NY: Ballantine Books, (1953). First edition. One of 200 numbered copies bound in full asbestos and signed by the author. Bradbury’s first and best-known novel, Fahrenheit 451—the temperature at which book paper ignites—envisions a dystopian world in which reading is considered a subversive activity and books are burned by “firemen” whose job it is to destroy rather than preserve. Montag, the novel’s protagonist, is a fireman whose covert interest in literature and eventual rejection of his duties as a book-burner turn him into an enemy of the state. In the book’s denouement, he joins a band of likeminded renegades who take it upon themselves to commit important literary texts to memory, where they cannot be burned. Two short stories, “The Playground” and “And the Rock Cried Out,” which are absent in later printings, complete the volume.
The history of Fahrenheit 451’s presentation and marketing is an interesting one. Perhaps because Bradbury had gained notoriety as a short story writer, his publisher, Ballantine, packaged the novel with the two shorter pieces and sold the book as a collection, with quasi-misleading promotional copy on the dust jacket referring to the contents as “Wonderful stories,” even though one of them was a full-length novel. Regardless of its classification, however, Fahrenheit 451 endures as a cherished work of American speculative fiction, one that to many readers transcends its genre.
Faint discoloration to upper corners and two tiny nicks to the bottom of the spine do little to diminish the appeal of a book that has become increasingly difficult to find in acceptable condition, featuring what is arguably the most outrageous trade binding of the twentieth century. Item #18459
(Barron 3-31; Pringle 8).