First Edition Identification Points
All of the following points must be present to ensure a true first edition / first printing.
- The copyright page has the following text with publisher listed at the top, date in the middle, and printer listed at the bottom:
Martin Secker & Warburg, Ltd.
7 John Street, Bloomsbury, London, W.C.1
First published 1949
Printed in Great Britain by the Alcuin Press
Welwyn Garden City, and bound by Key & Whiting,
- The dust jacket exists in two states, with a possible preference for the red state
- Red dust jacket
- Green dust jacket
- Front flap of dust jacket has a quote from Earl Russell (Bertrand Russell) at the top
- Front flap of dust jacket has “Jacket design by Michael Kennard” “W.469” and the price “10s. net” at the bottom; no printing listed
- Back flap of dust jacket has a description of the novel
- Back cover of dust jacket lists the works of George Orwell, starting with Animal Farm
- 8vo green cloth with red lettering on the spine
Later Editions’ Identification Points
The applicable printing numbers are listed in brackets when known.
- Reprints are listed on the copyright page under “First published 1949” along with the year of the reprint. For example, the third printing would look like this:
First published 1949
- Front flap of dust jacket lists the works of George Orwell, starting with Nineteen Eighty-Four [2+]
- Back flap of dust jacket has “Jacket design by Michael Kennard“, “W.469” and the price “10s. net” at the bottom [2+]
- Back flap of dust jacket lists the printing “nTH IMPRESSION” (SECOND, THIRD, FOURTH, etc.) at the bottom [2+]
- Back cover of dust jacket is a text wall that starts with “GEORGE ORWELL died suddenly in the winter of 1949-50.” followed by various tributes to the man. [2+]
George Orwell (pen name of Eric Arthur Blair) wrote the bulk of Nineteen Eighty-Four from early 1947 to late 1948, right at the end of his life. At the time, he was suffering from TB as well as severe side effects from the drugs he was taking to treat it. He wrote and edited fervently to be able to deliver the finished work to his publisher Fred Warburg on-time in mid-December, 1948. The book was published by Secker & Warburg on June 8th, 1949 for 10s. in a print run of 26,575. Five days later the US version was printed by Harcourt, Brace, and Co. in a print run of ~25,000. Orwell died January 21st, 1950 at age 46; he did not live to see a second printing.