SEARCHLIGHT BOOKS

The Searchlight Books series was edited by T. R. Fyvel and George Orwell and published by Secker & Warburg during 1941-1942. The distinctive cover image was designed by political cartoonist, Philip Zec. The series of 128 page essays were promoted by explaining that:

The books will be written in simple language without the rubber-stamp political jargon of the past. They will seek to appeal to the new generation which is fighting this war whether on the battlefields or in the factories and to all those who can recognise the spirit of the new world prospects which are opening before us. 

The Lion and the Unicorn was to be the first in a series of 18 books – planned during the summer of 1940 by Fyvel, Warburg and Orwell – and was published on 19 February 1941. An initial print run of 7,500 was followed by a second impression of 5,000 copies in March 1941. It sold over 10,000 copies and at that time was the most commercially successful of Orwell’s books (behind The Road to Wigan Pier).  German bombs destroyed an unknown number of copies when they hit the publisher’s warehouse.

Eight titles were published in 1941 and three in 1942; the remainder never appeared. It is a pity, considering the quality of the authors, that several of the proposed titles were not written and published. These proposed, unfinished projects included:

“A Searchlight Reporter Book”, Dover Front by Reginald Foster, also published by Secker & Warburg in 1941.

My collection includes the entire series (mostly in dust jackets):

Barea, Arturo and Ilsa, Struggle for the Spanish Soul & Spain in the Post-War World, London: Clapton Press, 2022 (first reprint with a foreword by William Chislett)

I will deliver a “George Talk“, George Orwell & Searchlight Books, for The Orwell Society on 19th February, 2023 at 7pm (UK time).

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