Treasures from the Library: The Abolition of Man

This week’s Treasure is another American first edition. Invariably, we have American first editions of English authors, so the monetary value is not present so much as the enjoyment to be received from knowing that you hold in your hands one of the first copies of a work to cross the ocean and arrive on your country’s shores.

IMG_20160305_130133031C.S. Lewis presented the material that would become The Abolition of Man in a series of lectures at King’s College (University of Durham) in February 1943. The lectures were presented over the course of three nights, and the book follows suit, falling into three
sections. At its heart, the Abolition of Man is a defense of natural law– a set of beliefs and principles spanning time, religion, and geographical space across the world. Debunking such beliefs sets one up for a dystopian future. Though I doubt Lewis had The Hunger Games in mind when he wrote Abolition of Man, there certainly has been a literary trend toward the dystopian (personal favorites? The Giver by Lois Lowry; bone chillingly banal. Definitely worth a look, pay no mind to the YA label. Its good for everyone.)

A quick Google search shows that, by and large, people consider the work to be prescient when it comes to ¬†predicting the way in which natural law has been discarded and the havoc that can wreak on society. Lewis’ own That Hideous Strength is a fictional take on the logical end of some of these ideas; Brave New World is also generally recommended in the same breath. Both can be found in the library, in the Newman Room.

The copy of The Abolition of Man that the College has, as you can see, was acquired from another institution’s deselection process. It is clearly marked as the first printing from IMG_20160305_130139403the US publisher, Macmillan. In looking around, I could not find a reason why the lectures¬†were published almost immediately in England yet it took 5 years for them to cross the pond. I have my suspicions that the War played a hand in it, though books were certainly published during the war years– we have proof on our library shelves, special imprints and all (more on that next week!)

The copy is in good condition– a little wear on the edges, but no major defects. The circulating copies are all later editions, located in the Helm Room for those interested in checking out this work.