FIRST AMERICAN EDITION OF GEORGE ORWELL'S FIRST BOOK, IN RARE ORIGINAL DUST JACKET
ORWELL, George. Down And Out In Paris and London. New York and London: Harper & Brothers, 1933. Octavo, original pale purple cloth, pictorial endpapers, original dust jacket. $13,500.
First American edition of George Orwell's first book, an exceptional copy in rare original dust jacket.
Though Eric Blair was a bright student and King's scholar at Eton, he chose not to attend university after his graduation from the famed public school. Instead he travelled to Burma to serve in the Imperial Police. After five years service there, "he returned to Europe and set himself with extraordinary conscientiousness to learn the facts of poverty by experience, as a dishwasher in Paris and as a tramp in England" (DNB). As Blair worked on a book describing his time in the city slums, he was forced to take up steady employment as a teacher at the Hawthorns. Wanting to protect his identity, he submitted the manuscript using an `X' for his name. In 1932, Gollancz finally accepted the manuscript of Down and Out in Paris and London, and Blair chose the pen name which would become synonymous with some of the finest modern prose and political satire, and George Orwell was born. Of his first book's purpose, Orwell was clear: "Poverty is what I am writing about… The slum, with its dirt and its queer lives, was first an object-lesson in poverty, and then the background of my own experiences…" Later in his career Orwell would credit his time in London and Paris with beginning to form his political orientation: "I underwent poverty and the sense of failure. This increased my natural hatred of authority and made me for the first time fully aware of the existence of the working classes" (Why I Write, 1947). Preceded by the British first edition of the same year (only 1500 copies printed). More copies of the American edition were printed—1750—but it sold poorly and 383 copies were remaindered. In a 1936 letter to American novelist Henry Miller, Orwell "confirm[ed] that the American sales were small: 'I am glad you managed to get hold of a copy of Down and Out. I haven't one left and it is out of print… Yes, it was published in America too but didn't sell a great deal'" (Fenwick A.1). With publisher's code "F-H" on copyright page. Fenwick A.1d. Small bookseller label to rear pastedown.
Book clean and fine, cloth fresh. Unrestored original dust jacket with very slight edge-wear and minor toning, clean and unfaded, near-fine. A remarkable copy of Orwell's very scarce first book.