London: Secker & Warburg, 1949. First edition, first printing with “First published 1949” on copyright page. Octavo. First edition rebound in modern red morocco with skull buttons and “Winston Smith” lettered in white to left breast with on-laid fake eye to chest with blind-stamped lines; title and name lettered in white on spine; front and rear free endpapers and pastedowns replaced with collage of Orwell’s eyes, including a secret “trapdoor” on front pastedown disclosing a picture of the Queen of England; minor toning to certain leaves, including title page (as pictured). Brilliant first edition in remarkable custom binding. Item #74
First edition of George Orwell’s (1903–1950) classic dystopian novel that has captured the imagination and fears of readers, critics, and social observers ever since its publication in 1949. Orwell’s ninth and final book, written and published in the closing years of his life, Nineteen Eighty-Four provides a gripping and prophetic meditation on the twentieth century’s totalitarian movements. Set in an imaginary future (1984) absorbed in conflict, the story traces the fate of Winston Smith, a diligent party worker in the superstate of Oceania, who secretly abhors and yearns to rebel against the ruling Party and its dictatorial leader, Big Brother. Equal parts science fiction and cautionary tale, Nineteen Eighty-Four accentuates the historical revisionism, propaganda practices, linguistic manipulation, and violence that characterized Stalinist Russia, Nazi Germany, and other ascendent totalitarian ideologies of the pre- and postwar world. Nineteen Eighty-Four would share important themes with Orwell’s satirical and allegorical novella Animal Farm (1945), including an emphasis on social stratification, the subordination of the modern individual to the collective, the power and manipulability of language, and the consequences of ideological revolution. Nineteen Eighty-Four was first published in the UK by Secker & Warburg in 1949 to high critical acclaim, and in the US by Harcourt, Brace & Company the same year. It has remained a mainstay on popular and critical reading lists ever since, and its concepts and neologisms, including “Big Brother,” “doublespeak,” “thoughtcrime,” and “memory hole,” have managed to endure as important terms in our twenty-first century lexicon—as has the eponymous phrase “Orwellian.” In 2005, Time Magazine selected the book as one of the 100 best English-language works published between 1923 and 2005, and the Modern Library named it one of the best works published in the twentieth century. One of the greatest works of modern fiction, here in first edition with a striking custom binding.