The Witness Collection
Rare books, documents, correspondence, and ephemera, 1926–1964. Item #95
Chambers, Whittaker: Witness: New York: Random House, 1952. First edition, first printing. Octavo. Original black boards and red top-stain and original dust jacket (not price-clipped). Faint toning to endpapers and spotting and dusting to page block; minor rubbing and edgewear to dust jacket, else near-fine. A bright and exceptional first printing of this notoriously brittle classic.
Chambers, Whittaker: Cold Friday: New York: Random House, 1964. First edition, first printing. Octavo. Original blue cloth with gold titling to spine and green top-stain and original dust jacket (not price-clipped). Small abrasion to front free endpaper and minor rubbing and edgewear to dust jacket with small closed tear to top hinge, else near-fine, which is uncommon for this increasingly hard to find book.
Chambers, Whittaker: Can You Hear Their Voices? A Short Story: New York: International Pamphlets, 1932. First edition. Stapled pamphlet. 5 x 7 inches, 31 pp. Toning and edgewear to pamphlet wrappers with minor scuffing and spotting. Very good.
Chambers, Whittaker: Original autograph letter, signed (5 pages; 3 sheets), dated as of March 3, 1950, on Chambers’ personal letterhead (“Pipe Creek Farm / Westminster Maryland”), addressed to Mr. C. P. Ives, together with a carbon copy of the initial correspondence from Ives to Chambers dated as of February 14, 1950. Toning to Chambers letter, which has been neatly folded, else very good-plus; toning and fading to Ives carbon copy, which has chipping and wear to edges, else fragile and very good.
Special Subcommittee of the Committee on Un-American Activities, House of Representatives: Hearing Held Before Special Subcommittee of the Committee on Un-American Activities: Washington, D.C.: Ward & Paul Official Reporters, 1948. Four volumes. Mimeographed sheets with ribbon ties. Paginated variously. One volume dated as of August 3, 1948 (identified as Vol. 2 and containing the testimony of David Whittaker Chambers); two volumes dated as of August 16, 1948 (each identified as Vol. 1 and containing testimony by Alger Hiss); and the fourth volume dated as of August 30, 1948 (without a Vol. number and containing testimony by Adolf A. Berle, Jr.). Toning to wrappers with general edgewear; some smudging to wrapper covers. Each volume contains stamping to front wrapper, including date stamps and a “CONFIDENTIAL” stamp. Exceptional collection of original mimeographed transcripts of hearing testimony produced for the HUAC committeemen and their staff. Overall bright and in remarkably great condition. Very good.
Hearings Regarding Communist Espionage in the United States Government: Hearings Before the Committee on Un-American Activities; House of Representatives (Eighth Congress; Second Session); Public Law 601 (Section 121, Subsection Q (2)) [July 31; August 3, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 16, 17, 18, 20, 24, 25, 26, 27, 30; September 8 and 9, 1948]: Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1948. Duodecimo. Original brown paper wrappers; minor chips to spine; smudging and slight creasing to wrappers; some pages slightly dog-eared and occasional marginalia throughout. Rare stamp to front wrapper and title page: “From John E. Rankin / Congressman / 1st Dist. Mississippi.” Containing the HUAC testimony of, among others, Elizabeth Bentley, Whittaker Chambers, and Alger Hiss, with questioning by Richard Nixon. Very good.
Nearing, Scott: The Law of Social Revolution: A Co-operative Study by the Labor Research Study Group: New York: Social Science Publishers, 1926. Duodecimo. Softbound in red wrappers with black lettering to front and spine. Very good-plus with wear to front joint and tail of spine, and small loss to lower front corner of wrapper; minor sunning to wrappers. Inscribed by Nearing to James H. Wolfe on half-title page: “James H. Wolfe– / Compliments of the / auth. / Scott Nearing / Dec. 4, 1926”; name of James H. Wolfe (the person to whom Nearing inscribed the book) written on top of front wrapper.
Original Press Photos: 18 original individual press photos relating to Whittaker Chambers’ testimony before the House Committee on Un-American Activities as well as the Alger Hiss trial. Eighteen original vintage photographs in varying condition (but, generally, in very good or better condition) from various news service and newspaper photograph archives from around the US, each containing various archival notes and stamps to verso. These original press photos include images of Chambers testifying before Congress, Chambers with his family, Chambers and Alger Hiss, and the famous pumpkin patch where Chambers temporarily hid documents supporting his congressional testimony. Additional and individual pictures available on request.
Please see the pictures of the foregoing items for additional information, and feel free to request additional information and pictures regarding the Witness Collection.
A rare collection of books and original government documents, archival press photos, and correspondence relating to the events described by Whittaker Chambers (1901–1961) in his landmark 1952 autobiography Witness. As detailed in his classic spiritual autobiography Witness (1952), and the posthumously published Cold Friday (1964), Chambers was an American writer, translator, and editor who, after years operating as a devoted Communist Party member and Soviet spy, left the Soviet underground in 1938 and testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in 1948 about the Ware espionage cell. Chambers’ testimony before HUAC would lead to the “trial of the century” when, from 1949 to 1950, he was called as a witness to testify against Alger Hiss in the infamous Hiss perjury case. The Witness Collection includes a bright first edition of both Witness and Cold Friday together with rare publications and ephemera relating to Chambers’ years as a Communist Party member, his defection from the Soviet underground, and his role as a witness against the Ware Group and Alger Hiss. Readers of Witness will recognize Scott Nearing’s The Law of Social Revolution (1926) as the book “in bright red paper covers” (Witness, Regnery History, 2014, p. 173) that Nearing’s study group produced in 1926 in an effort to formulate a “law of social revolution.” Although Chambers joined the co-operative with “ten or fifteen others” (171), meeting weekly to discuss the concept of social revolution with fellow Communists and sympathizers, he did not ultimately contribute content to the book. This uncommon first edition of Nearing’s book has been inscribed by Nearing to James H. Wolfe, who appears to have been a fellow professor and colleague of Nearing. Following what Chambers described as his failure as an “organization Communist,” he sought to advance Communism by other means, including literature. In 1931 Chambers composed a short story called Can You Hear Their Voices about “a farmers’ rising in the West and the part played in it by an intelligent Communist” (218). The story, which was based upon an actual farmers’ rebellion in the American Midwest, became an instant hit across a variety of media, and was ultimately published in the New Masses magazine, highlighted by the New York World-Telegram, published by International Publishers (the official Communist publishing house), and converted into a play by Hallie Flanagan, then head of Vassar’s Experimental Theater, and shown in workers’ theaters throughout the world. The collection includes the rare 1932 International Publishers pamphlet publication of Chambers’ story. Following his defection from the Soviet underground in 1938, Chambers testified before HUAC regarding the espionage activities of a covert organization of Communist agents operating within the American government led by Harold Ware and referred to as the “Ware Group.” The collection includes an original 1948 transcript of certain HUAC hearings and testimony, including testimony provided by Elizabeth Bentley, Whittaker Chambers, and Alger Hiss—an exceptional transcript officially stamped as having been delivered by influential HUAC member, Congressman John E. Rankin of Mississippi. The collection also includes an exceptional collection of original mimeographed hearing transcripts from the HUAC testimony of Whittaker Chambers, Alger Hiss, and Adolf Berle, Jr., with questioning from Richard Nixon and other influential HUAC members. Officially prepared for HUAC committeemen and their staffs, these rare and original transcripts offer a unique view into the contentious hearings that would ultimately expose the Ware Group and lead to Alger Hiss’s two-count conviction for perjury in 1950. Also included are eighteen original press photographs from the tumultuous years of the HUAC proceedings and Hiss trial, complete with press stamps and archival notes to verso. The capstone of the Witness Collection is a handwritten letter composed by Chambers to C. P. Ives, who wished to quote Chambers on Alger Hiss and the appeal of Communism—both of which were topics that Chambers remarked upon at “Dr. Freedom’s house some weeks ago.” In a beautifully written response covering five pages (three sheets) on his Pipe Creek Farm letterhead, Chambers responds to Mr. Ives by discussing the twin nature of freedom and responsibility and relating a story of his encounter with a foreign immigrant running a clothing booth at a local livestock show—an encounter that embodied the promise and purpose of American freedom for so many around the world. Chambers ends his letter with a note to Mr. Ives that “there’s a very good story here.” A rare and original collection of Witness-inspired books, correspondence, and ephemera that document Chambers’ remarkable journey from Soviet spy and Communist leader to an enduring champion of the higher values that animate the American spirit.