This year marks the 50th anniversary of the release of William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist, one of the scariest books of all time. It’s not common one sees this claim made by other writers, perhaps due to the movie adaptation already being labeled the scariest movie of all time. I assure you, the book earns the title. It’s definitely more unsettling than the movie, featuring more encounters with the demon and its Captain Howdy persona. Each line of dialogue uttered by the demon is a nightmare unto itself.
Don’t believe me? Well, you’ll be able to find out for yourself with Suntup’s fine press edition of The Exorcist. It will be releasing as a very limited run, most of which are sold out already, and their prices reflect that (ranging from $150-$6,500).
The Exorcist was originally released in July 1971 and it was an instant source of controversy, especially since it was based on a 1949 Washington Post article where a Catholic priest narrates his experience performing an exorcism a young boy. Blatty keeps to some of the broader elements of the report but brings to life his own possessed child: Reagan MacNeil. The classic adaptation of the book by William Friedkin comes out two years later, on December 26th, 1973 (the day after Christmas).
The Suntup produced edition comes in four distinct and highly unique versions, with their own specs, and they include six new color illustrations by British artist Marc Potts. Depending on which version you acquire (good luck with that), you’ll either get Potts’ signature included in the book or both his and Friedkin’s as well. Friedkin and Blatty often expressed how much like brothers they felt together and would go on to comment on their collaboration on The Exorcist movie for years to come. Blatty passed away on January 12th, 2017.
As mentioned, the book is presented in four states: Roman Numeral, Lettered, Numbered and Artist edition. The editions measure 6” x 9” and feature a new exclusive introduction by Friedkin as well as the extra material incorporated into the story from the 40th anniversary edition of the book, which is still on the market in most bookstores.
The four states of this edition vary significantly from one another, making each appear as if they’re different physical manifestations of the same story. The artist edition is the only one to feature a wrap-around dust jacket illustrated by Potts. The image on the jacket is a representation of Reagan’s possession in which the demon hovers over her head as an overpowering force in full control of her body. This edition is already sold out.
The numbered edition features a black front cover with a white Plike paper collar mounted on the head of the book to produce an image not unlike that of a Catholic priest’s cassock complete with clerical collar. Upon reaching the title page, Potts’ version of the demon that possesses Reagan, Pazuzu, greets the reader. The liberties taken with its design turn the demon into a representation of pure malice, of mercilessness. It’s not a complete departure from the Pazuzu we see in the film, but the devil’s in the details. This edition is already sold out.
The Lettered edition is the most unsettling of the bunch. It is hand bound in pigskin with an embossed design adorning the front cover, the words help me standing alone as an homage to one of the movie’s scariest scenes, in which Father Karras visits Reagan while in an advanced state of possession and sees the words push out from under her skin. As such, this edition is made to look like a recreation of that moment, which basically means you’ll be holding a book simulating the skin of a possessed Reagan MacNeil. This edition is already sold out.
Last but not least is the Roman Numeral edition, an elegant version of the book bound in gray goatskin that comes inside a black clamshell enclosure. It features a purple middle board that can be seen through a cross-shaped cut on the front cover. This edition is still available. It costs $6,500.
The quality of Suntup’s work with these editions is apparent. No expense seems to be spared in their making. Every detail added to the individual books speaks to the story’s power, allowing the evil contained in it to take over the physical copy. Claiming one for your library will prove difficult, but being in possession of one will allow for a powerful display of horror literature.