About “The Bottle Imp” by Robert Louis Stevenson

Some time ago, during a Thinking Ink Press discussion about our small books, Anthony Francis floated the idea of publishing one or more classic short stories.

Bottle Imp art by Harvey Chin

Many of these stories entered the public domain because they were published before 1923 and their copyrights expired. Not everything that was published before 1923 is in the public domain. Some works have had their copyrights renewed, so it’s important to check, rather than making assumptions. Anthony looked into some classic sci-fi and fantasy stories he likes, but their copyrights were tied up.

In the meantime, Betsy Miller remembered a story that she had read and liked when she was growing up—“The Bottle Imp” by Robert Louis Stevenson. Set in Hawaii and San Francisco, this is a story with a cursed bottle that grants wishes but can send you to Hell, not to mention, the story includes true love and leprosy—what more could you want?

Robert Louis Stevenson, by Artist unknown, via Wikimedia Commons

In case you sort of remember Stevenson and are not sure exactly why, he wrote The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Kidnapped, Treasure Island, and many, many more books and stories. “The Bottle Imp” was published in the book Island Nights’ Entertainments in 1893. We decided to look into publishing a small print edition.

The project took off when Betsy and Maria Judnick were chatting at Peet’s coffee shop in Cupertino. Maria is an English Professor at Santa Clara University, and when she heard about Betsy’s interest in publishing “The Bottle Imp,” she stepped forward with an offer to work with a group of college students to annotate the story and to provide historical context.

Maria Judnick <3 RLS

It turns out that Robert Louis Stevenson is one of the authors that that her students study, so this was a perfect combination of publishing and academics. And that is why  you should hang out with your friends at coffee shops from time to time.

So, the annotated edition is in the works now and we’re looking at publishing it in 2018. We might even have a party to celebrate. Because you should also party with your friends from time to time. We’ll keep you posted.