AN EXCEPTIONAL ASSOCIATION: VERY SCARCE FIRST EDITION OF RAND’S FIRST NOVEL, INSCRIBED TO ARCHITECT ELY JACQUES KAHN, HER ADVISOR FOR THE FOUNTAINHEAD
RAND, Ayn. We the Living. New York: Macmillan, 1936. Octavo, original cloth; housed in a custom half navy morocco slipcase and chemise. $42,000.
Scarce first edition of Rand’s first novel, one of only 3000 copies printed, a wonderful presentation association copy, inscribed by the author to architect Ely Jacques Kahn, for whom Rand worked as an unpaid assistant in 1937, while researching the profession for the book that was to become The Fountainhead: “To Ely Jacques Kahn—gratefully—Ayn Rand.”
According to Barbara Branden in her biography The Passion of Ayn Rand (143-44), in 1937 "Ayn decided to spend a few months working in an architect's office, without pay, in order to become familiar with the day-to-day activities of the profession. Through a friend she met the famous New York architect Ely Jacques Kahn and he agreed to her plan… Ayn spent six months working in Kahn's office as a filing clerk, typist, and general assistant. He was the only one in the office who knew that her real purpose was research for a novel, and he seemed charmed by the adventure of having her there… It was while working for Kahn that Ayn solved the problem of devising a climax for her novel. One day, she asked Kahn 'What is the biggest technical problem in architecture at the moment?' He told her it was in the field of housing projects, and that the difficulty lay in finding a means of building modern structures at the lowest possible cost… 'When he said "housing," something clicked for me. I thought that this was both a political issue and an architectural issue, and that it fitted my purposes. I knew that it was a good lead… Suddenly—like Newton's apple—the total of the climax fell into place… From then on, it was easy.' Ayn's idea for the climax of The Fountainhead was that Howard Roark would dynamite Cortlandt Homes, the housing project he had created."
When the galleys for the book came out several years later, Rand asked Kahn to check it for any architectural inaccuracies. Kahn made a couple of corrections, Rand recounted, and, as quoted by Branden, "'I was tremendously pleased—I was really delighted… I asked if he wanted an acknowledgment for his assistance, and he said no, it was not professionally appropriate, but that he would like me to give a general acknowledgment to the profession because they get so little recognition. And that's why I put the note in the front of the book, I felt I had to."' Rand's note of acknowledgment—which might well have been to the man himself—does indeed follow Ely Jacques Kahn's suggestion, and reads: "I offer my profound gratitude to the great profession of architecture and its heroes who have given us some of the highest expression of man's genius." Without scarce original dust jacket.
Spine sunned, rear cover soiled. A very good copy of this scarce book, most desirable with this significant association.