kafka became known — the 15th story "The Bucket Rider" was removed on Kafka's request prior to publication. Due to what can only be described as organizational difficulties within the publishing house, and the lingering effects of the war, the publication of the book stretched out over several years, to the exasperation of an increasingly irate Kafka, if rumours (and surviving correspondence) are to be believed. The dedication to his father is of particular interest, given some of the oedipal themes expressed throughout his canon works, and their notoriously difficult relationship. On a brighter note, Kafka was said to be delighted with the presentation of the book, most of all the unusually large and beautiful typeface.
The first edition of this book is, unhelpfully but interestingly, known to exist in a variety of similar (but far from identical) covers. This peculiar (and bibliographically frustrating) publishing strategy may well be the result of Kafka's poor sales performance during his lifetime, leading the publisher to hold back unbound sheets and produce different versions of the book as and when needed. Other versions of this book include those in half-cloth or paper covered boards, including variations with the same or entirely different title treatments, all ostensibly containing the same printing of the book.