New York: Random House, 1952. First edition, first printing. Octavo. Original cloth and dust jacket (not price-clipped). Inscribed by Whittaker Chambers on the half-title page: “For Randy and Florence Crosby, with best wishes from Whittaker Chambers.” Light rubbing, near-fine in a very good dust jacket that is in uncommonly great condition. A scarce and desirable first printing of this landmark work inscribed by Whittaker Chambers. Item #28
First printing of Witness inscribed by Whittaker Chambers (1901–1961). Chambers was an American writer, translator, and editor who, after years acting as a Communist Party member and Soviet spy, defected from the Soviet underground in 1938 and testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in 1948 about the Ware Group, which ultimately became the “trial of the century” when, from 1949 to 1950, Chambers was called as a witness to testify against Alger Hiss in the infamous Hiss perjury case. Chambers first published Witness in 1952 after the Saturday Evening Post, then a national weekly, ran a series of twelve excerpts from the book from February to April of that same year. Witness received widespread acclaim upon its publication by Random House in 1952 and quickly became a bestseller. Chambers’ candid and thrilling book was ultimately nominated for the prestigious National Book Award for Non-Fiction in 1953, and has since been published in numerous editions and translations throughout the world. Containing fifteen chapters and a heartfelt “Foreword in the Form of a Letter to My Children,” Witness presents Chambers’ harrowing account of Soviet espionage, treason, betrayal, and faith. Equal parts spy thriller, trial drama, and spiritual autobiography, Witness has captured the minds of millions as a result of Chambers’ eloquent retelling of his life as a communist spy, his defection from the Soviet underground, and his heroic struggle for the truth as a witness against Alger Hiss and the apparatus that supported him. Witness has been lauded as one of the greatest autobiographies of the twentieth century, and its impact on the American conservative movement was profound. Chambers would go on to join William F. Buckley Jr. at National Review as a senior editor from 1957 to 1959, and during his stint Chambers would publish one of the magazine’s most cited articles: “Big Sister is Watching You,” a scathing review and indictment of Ayn Rand’s 1957 novel Atlas Shrugged. Few works of the twentieth century converted more minds to the conservative cause than Witness, and to this day it remains a towering work of political and autobiographical genius. Named by National Review as one of the top 100 non-fiction books of the twentieth century, this uncommonly bright and intact first edition is remarkable for having been personally inscribed by Whittaker Chambers.