Vintage Treasures: Dragonflight and Dragonquest by Anne McCaffrey

Vintage Treasures: Dragonflight and Dragonquest by Anne McCaffrey

Dragonflight McCaffrey-small Dragonquest McCaffrey-small

Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern is one of the most famous and bestselling science fantasy series of all time. All told there are sixteen novels, written between 1968 and 2006, the last two in collaboration with her son Todd.

The artist most closely associated with it is probably Michael Whelan, who was hired to paint the cover for the third novel, The White Dragon, published in June 1978. The White Dragon became the first bestseller in the series, and Whelan was hired by Ballantine to create new covers for the first two novels, Dragonflight and Dragonquest, late in 1978. He did a fine job, and was subsequently hired for the next four volumes in the series.

But I still admit a great fondness for the early 70s covers of the first two books (above), both painted by Gino D’Achille. Both books were Ballantine paperback originals. The covers are more whimsical and fairy-tale like, and speak to me of 1970s fantasy.

[Click on the images for bigger versions.]

Like Whelan, D’Achille was hired first to paint the cover of the newly released volume, and then commissioned to re-cover the earlier one. He painted the cover for the original release of Dragonquest in 1971, and then Dragonflight in 1973. His covers remained on the books through multiple reprintings until Whelan arrived on the scene in 1978. The versions above, which refer to the books as Volume I and II in the series for the first time, are from 1975 and 1974.

Gino D’Achille never did another cover in the Dragonriders of Pern series, which I think is a pity. But you can see his work on plenty of other 70s fantasy, including Tanith Lee’s The Storm Lord (1975), Jack Vance’s Demon Princes (1978-79), and the first two novels in C.J. Cherryh’s The Faded Sun (1978).

Here’s the back cover of both novels, with the book descriptions (click for a legible version.)

Dragonflight McCaffrey-back-small Dragonquest McCaffrey-back-small

The D’Achille versions are highly affordable. You can find copies today for well under $5. I bought an unread copy in perfect collection in May as part of an eBay collection of 40 books for just $1.

Dragonflight was first published by Ballantine Books in July 1968. My 1975 edition is 309 pages, priced at $1.50 in paperback. Dragonquest was published by Ballantine Books in May 1971. It is 333 pages, priced at $0.95. Both books are still in print, and available in both digital and print formats.

See all of our recent Vintage Treasures here.

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Thomas Parker

My favorite D’Achille covers are the ones he did for the Ballentine editions of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Mars novels. They marked my first encounter with Barsoom and have effectively pre-empted all other versions since.

Joe H.

Adding my thumbs-up for D’Achille’s Barsoom covers (although I didn’t have a complete set until fairly recently — I started buying the paperbacks during the D’Achille-to-Whelan transition, so I had D’Achille on 1-4 and Whelan on 5-11; now, of course, I have full sets of both).

I did have the first couple Dragonriders books — I don’t think they were quite these editions, although the Dragonflight cover looks familiar.

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