Planet of the Apes

Pierre Boulle

Illustrated by David de las Heras

Introduced by Frans de Waal

Translated by Xan Fielding

The sci-fi adventure that launched a global franchise, Planet of the Apes is given a timely Folio release with David de las Heras’s spectacular artwork and a thought-provoking introduction by primatologist Frans de Waal.

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‘Part of the strength of the material is its disruptive, questioning nature. Who came first? Where are we going?’

  1. Tim Burton

Holding up a mirror to humanity, this sci-fi masterpiece poses pertinent ethical questions while sending readers on an action-packed intergalactic adventure. First published in 1963, Planet of the Apes spawned a global media franchise: an Oscar-nominated film was followed by four sequels, while reboots and remakes, television series and comics saw its popularity skyrocket. Returning to its literary origins, the first illustrated edition of Xan Fielding’s classic translation sees the bold impact of David de las Heras’s artwork, adding to the credibility of Pierre Boulle’s story. Meanwhile, the unnerving moral allegory is explored by world-renowned primatologist Frans de Waal, in a specially commissioned introduction.

Production Details

Quarter-bound in blocked cloth with printed paper sides

Set in Sabon with Avant Garde Gothic display

192 pages

Frontispiece and 6 colour illustrations, including 2 double–page spreads

Plain slipcase

9½˝ x 6¼˝ 

A disarming novel that puts humanity under the microscope

The author of The Bridge over the River Kwai, Boulle was already internationally acclaimed when he wrote Planet of the Apes. But while Kwai is influenced by his wartime experiences – captured and subjected to two years in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp – the sci-fi classic employs a fictitious premise to encourage a moral debate. Set on the idyllic-looking planet of Soros, the story follows three astronauts who leave Earth in the year 2500. Initially ecstatic to find a lush biosphere with human inhabitants, Ulysse and his fellow travellers are shocked to discover that the pathetic human population is ruled by an intellectually superior civilisation of apes. As Frans de Waal explains in his fascinating introduction, our so-called ‘noble traits’ hold little sway when humans are no longer on top of the ladder. ‘All of a sudden, we are not only the least powerful among the apes, but also the least intelligent.’

Here they were applying to men the very experiments which he had carried out on dogs.

A parallel universe that isn’t beyond the realms of plausibility

Physically powerful, linguistically skilled, organised and ruthless, the apes exploit their inarticulate human prey with an emotional detachment akin to the earthly indignities inflicted on animals. And yet their civilisation is also cultured, educated and technologically advanced. As reader perceptions adjust, it becomes less far-fetched to perceive a parallel universe in which apes have evolved to take the upper hand over their hominoid relations. Boulle’s clever choice of role-reversed scenarios shock less for their brutality than their familiarity: the debonair ape overseer humiliating his human slaves; hunters posing for photos with human corpses; primate scientists experimenting on human captives.

Artwork that pushes the moral dilemma to the fore

Illustrator David de las Heras has created highly stylised portraits of the apes, while his futuristic landscapes depict the familiar yet otherworldly planet of Soros. A total of seven incredible illustrations, including two double-page spreads, ensure this is the ultimate collector’s edition. However, when it comes to the genuine possibility of an ape-ruled parallel universe, it’s the militaristic bearing of the gorilla on the binding that will compel the reader to ask: ‘What if …’


Pierre Boulle (1912–94) was a French engineer and novelist. Born in Avignon, he studied at the prestigious Ecole supérieure d’électricité where he received an engineer’s degree in 1933. At the outbreak of the Second World War, he was working as an engineer on the rubber plantations in Malaya, but soon became a secret agent with the Free French in Singapore, where he was captured by the Japanese army and subjected to two years’ forced labour. He was later made a chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur and was awarded the Croix de Guerre and the Médaille de la Résistance. After the war Boulle went on to produce over 20 novels and several short story collections, receiving most acclaim for Le Pont de la rivière Kwaï (1952; The Bridge over the River Kwai) and La Planète des singes (1963; Planet of the Apes), both of which became international bestsellers and were adapted into Oscar-winning films.


Alexander Wallace ‘Xan’ Fielding (1918–91) was a British intelligence officer, author and translator. Born in Ootacamund, southern India, he was raised in France by his grandparents. During the Second World War he worked in counter-espionage in Greece, and for his services during the conflict was awarded a Distinguished Service Order, the Croix de Guerre and the Greek Commemorative Medal for National Resistance, 1941–5. After hostilities ended, he travelled extensively, spending much of his time writing and translating, and eventually settled in Andalusia in Spain. His own works include Hide and Seek: The Story of a Wartime Agent (1954; Folio edition 2014).


Frans de Waal is a Dutch/American primatologist, ethologist, author and the C. H. Candler Professor Emeritus at Emory University, Atlanta. His many popular books on primates include Chimpanzee Politics: Power and Sex Among Apes (1982), Our Inner Ape (2005) and Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? (2016). He is a member of the United States National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.


David de las Heras has a bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of the Basque Country, and graduated in Illustration at the Escola Massana, in Barcelona. His paintings have been exhibited in several countries including Spain, Portugal and Germany, and as an illustrator he has published several books, including recently illustrating ‘The Tiger’, a story by Joël Dicker. His editorial work for newspapers includes El País, the cultural supplement of ABC and several covers for El País Semanal. In 2015 he won best book cover at the Junceda Awards for Kalimán en Jericó, published by Bambú.


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