This is the highest quality scan of Alex Ebel’s 1974 paperback cover to Ursula K. Le Guin’s 'The Left Hand of Darkness' that I've seen, and I've been looking for six years.
I first found the cover at some point in 2013, the year I started my art tumblr, and posted it despite it being really low-res. It's just so good! I really combed the internet over the years trying to find a better version, and subjecting my followers to anything I found, like this textless but very warped and still pretty small version.
Calling this image my white whale would be a little strong, since I've basically just given up and forgotten about it for years at a time, but ever so often I'll scour Google Images with their reverse image search function (fun fact: 90% of all my research work is hitting that reverse image search button).
Then I stumbled on this one. Where? Heritage Auctions, which always uploads enviably high-res scans of any art it sells. This one appears to have been sold at the big Glynn and Suzanne Crain Collection auction in August. Looks like it went for $17,000 or more, which is not bad, given the estimate starts at $2,500.
I actually wrote about that auction for Forbes, so I probably should have noticed this one earlier: The image has probably been online since July.
But it does make for a good winter post. And now you have a greater understanding of the weird ways that 70s art can wonder online, and hopefully a greater appreciation of the role Heritage Auctions plays in your life, even if you've never placed a single bid.
Plus, now that I have a high quality version of this cover, I'm noticing the figure in the foreground for the first time. It was there all along!