Blatty, William P.: The Exorcist
(researched by Robin Smith)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description

1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)

Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc., New York, N.Y., 1971

2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?

First edition published in brown paper.

3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available

4 Pagination

179 leaves, [11] 3-340

5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?


6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?


7 JPEG image of sample illustration, if available

8 General physical appearance of book (Is the physical presentation of the text attractive? Is the typography readable? Is the book well printed?)

The book has bee
n well printed. The text has been arranged attractively, and the typography is large enough to allow easy reading. The book is bound in brown cloth with silver lettering: THE William Peter Blatty | EXORCIST HARPER & ROW

9 JPEG image of sample chapter page, if available

10 Paper (Assess the original quality of the paper used for the book. Is the paper in the copy or copies you examined holding up physically over time?)

The paper has been trimmed, with a cut top edge, and the fore-edge and the tail being fairly rough. The paper is heavy and appears to have held up nicely since its printing in 1971.

11 Description of binding(s)

The brown cloth binding has been glued to the spine. The pages are attached to the binding by six stitches,with two stitches at either end of the book and two clusters of two closer to the middle.

12 Transcription of title page


13 JPEG image of title page, if available

14 Manuscript Holdings


15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)

Page [5] is inscribed "for Beth"

Assignment 2: Publication and Performance History

1 Did the original publisher issue the book in more than one edition? If so, briefly describe distinguishing features of each (illustrations, cover art, typography, etc.); if not, enter N/A

The second edition of the book was released in 1973. It was roughly the same, but the cover contained scenes from the motion picture that had been made f
rom the book.

2 JPEG image of cover art from one subsequent edition, if available

3 JPEG image of sample illustration from one subsequent edition, if available

4 How many printings or impressions of the first edition?

1st printing: 60,000 printings

5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A

Gauntlet Incorporated, 1997 Bucaneer Books Incorporated, 1995 HarperCollins Publishers Incorporated, 1971 and 1994 Bantam Books, 1984 and 1971 and 1974 HarperPapebacks, 1994 and 1971 Harper Mass Market Paperbacks, 1994

6 Last date in print?

Still in print as of 1999.

7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)

As of 1975: 11,702,097 hardback editions and 11,50,000 paper back.

8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)


9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)

New York Times Book Review, on page 47 in June 1971 "exceptional.....Blatty has really done his homework" Best Sellers, on May 15, 1971: "chilling......real" Newsweek on May 10, 1971: "superb.....horrifying"
While full advertisements were not given in these publications, these favorable reviews were submitted extoling Blatty's novel.

10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available

11 Other promotion


12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A

The Exorcist was filmed by Warner Brothers in 1973. Also, screenplay to the sequels of the film, Exorcist II and III, were written by Blatty and filmed in 1977 and 1991, respectively, by Warner Brothers and Fox.
Audio version of the book read by Blatty from Parrot Audio Books, 1995 1971.

13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A

Thai: Chin hun che p'e. Ying Lin. Taipei: Crown Publishers Korean: Mudang: Changp'yon sosol. Kil-chang Ha. Soul: Pomusa, 1974 Portuguese: Oexorcista. (no translator given). Portugal: Publicacoes Europa-America, 1971. Italian: L'esorcista. (no translator given). [Milano]: A. Mondadori, 1971. russian: Krovavaia pautina. Gagik Sarkisian. Moskva: "NIK" 1991. (4 translations). Greek: Ho exorkistes: mythistorema. (no translator given). Athens: K.K. Zarvanos, 1975. Polish: Rebenok Rozmari. IzgoniaIushchi: d/iavola. Smolensk: INFO-Blits, 1991. Dutch: De exorcist: de duiveluitdrijver. (no translator given). Amsterdam: Triton Pers, 1971. Spanish: El exorcista (no translator given). Esplugnas de Llobregat: Plaza & Janes, 1974. Hebrew: Title page and text in Hebrew. (no translator given). Tel Aviv: Booston Pub. House, 1972.

14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A

The book was not serialized

15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A

Blatty, William Peter. Legion: a novel. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1983.

Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author

1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)

William Peter Blatty was born in 1928 on January seventh. His parents were both Lebanese, and his father left home when Blatty was six. His family moved a total of twenty-eight times following his father's departure. He attended several religous schools for his education, including St. Stephen's grammar school in New York, and Brooklyn Preparatory and Georgetown University, both Jesuit schools. After college, Blatty received his M.A. in English literature at George Washington University. In 1951, Blatty joined the Air Force and was stationed in Beirut, Lebanon. While in Beirut, Blatty began his career as a writer by writing and publishing articles for various magazines, which included The Saturday Evening Post. He returned to the U.S. after his time in the Air Force and became the director of publicity at the University of Southern California from 1957-58, and held the same position at Loyola University of Los Angeles, California from 1959-60. Blatty wrote his first novel "Which Way to Mecca, Jack" in 1959 at the age of 31. Later, he wrote several screenplays, and by the mid-60s, he had become one of the leading screenwriters for comedy. In 1969, Blatty began work on his most famous novel, "The Exorcist". It was published in 1971 and quickly became a bestseller. He also wrote the screenplay for the movie version of the novel. The movie was released in 1973 and was a huge success. It was nominated for ten Academy Awards, and Blatty won for his screenplay. Blatty also wrote the screenplay for the third installment of "The Exorcist" movies. Throughout his career, Blatty has won two Golden Globe Awards, an Academy of Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror Award, and The American Film Festival Blue Ribbon and Gabriel Award. Today, he lives in California with his wife and seven children. Any attempt to contact Mr. Blatty should be made through his agents at: William Morris Agency, 151 El Camino Blvd., Beverly Hills, California 90212 (

Assignment 4: Reception History

1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)

William Peter Blatty's "The Exorcist" was well received after its publication in 1971. It quickly rose to the top of the bestseller list, and was adapted into cinema form in following years. Book reviewer Webster Schott called it, "a page-turner par excellence... Blatty writes and thinks sophisticated," in Life magazine. In "Best Sellers", Bharles Dollen said, "This book is one that is difficult to put down, so gripping is the plot, so real are the characters." The book was revered internationally as well. In England, reviewer Duncan Fallowell praised the book because, "it reads like an actual case history and since it is built on theoretical and factual material which is not merely the author's invention, one cherishes the romantic suspicion that it is one which might yet acquire reality..." in "Books and Bookmen" in April, 1972. Reviewers commended Blatty's ability to make the plot and characters seem realistic, which added to the rapid "page-turner" status that it achieved. "The Exorcist" was a strong bestseller and a fast-paced interesting read, yet, several critics panned the novel for it's lack of intellectualism and vulgarity. Peter S. Prescott said, "I suspect [Blatty] wants his book to be interesting in an intellectual way, but it is not," in Newsweek in May of 1971. R.Z. Sheppard called the book, "a pretentious, tasteless, abominably written, redundant pastiche of superficial theology, comic-book psychology, Grade C movie dialogue and Grade Z scatology." However, though reviewers criticized Blatty's shortcomings in the novel, they also hailed it as a definite best-seller that would become tremendously popular.

2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)

There were no following reviews in popular popular periodicals in subsequent years after the book's release. However, reviewers on gave the novel an average review of five and a half stars out of a possible six. Comments included, "the language, the context, everything fits too perfectly in an environment that will make you feel like you´re part of the story. I strongly recommend this jewel of a book...this is arguably the best Horror story ever written... William Peter Blatty did a splendid job."

Assignment 5: Critical Analysis

1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)

William Peter Blatty's "The Exorcist" was published in 1973, where it quickly rose to the top of the bestsellers list. It is based upon a 1949 account of a young boy who became possessed in Maryland. The book was highly praised for its realism and characters that readers could easily identify with. It was this characteristic of the book that made it so successful and terrifying. Blatty himself said, "I don't think of The Exorcist as a horror tale at all. It's frightening but quite real. It's power to frighten derives from it's credibility" ( Blatty does not merely produce a thriller with a fast, page turner of a plot, he also covers deep, psychological and theological issues as the story progresses. This intellectualism brought him both praise and criticism from reviewers. Peter S. Prescott said of the book, "I suspect [Blatty] wants his book to be interesting in an intellectual way, but it is not" (Newsweek May 1971). However, there was a general consensus that Blatty had made an excellent effort to research his topic and make it as realistic and thought provoking as possible. The book is still well received today. In 1999, reviewers at gave the book a rating of five and a half stars out of a possible six. Reviewers made such remarks as, "["The Exorcist] is the best Horror story ever written" ( The novel was a success on many levels, and covered a wide audience which also attributed to its appeal. "The Exorcist" tells the story of Regan MacNeil, an eleven year old girl who becomes possessed by a demon. The novel is set in Georgetown near Georgetown University in Washington D.C., and Regan is the daughter of a prosperous, recently divorced actress. As her condition worsens and she performs more and more horrifying acts, her mother is forced to call upon Father Damnien Karras, a Jesuit priest studying at Georgetown, for help to rid Regan of the demon in her body. Blatty develops a sub-plot around Karras' effort to plan the exorcism and his struggle with the death of his neglected mother. Father Merrin, another priest who had performed an exorcism earlier, also arrives at the MacNeil house to aid in the task. As the two priests perform the exorcism for hours, the manifestation of the devil confronts them with their innermost fears, and brings them to the brink of insanity. Father Merrin does not survive the demon's tortures, and Karras must complete the exorcism himself. He exorcizes the demon, but it leaves Regan and enters Karras' body where it attempts to make him harm the girl. The book ends as Karras plunges out of a window to the twenty foot drop to the flight of steps outside Regan's room to avoid allowing the demon to hurt her. Evil is bested, but one has the feeling that it can readily appear again.
Regan is the perfect subject for possession in the book. An angelic 12 year-old girl who acts like the Devil is a hard character not to pay attention to. She does not deserve her affliction in any way shape or form. When she does become possessed and begins to act under the power of the demon, she commits many unspeakable acts. Since she such a real, innocent character, it is absolutely horrifying when the demon controls her. Her head spins around, she uses profanity profusely, she murders one of her mothers friends and causes Merrin to die, levitates, among other graphic attrocities. The way Blatty depicts her, she could be a girl that anyone has seen or talked to, and when she acts in this manner it is shocking yet blatantly believable. Critics remarked that the book is, "one that is difficult to put down, so gripping is the plot, so real are the characters" (Dollen Best Sellers ). Another critic said, "it reads like an actual case history and since it is built on theoretical and factual material which is not merely the author's invention, one cherishes the romantic suspicion that it is one which might yet acquire reality..." (Fallowell Books and Bookmen ). The subject for possession could not defend herself against it. The evil in the book is one that does not discriminate between its victims, for there is no sense that a good, innocent person is safe. One can picture almost every detail of Blatty's book, and the picture becomes more and more horrible and increasingly entertaining, as the plot progresses.
The universal theme of the struggle of Good against Evil, God against the Devil is a prominent and vital facet in the novel. The two priests represent good, while the demon represents the evil. Unfortunately, this war must be fought inside of a twelve year old girl. "The Exorcist" raises the religious question about the nature of God, for what kind of benevolent God could allow a innocuous, young human being to suffer this horrible fate. This is the question that Blatty wanted readers to consider. In an interview in 1990 about "The Exorcist", Blatty said of its basic premise, "if there is a Satan and he works in the world, his object principally is to make us despair by coming to despise our own humanity and thinking of ourselves as so bestial and repellent that , if there were a God, he couldn't love us" . The demon in Regan MacNeil wants everyone to despise her. It makes her attack her mother, her mother's friends, herself, and the two priests who come to her aid. It wants them to despise the girl and abandon her without sympathy. The answer to the question about God's love comes in the form of Father Karras. No matter how much Regan assaults him, he continues to perform the exorcism, and eventually gives his own life to save her. Readers are able to see this classic concept played out in a unique setting with a unique subject. After "The Exorcist" was released as a novel and a movie, several similar books and films were written where children are a source of evil, such as the 1976 film "Omen" and Stephen King's "Children of the Corn" (1984). An earlier film,"Rosemary's Baby", had a similar theme of a child possessed. It was also a shockingly terrifying highly-acclaimed story-line that proved to be extremely successful. Many people can identify with the innocence of youth and serious religious questions and doubts, but to combine these two elements into a realistic, well written thriller novel proved to be a formula for success.
"The Exorcist" was adapted to film in 1973. Blatty wrote the script for the movie, and it would win him an Academy Award in 1974. The movie was extremely successful and grossed over $100 million at the box office and was nominated for 10 Academy Awards. The film proved to be as horrific and shocking as the book, for there are reports of members of the theater audience vomiting, crying in fear, and running out before the movie ended. The film was only recently released on video-cassette in Britain because state officials deemed its content too disturbing. Several reviewers panned the film as the scariest movie ever made. "The Exorcist" was such a popular and well-received movie that Warner Brothers released a 25 year anniversary DVD edition in 1998 ( Also, there is a planned rerelease of the film on Halloween of 1999 which contains recently recovered additional scenes. The next installment of the Exorcist series "Exorcist 4" is in the script stage as of 1990. The film is intended to be a prequel to the first exorcist movie and give the background of Father Merrin's earlier struggle with the demon ( The theme of "The Exorcist" remains popular today because of its frightening focus on the timeless struggle of good and evil that is applicable to nearly all forms of media and people. Both word of mouth and favorable reviews contributed to "The Exorcists" popularity. It was rated as a four star movie, and the rumors surrounding the filming and the film's over all shocking effect intrigued audiences and brought them into the theaters again and again to fully realize and understand the films many subtle nuances and scenes. There are sub-subliminal scenes in the movie where the demon actually appears outside of Regan's body in two separate shots. Also, rumors surrounding the movie included stories that actual ghosts appeared in the movie, and that the actress was actually possessed by the demon (
The book gained world-wide recognition as well. It has been translated into ten languages: Hebrew, Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese, Thai, Russian, Greek, Italian, and Korean ( Again, the reality of Blatty's characters plays an important role in the international market. Everyone has seen a beautiful, charming young girl, and to imagine her as a vile, extremely evil demon is especially unnerving and frightening. Fathar Karras also has a global appeal. He is not a faultless hero, for he is plagued by his neglect of his mother. His tireless efforts to save Regan invoke sympathy from the reader as he puts all thought of himself aside for her, and literally sacrifices his own body for her's. Another aspect of the wide range of audiences that Blatty reaches is the setting. The story takes place in Georgetown, near Georgetown University in Washington D.C. in a prosperous neighborhood in the heart of the United States. There is a feeling that if an event as vile and viscous as this could take place in one of the most affluent areas in America, it could take place anywhere. Also, Blatty leaves the story somewhat uncomplete, so there is still a feeling that the demon is still out there and could appear or strike at any time without warning. One must think about what it would be like to lose the control that we all like to have of our own bodies. This is a primal desire that Blatty manages to completely disrupt in his novel. It is a horrifying concept for everyone.
After writing "The Exorcist" Blatty went on to write more novels and screen plays, including the sequel to "The Exorcist", "Legion". Today, he is best known for his work as the screenwriter of "The Exorcist", for which he received an Academy and Golden Globe award. Blatty's tale has gained a cult following in the horror genre, and he is still sought after for interviews such as a 1990 edition of Fear Magazine. "The Exorcist" was a huge turn for Blatty since he had mainly been writing comedy pieces for movies and magazines until the 1971 publication of the book. He is still thought of as one of the most brilliant horror writers ever, and reviewers constantly place him in ranks with the ever popular Stephen King. This persona hardly fits Blatty as he now lives in California with his wife and seven children (
Overall, "The Exorcist" is an extremely well written thriller with characters that could either live next door or be the readers themselves. It was released while America was in the midst of the Vietnam War, another factor that added to its popularity. The book helped readers escape from the constant barrage of Vietnam news and protests, for it has to do with a demon and a little girl, which were anything but issues in a war. "The Exorcist" is an extremely fast paced work, so Blatty's audience could totally lose themselves in it while the country struggled on through the war. It is a universal story that everyone can identify with, and easily made the transformation to film. This book definitely deserves its title as one of the best horror novels ever written its intelligence, universality, and realism.

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