And so begins what might be my favorite book, George Orwell's Animal Farm. If not my favorite, definitely the one I've read more times as an adult than any other book (there are books from my childhood that I know I read in the dozens, if not hundreds, of times). Long enough ago that I don't remember when or where, I found a copy of the 50th Anniversary Edition from Harcourt Brace (Good Lord, that was published 17 years ago itself). Not only does it contain the text of the novel, but also includes Orwell's proposed preface as well as a preface that was included in the Ukranian Edition, both of which make for interesting reading. However, the true attraction to this particular edition is the artwork from Ralph Steadman.
The bio for Steadman on the back flap states:
"Ralph Steadman was born in Cheshire on May 15, 1936 (the day the Spanish Civil War began). He has won many international awards. Widely known in the United States for his illustrations of Hunter S. Thompson's classic Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and other works, his own previous books include Sigmund Freud, I Leonardo, Between the Eyes, Paranoids, and The Big I Am."
Prior to picking up this copy I don't believe I'd ever heard of him, which seems to be a defecit on my part. The art absolutely enhances this book very well--an image shown here is the two-page spread where Napoleon emerges, upright on two feet for the first time. It's a good example of how in the design of the book Harcourt Brace did not limit Steadman to single pages, but allowed his art and the text to run together in places, to very good use. There are approximately 100 pieces of art by Steadman within the covers of this version.
It's one of those books in my collection that doesn't simply feet like a book, or even a great book, but something that slides into that "collectible" category along with the limited edition books, or chapbooks, or broadsides. It's also larger than the standard book, maybe 9 1/2 x 12 inches, causing it to stick out a bit on one's shelf.
For some reason, the ever-changing mantra from the barn wall, serving as the back cover of this edition, seems to fit all too well these days: