Seventy Years Of Relevance: The Birth of Animal Farm

George Orwell’s Animal Farm is seventy years old in August 2015. If some people had had their way then that would not be true. Peter Davison’s George Orwell: A Literary Life (Macmillan 1996) details the struggles behind the emergence of Animal Farm: A Fairy Story but here is a quick account of its publication.

Animal Farm was published by Martin Secker and Warburg on August 17th 1945 at a price of six shillings (now 30p). It had been delayed and the true first edition (first impression) has a date of May 1945 inside, though no copy actually appeared then.


Image from Wikipedia

After three printings totalling 20,500 copies, in May 1949 the ‘Cheap Edition’ was issued, priced at three shillings and sixpence (17.5p); the dust-jacket kept the green but swapped grey for cream in its colour scheme, exchanged diagonals for rectangles, and dropped the sub-title. 6000 copies were printed thus.

The jacket describes the book in these words: ‘In this good-natured satire upon dictatorship, George Orwell makes use of the technique perfected by Swift in The Tale of a Tub. It is the history of a revolution that went wrong – and of the excellent excuses that were forthcoming at every step for each perversion of the original doctrine.

‘The animals on the farm drive out their master and take over and administer the farm for themselves., The experiment is entirely successful, except for the unfortunate fact that someone has to take the deposed farmer’s place. Leadership devolves almost automatically upon the pigs, who are on a higher intellectual level than the rest of the animals. Unhappily their character is not equal to their intelligence, and out of this fact springs the main development of the story. The last chapter brings a dramatic change, which, as soon as it has happened, is seen to have been inevitable from the start.’

Animal Farm Cheap Edition

On July 27th 1951 Penguin Books published the first British paperback edition in their traditional orange and white cover in a print-run of 60,000 copies.

In the USA by this time over half a million copies had been printed. It was their sale that gave Orwell financial security for the first time in his life. Quickly translated around the world, Orwell gave up all royalties on copies destined for Ukrainian and Russian refugees.






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