Do you have $ 1,000 lying around?
If so, you may own a copy of the 1984 book. The Encyclopedia of Dunes, edited by Dr Willis E. McNelly and containing all kinds of Dune details you won’t find anywhere else.
This ultra-rare, long-out-of-print book isn’t just the source of the arcane Dune knowledge but also Dune apocrypha.
Fans wonder if the book, written as a landmark text in the universe, describes the entirety of Dune cannon. Here’s why the book is so rare, and why it’s still controversial, 37 years after it was first published. Light spoilers for the Dune upcoming novels.??
The Encyclopedia of Dunes – Explain
The encyclopedia of the dunes is a “fictional non-fictional” reference book that claims to have been edited by a character named Hadi Benotto, in the year 15540 APG. (AG stands for “After Guild”, that is to say the time after the spacing guild has been formed.)
In real life, the book was compiled by an academic – and Dune fan – named Willis E. McNelly. Along with other vaguely credited contributors (there is a cryptic bibliography at the end of the book), Willis’ The encyclopedia of the dunes is what fanfiction would look like as a textbook.
Other sci-fi franchises – like Star Trek, Star Wars and Doctor Who – tend to have reference books at least nominally endorsed by the creators of these franchises. But in 1984, Frank Herbert had little to do with creating The encyclopedia of the dunes other than allowing it to be printed, approving the text and writing a short foreword.
The cover promises “The Complete and Authorized Guide and Companion to Frank Herbert’s Imagination Masterpiece”. But because the book was published in 1984 – a year before Chapter room: Dune came out – it does not include any information from this Dune novel, the last Herbert ever written.
Although he put his name on it, Herbert condemns the book with slight praise. In his very brief preface, about three paragraphs long, Herbert writes:Dune fan, ”I give this encyclopedia my elated endorsement, although I hold my own advice on some of the issues yet to be explored as the Chronicles unfold. ”
East The encyclopedia of the dunes cannon?
Even though Herbert agreed with The encyclopedia of the dunes during his lifetime, his estate resolutely opposed it after his death in 1986. In 2000, the book was out of print; its reprint was considered a non-profit activity. McNelly himself openly claimed he did not seek to profit from the reprint of the book but was prevented from doing so anyway by the estate of Frank Herbert.
Why? In 1999, Herbert’s son Brian Herbert and co-author Kevin J. Anderson began publishing “official” prequels to the Dune saga, starting with the novel Dune: Atréides House. Many details from these novels and other prequels – like The Butler Jihad – directly contradicts the “historical” information in The encyclopedia of the dunes. For this reason, even fan wikis will list information from The encyclopedia of the dunes as beyond the scope of the core book canon (the original six novels) or the “Extended Canon” of the prequels.
Essentially, The encyclopedia of the dunes is the third cannon for Dune, distinct from classic books or what the estate considers “official”.
Physical copies of the Encyclopedia are hard to find
In 1984 The encyclopedia of the dunes was published by Berkley Books in hardcover and paperback. It has never been reprinted, although you can sometimes find full PDFs circulating online. Buying used copies from eBay, ABE or other shopping apps is your only solution. These range from $ 1,000 on the high end at $ 499.99 for the more worn specimens. (The author of this article landed a dog-eared copy for $ 130 in early 2020, but prices have skyrocketed since then.)
As rare science fiction books disappear, The encyclopedia of the dunes is one of the strangest, if only because it is Following valuable and more difficult to find than most versions of books written by Herbert. For example, if you wanted to find a copy of the 1963 issue of Analog, who released “Dune World”, the first serialized version of Herbert Dune, you look $ 250. A non-canon book on Dune – not written by Frank Herbert – is the most valuable Dune book of all.
The book includes an outrageous fan theory
Because The encyclopedia of the dunes stands as a work of academic research, compiled by historians looking at the history of the galaxy, intentional contradictions exist between some of the entries.
Step into a quirky fan theory, which masquerades as a fictional academic trying to reframe the story of Dune. In one of the entries on Paul Atreides, a “historian” suggests that there is no way Paul could have been from Caladan. Instead, argues the writer, he was a Fremen, and his biographers swelled the legends of Paul from another planet to Arrakis.
Confused? You should be. As part of the first Dune novel, you are led to believe that most of the story of what Paul did was recorded by his wife, Princess Irulan. Even the Romanesque version of Dune is not an objective story but rather loosely framed as a tell.
The encyclopedia of the dunes demand if these biographers are hiding things. Everyone knows that Paul Atreides came from the planet Caladan and later became a member of the Fremen, but what The encyclopedia of the dunes presupposition is – what if he doesn’t? This one detail (although presented as speculation) is one of the reasons the estate of Frank Herbert may not have liked this book.
Denis Villeneuve could not reference this book in Dune: part one
Talk with Reverse, an anonymous source (although previously reliable) said that Denis Villeneuve is a big fan of The Encyclopedia of the Dunes. But when he tried to plant references to the book in the new film, his “hand was slapped by the estate.” In Dune: part one, therefore, any apocryphal event or material that contradicts the original novel is from the script and not from any other source.
Always, The encyclopedia of the dunes is a fantastic resource, and the vast majority of the information it contains is accurate.
It is a very useful book if you want to read quick character biographies or get answers to your questions about the Dune the technology, places and cultures of the universe. The fact that the estate of Frank Herbert disapproves also makes its reading transgressive.
If you can get your hands on a copy or find a PDF on Reddit, your life will be more exciting.
Dune: part one hits theaters and on HBO Max on October 22, 2021.