Publication of “The Road to Wigan Pier” on 8 March 1937

Left Book Club edition of Orwell's The Road to Wigan Pier (1937)

George Orwell’s The Road to Wigan Pier (1937)

The Road to Wigan Pier was published by Victor Gollancz Ltd on 8 March 1937, less than twelve weeks after Orwell had delivered the typescript to his agent. It was not proofread by either Orwell or Eileen. It appeared as a Left Book Club selection and a cloth-bound trade edition. Part I, also with thirty-two pages of plates, was published as a Left Book Club supplementary volume, ‘for propaganda distribution,’ in May 1937.

Publication details of The Road to Wigan Pier are quite complicated, but can be summarised: Left Book Club edition: 44,039; trade edition: 2,150; Part I: 890; lost in air-raid: 150—a total of 47,229 copies.

Type was distributed on 14 June 1939, and the volume was not reprinted in Orwell’s lifetime. It was published by Harcourt, Brace and Company in New York in 1958 in an edition that reproduced the illustrations from the Left Book Club edition plates. In 1959 it was included in Secker & Warburg’s Uniform Edition,1 and was first published by Penguin Books in 1962. Except for the first English and U.S. editions, no editions reproduced the plates until the Complete Works edition of 1986; they were introduced into Penguin’s Twentieth-Century Classics series in 1989. In addition to reviews in the ‘public’ press, Harold Laski reviewed The Road to Wigan Pier in the Left Book Club’s own periodical, The Left News, March 1937.

On 31 May 1937 the Moscow journal International Literature wrote to Orwell requesting a contribution and a copy of The Road to Wigan Pier. As Crick records, Orwell sent the book, promised a contribution, but explained that he was recovering from a wound sustained whilst serving with the POUM. The journal replied on 25 August 1937. He was right, it said, ‘to be frank with us’ and ‘right to inform us of your service in the militia of the POUM.’ Their magazine had ‘nothing to do with POUM-members; this organization, as the long experience of the Spanish people’s struggle against insurgents and fascist interventions has shown, is part of Franco’s ‘fifth column’ which is acting in the rear [of] the heroic army of Republican Spain’.

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  1. Secker & Warburg initiated a Uniform Edition of Orwell’s works with the publication of a second edition of Coming Up for Air in May 1948.

Source: CW11-362

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