Where to get copies of A Vision
This page is a guide to getting hold of a copy of A Vision, especially over the Internet.
Remember, first of all, that there are two editions of A Vision, which are substantially different. The fuller page is here, but in a nutshell: A Vision A was published in 1925, and the text was substantially revised before the second "edition" of the work came out in 1937, A Vision B, with well over half of the text completely rewritten or new.
If you are going to read A Vision for the first time and if you are only going to read one version, it is probably better, in my opinion, to start with the final, more considered version, A Vision B (1937). Of course, there is nothing wrong with starting with A Vision A (1925) (especially if you are planning to go on and read A Vision B afterwards). It is arguably the more readable of the two versions, and it is also arguable that it represents Yeats’s thought at the period when he was writing much of the poetry that derives from the System. Moreover, large sections are the same in both editions, but Yeats's analysis of the after-life changed significantly, some of the more technical details were overhauled almost completely and A Vision A does not deal with the Principles in any depth. If you start with A Vision A, you have to bear in mind that certain elements of your understanding may have to be revised later on. Some of the more technical sections also assume a familiarity with astrology and astrological symbols that many readers may find off-putting or confusing.
E-books and PDFs of A Vision.
As mentioned above, the Scribner's Collected Works editions are available as e-books (A Vision: The Revised 1937 Edition and A Vision: The Original 1925 Version), though availability varies by region and provider. At present, for instance, it seems that the e-book is available in Europe directly from Simon & Schuster, but not from Amazon, while in Australia, the e-books are not available from Simon & Schuster, but an inferior Kindle version (see below) is available. This is all subject to change, so will hopefully improve. These are definitely the e-books to check first, though.
It is worth remembering that most of the material that Yeats used and consulted in writing A Vision is available completely free via Archive.org or Hathi Trust (this latter available only in limited form outside the United States). This also covers editions of Yeats's work published before 1923 (the cut-off date of the USA's copyright legislation); sadly, of course, this does not extend to A Vision or other works published subsequently. At one stage a partial version of A Critical Edition of Yeats's "A Vision" (1925) (CVA) was available on Scribd, but was probably pirated; however, this seems to have disappeared (at least from searches). The disappearance of this version is possibly because Google Play has entered the arena as a distributor of e-books or because of one or more parties threatening copyright suits. It appears that the books are being offered by the publishers of the print books (or their successors), but it seems unlikely that the e-formats on offer at the moment are really making the books any more available or accessible, given the prices being asked (charged would be the wrong word, as it is hard to believe anyone is paying them).
Google Play: Editions of A Vision and George Mills Harper's The Making of Yeats's "A Vision" (2 vols.) and Yeats's "Vision" Papers (3 of the 4 vols.)—as well as a variety of other interesting books by and on Yeats—are all available now on Google Play. This material is generally in the form of scanned searchable PDF. (Earlier out of copyright material is more usually in e-book form with flowing text, presumably because the scanned material is available free.)
The two editions of A Vision are available as the Critical Edition of Yeats's "A Vision" (1925), at a somewhat unbelievable price—$80 at time of writing. Unbelievable, that is, until you see the price being put on the 1962 revised edition of A Vision (1937): $170.
In keeping are the prices for Yeats's "Vision" Papers", (the first three volumes only) at $90 each, or The Making of Yeats's "A Vision" at $56 (vol. 2 appears in some regions, though is hard to find, and is without a "Buy" button currently).
Amazon Kindle offers an appallingly bad e-book (with flowing text)—though it is fortunately very hard to find—which is apparently the Scribner edition of A Vision A with all the critical material stripped out, the notes lumped into a mass, and the tables messed up, etc. Despite the claim that "This Kindle edition has been professionally edited", it is so badly produced that it is probably pirated (from Scribner's professionally edited edition) or of suspect provenance/legality (the "publisher" is Lexicos Books). Titled W.B. Yeats: A Vision, The Original 1925 Version Kindle Edition, it has Munch's painting Madonna as its "cover" and is to be avoided at all costs.
With the Scribner books or the e-books on offer, there is little or no danger of mistaking which version you are buying. With second-hand copies this is very much not the case.
Certainly, if you want an affordable copy of A Vision A you might be able to stretch to to the e-book or paperback version of Scribners' edition. A Vision B will remain less affordable for a few more years, and is still, I maintain, the primary text. This means that second-hand copies are still important, though far less so than ten years ago when this page was first written.
But if you are looking for a second-hand copy of A Vision B (1937), be very wary. Truly independent booksellers will normally have looked at the copy they have and give a good or adequate description. But this does not seem to be the case for the bigger booksellers, who seem to use a stock description that is borrowed from elsewhere or taken from a database and may or may not match the actual edition they have. Unfortunately, booksellers, publishers or at least their cataloguers do not always seem to be aware of the difference between the two editions and treat these two versions as conventional first and second editions . They therefore give 1925 as the original publication date, and treat the 1937 version and its corrected states as just subsequent editions of the same work, sometimes with the blithe caveat: '"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title', which isn't much help in this instance.
The following description is now widespread in second-hand books, with identical punctuation, no doubt having been promiscuously cut and pasted: '1925. Contents: a packet for Ezra Pound; stories of Michael Robartes and his friends: an extract from a record made by his pupils; phases of moon; great wheel; completed symbol; soul in judgment; great year of ancients; dove or swan; all soul's night, an epilogue. With many figures and illustrations.'
(Sometimes George Mills Harper and Walter Kelly Hood are then given as the authors too.)
This book does not exist: either the date is wrong or the contents are wrong. If the contents are accurate, they apply to the 1937 edition only, and if the date is accurate the contents should be something like: ‘Dedication (to Vestigia); Introduction (by Owen Aherne); What the Caliph Partly Learned; What the Caliph Refused to Learn; Dove or Swan; The Gates of Pluto’. (And for the Critial Edition, George Mills Harper and Walter Kelly Hood are appropriate as authors of the critical material.)
Since it is far easier to make a mistake over the date than the contents, it would be reasonable to think that this label indicates the 1937 version really, but it is also stuck on editions which are definitely the 1925 version, such as the Harper and Hood Critical Edition.
The number of pages should help to distinguish the books, if you think that the copy being described is the actual one that they have (i.e., they give details about wear and don't just seem to pasting in a standard description).
- A Vision A should have xxiii + 256 pages, and since a couple of the pictures are on unnumbered pages this should give 280 pages more or less.
- The Critical Edition of 'A Vision' (1925) has the same 280 plus another 50 pages of introduction (numbered in Roman numerals, ‘L’ or ‘l’) and 108 pages of notes, so 438 pages plus a few blanks.
- After the front matter (some seven pages), A Vision B is numbered consecutively to page 305, with again a few more blank pages at the end.
You may see, like I have, a 108-page edition of the Critical Edition (someone checked the number on the last page and just put that down), but at least that indicates which book they have.
However, the situation is confusing for curious readers and students who are just interested in the work, for whom a cheapish reliable edition is the ideal thing. Generally, if the edition is not stated it is most likely to be A Vision B, which until recently has been by far the most readily available (the Papermac, Arena, and Collier paperbacks are all A Vision B, as is the Kessinger reprint). If you are in doubt (and you fairly confident that you will be able to deal with a human being who will actually look at the book, rather than trotting off a description from the database/web-site), e-mail or call and ask if the edition starts with "A Packet for Ezra Pound", in which case it will be A Vision B. If it starts with the "Dedication" entitled "To Vestigia", it is A Vision A.
The following links are designed to take you straight to the relevant results (in a new window), but this is not possible or feasible with some sites, because of the set-up, so some go to a general list of Yeats’s works. Some specifications may also change with time, so the link at the end takes you to the site’s front or home page, to start the search yourself. This may also be more convenient if you want to narrow geographical or currency options from the start.
Don't be scared or put off by the very high prices charged for first editions of the book, just carry on down the page and there may well be cheaper bargains.
As an incorrigible buyer of second-hand books myself, I can definitely recommend AbeBooks, which is a network of mainly independent, small shops and stores, though the bigger concerns are also edging in now.
Abe Books (originally the American Book Exchange, but now a worldwide network), for second-hand and antiquarian copies — from $10 to $3000 (this link gives a list of editions of A Vision). [AbeBooks home.]
You might also want to give E-bay a try, though this obviously rather more variable, and there may not be so many details about the edition (this link gives a list of editions of A Vision). [Ebay home.]
AddAll (New Books) compares the prices of "In-Print" books from a wide selection of sources (this link will give a list of W. B. Yeats, and different editions of A Vision may be listed separately). Once you click on the title that you want to investigate, this link will return a search with prices for the "default" delivery area of USA (Alaska), but you can change the location for shipping and the currency at the bottom of the page and that will, of course, affect the relative totals.
AddAll (Used Books) searches for second-hand copies; again, a comparative search of multiple sources, including ABE, Alibris and so on, which may therefore be slightly slow in loading(this link is just for A Vision).
The following form will conduct a fresh search for second-hand at AddAll:
Another service, which turns up different results, so is worth considering is DealOz (home page).
Also useful are the following:
Alibris, mainly second-hand (this link gives a general list for W. B. Yeats). [Alibris home.]
The usual suspects
Amazon (this link gives works by Yeats, led by A Vision). [Amazon home.]
Barnes & Noble (this link gives just editions of A Vision). [Barnes & Noble home.]
Powell’s does a comparative search (this link gives just editions of A Vision). [Powell’s home; Powell’s search page.]