ORWELL STUDIES LIBRARY
“He said that reading was a good preparation for writing; any book could teach you something, if only how not to write one.”
Jacintha Buddicom remembering her childhood friend, Eric Blair (George Orwell)
The Complete Works of George Orwell – a twenty-volume collection that includes Orwell’s standard published library and eleven chronological volumes of non fiction (essays, diaries, reviews, articles, notebooks and ephemera) – is a treasure for scholars and enthusiasts alike to study and enjoy Orwell’s development as a writer. There is further supplementary book of ‘lost works’ (published a decade later) which is often considered to be the twenty-first volume in the collection. It is a scholarly resource par excellence.
There were only 2000 copies of these volumes published in 1998. They are expensive and challenging to procure. A set was only added to my library after thirty years of reading whatever I could by (or about) Orwell with no particular understanding of the chronology of his work or where his essays, articles and reviews were originally published. Reading Orwell’s writing chronologically changed my understanding of his work and piqued my interest in his early development, especially before his pseudonym, George Orwell, first appeared in 1933.
The first Orwell I owned was a battered copy of Down and Out in Paris and London found in a secondhand bookstore for $1.25. It is still on my shelf. Originally published in 1933, it was Orwell’s first book and little did I realised how closely I would (and continue) to study it. I had read Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four at school and over the next few years bought my own copies. Decline of the English Murder and Other Essays, Homage to Catalonia and a personal favourite, Inside the Whale, have been with me from this time at university too.
I steadily added to my collection of well-thumbed, secondhand paperbacks (never being able to walk past a bookshop). By the late 1990s, the internet became the store that never closed and many, many books were bought inexpensively online, including quality first editions, often from far afield, some in much sought after dust jackets. My library grew into an extensive collection by any standard with many books not directly about Orwell but useful in understanding his life and times, work and the literary milieu of the period.
My bookshelves now include multiple copies of Orwell’s work in various editions, including French, German, Spanish, Catalan, Turkish, Hungarian, Italian, Polish, Argentinian, Japanese, Czech, Chinese, Hebrew, Dutch, Esperanto and Danish translations. Many of the original periodicals, where Orwell published his journalism and essays between 1928-1950, have been added to my collection.
I first started listing my collection online in 2016 and the page at my website became ridiculously hard to scroll through. My library of Orwellian resources can now be perused at the following (not quite completed) pages: