Penguin Books is to reissue H G Wells’ The Rights of Man as a Penguin Special, with a new introduction by Ali Smith.
The new paperback edition will be published in association with English PEN and the Edinburgh International Book Festival, where Smith delivered the second PEN H G Wells Lecture, which will make up the introduction of The Rights of Man.
First published in 1940, Wells’ 128-page book asked, in the midst of war: “What are we fighting for?” His answer was “a declaration of rights”, and “a code of fundamental human rights which shall be made easily accessible to everyone”. Wells’ draft of what this code might look like helped inspire the 1948 UN Declaration of Human Rights, which led in turn to the 1998 Human Rights Act.
Hamish Hamilton publishing director Simon Prosser acquired British and Commonwealth rights from A P Watt, on behalf of the Wells Estate.
Prosser said: “As vice-chair of the Civil Liberties Trust, which Wells helped to found, and as a passionate admirer of Wells the writer, I am delighted that we are able to reissue this classic text, with the support of Ali Smith, English PEN and the Edinburgh International Book Festival, whose joint idea this was.”
Smith said: “H G Wells was always ahead of his time, and always timely. This book is a reminder of why we instigated Human Rights legislation in the first place, how seminal the visionary Wells was in this process, and, in a time of threat to such legislation, how vital it is for us to protect it. It's time to catch up with H G Wells.”
Jo Glanville, director of English PEN, said: “This is the most timely publication of a classic in humanitarian literature by one of English PEN's earliest leaders. Ali Smith's eloquent call for the protection of the Human Rights Act continues H G Wells' campaigning spirit 75 years on. For everyone who supports English PEN, it's a reminder of just how effective a community of writers can be.”
The Rights of Man will be published by Penguin Books on 26th November.