Our shops are open and we are processing online, telephone and email orders as normal

ORWELL, George.

Archive of retained correspondence from the files of his first publisher, Victor Gollancz, relating to the publication of The Road to Wigan Pier.

29 Oct 1936-27 Aug 1958 Stock Code: 131757
Reserve Ask us a question

Orwell's classic study of Northern England poverty takes form

Victor Gollancz's archived correspondence regarding the publication of George Orwell's The Road to Wigan Pier, including the original contract for the work. Orwell's classic study of industrial poverty in the north of England remains in print today, and is among the most esteemed and best-known of his non-fiction books.

After Orwell finished Keep the Aspidistra Flying in January 1936, Gollancz - a prominent left-wing publishing house - commissioned him to write a book about the condition of the working class and the unemployed in the north of England, and offered him a 500 advance. Orwell spent the next few months in the region, writing a diary which formed the basis of the book, and worked on it for the rest of the year. The archive of correspondence opens in late October 1936, with Gollancz asking Orwell's literary agent Leonard Moore how the book is coming along. Moore replies that the book is expected in December, and that Orwell has now titled it On the Road to Wigan Pier (the first word later dropped) and that he thinks it is "extraordinarily good". Gollancz replies in early November that he is looking forward to the book, and it might be considered for the Left Book Club, which would guarantee a large circulation and royalties. He cannot confirm this yet, but "it sounds as if it might be just the book that we have been looking for".

On 16 December Leonard Moore sent Gollancz the manuscript (unfortunately not preserved, as with Orwell's other books). Moore says Orwell is soon to go to Spain (fighting for the republican cause in the civil war, his experiences in which he would later publish in Homage to Catalonia) and would like to hear from Gollancz soon. Gollancz telegraphed asking to see Orwell immediately, and contacted various people for photographs of northern poverty which he could use to illustrate the book, with quite extensive correspondence on the subject here preserved. On Christmas Eve 1936 Gollancz wrote to Orwell offering terms of the proceeds for the ordinary edition, colonial sales, and a Left Book Club edition. He also notes that they will need a new contract - fiction works were covered under the contract for A Clergyman's Daughter, but this is non-fiction and needs new terms.

Five days later Moore wrote to accept most of the terms, but sought better returns on the colonial sales, and a higher advance. He also recommended that the contract should give Gollancz first right on Orwell's next three books. Gollancz responded on 4 January 1937, agreeing to the higher colonial royalties, but rejecting a higher advance for now - he will send a higher advance if the title is chosen for the Left Book Club. Moore agreed to these terms on the 11 January. Meanwhile Gollancz wrote to his lawyer Harold Rubinstein, asking if the book had any libel problems - Rubinstein outlined a few minor changes, but libel concerns were less prevalent here than for some of Orwell's other books, and the changes were made without any acrimony.

In mid-January the contract was signed, a contract here preserved, initialled by Orwell's wife Sonia, who was acting as Orwell's attorney while he was fighting in Spain. The contract is stapled with a note from 1950, after Orwell's death, recording that royalties for some of Orwell's books had reverted to Sonia, and that Heath & Co are working as agents for Orwell's estate. On 5 February 1937 Gollancz confirmed to Moore that the work would be chosen as the Left Book Club choice, and requested Sonia Orwell's permission to print a cheap edition of part of the book to promote the Club, which she agreed to. A month later Moore writes with some anger to see that an excerpt of the book has been published in the News Chronicle without his permission. Gollancz apologetically replies that they allowed a review article with extracts, and were unhappy when they saw the extent of quotation, but permitted it as it was a leading review. Moore unhappily conceded.

At any rate it led to no long lasting bad blood - in May 1937 Orwell wrote to Gollancz, here preserved in carbon, to say how much he liked Gollancz's introduction to the book. He gives an account of his time in Spain, and writes that "I greatly hope I come out of this alive if only to write a book about it". Gollancz thanked him, and has heard that he was injured (Orwell was shot in the neck on 20 May 1937) and that he sends his best wishes. In August 1937, Orwell wrote to Gollancz again with indignation that the Daily Worker had referenced him saying the working classes smell, and asks Gollancz to use his clout to stop the references, which he says is a misquote. Orwell believes that this is deliberate libel orchestrated by the British Communist Party as Orwell had served with the anti-Stalinist POUM in Spain. He denies at length that he is a middle class snob.

Much of the correspondence in the archive is from individuals and companies wanting to use sections of the book, which Gollancz agrees to. On 28 September 1937 it is recorded that Random House do not want the book for a US edition (it would not be published in the US until 1958). Several years later in 1944, Gollancz wrote to Moore saying that The Road to Wigan Pier had fallen out of print, but they are saving it as part for "our socialist propaganda campaign after the war". Thereafter correspondence is mostly regarding copyright there is some uncertainty who owns the copyright to the photos used after Gollancz lost the files. It is noted in 1950 following Orwell's death that Heath & Co are now acting as the literary executors, and that Sonia Orwell wants the rights to return to her. Finally, in 1958 Gollancz took issue with the fact that Harbrace had used his foreword without his permission in their US edition of the book, leading to an apology.

The archive of Victor Gollancz was sold by the firm's parent company in recent years, from whom the correspondence and contract was directly acquired.

Full list of contents:

1. Carbon from Gollancz to Orwell's literary agent Leonard Moore, 29 October 1936, enquiring whether Orwell is working on any books, and when they may be done.

2. Moore's reply, 5 November 1935. Tells him about The Road to Wigan Pier, which he feels is extraordinarily good, and that he will send him the manuscript next month.

3. Carbon of Gollancz's reply to Moore, 6 November 1935. Gollancz says it is may be considered for the Left Book Club choice.

4. Letter from Moore to Gollancz, 16 December 1936, enclosing the manuscript.

5. Copy of telegram from Orwell to Gollancz, 19 December 1936, urging a meeting; and another telegram, 19 December 1936, arranging a time.

6. Carbons of letters from Gollancz to five individuals, 22 December 1936, requesting photographs of distressed areas for use in the upcoming book; also another letter in reply to one of the recipients, saying to trust them to the post, 29 December 1936.

7. Carbon from Gollancz to Moore, 24 December 1936, offering terms for Wigan Pier, confirming that it is highly probable it would be a Left Book Club choice for March. He notes there is a need for a new contract, as it is non-fiction, and would be considered under the fiction contract of A Clergyman's Daughter.

8. Letter from Moore to Gollancz, 29 December 1936. He expresses hope it will be the Left Book Club choice, and finds the terms satisfactory, but would like a higher advance.

9. Carbon of brief reply to Moore, 30 December 1936, saying Mr. Gollancz is away until early January.

10. Letter from Clough William Ellis, 31 December 1936, referring to photographs in the Architects Journal which might be applicable, together with Gollancz's carbon response them, 1 January 1937, and a torn scrap of paper with notes on who to contact for photographs.

11. Carbon from Gollancz to Leonard Moore, 4 January 1937, responding to his negotiated terms.

12. Carbon from Gollancz to his solicitor Rubinstein, 4 January 1937, asking his opinion regarding libel.

13. Reply from Rubinstein, 7 January 1937, outlining libel concerns.

14. Collection of carbons responding to those solicited for photographs, 1-8 January 1937, saying they now longer need them.

15. Letter from Moore, 11 January 1937, agreeing to the royalty terms.

16. Carbon from Gollancz to Moore, 14 January 1937, sending the signed contract for Wigan Pier.

17. Response from Moore, 15 January 1937, returning the counterpart signed by Sonia Orwell as Orwell's attorney.

18. Contract for Road to Wigan Pier, 15 January 1937. Four printed sheets, signed by Eileen Blair as attorney for Orwell. Stapled with: 3 July 1950 carbon noting that the royalties for Wigan Pier, The Clergyman's Daughter and Inside the Whale have reverted to Mrs. Orwell; and 12 June 1950 carbon informing Gollancz that Heath & Co Ltd have been appointed as agents for the literary executors of the Orwell estate. In the original worn envelope.

19. Carbon to Moore from Gollancz, 5 February 1937, confirming they will print it as the Left Book Club issue for March, and asking permission to announce in the Left News as such.

20. Response from Moore, 12 February 1937, expressing his pleasure with the news, and giving permission.

21. Letter from Moore to Gollancz, 9 April 1937, complaining that The New Chronicle had published a significant extract of Wigan Pier with Gollancz's approval but without paying Orwell any royalties.

22. Carbon of Gollancz's response, 13 April 1937, saying they had agreed to a review article only, albeit with many extracts; they had complained when they heard of its extent, but dropped it when they made it the leading review.

23. Letter from Moore to Gollancz, 14 April 1937, agreeing to let the matter drop but stating they shouldn't allow newspapers to get important features for free based on supposed publicity.

24. 2-page typed letter from Orwell to Gollancz, 9 May 1937. Sent from Barcelona while on leave from his fighting in the Spanish civil war, Orwell thanks him for his introduction to Wigan Pier. He writes "I greatly hope I come out of this alive if only to write a book about it".

25. Carbon from Gollancz to Orwell, 31 May 1937, thanking him for his letter; he had heard he was wounded, but he hopes not badly (Orwell was shot in the neck on 20 May 1937).

26. Letter from Arthur Calder Marshall, 31 May 1937, asking permission to use extracts from Wigan Pier in his forthcoming book.

27. Carbon response from Gollancz, 2 June 1937, giving permission, although technically they cannot do so on behalf of authors.

28. Carbon from Gollancz to Moore, 8 July 1937, referring to a letter from Orwell's French translator Madame Yvonne Davet (not present).

29. Carbon from Gollancz to Orwell, 14 July 1937, enclosing the quotes he promised him (not present).

30. 2-page typed letter signed from Orwell to Gollancz, 20 August 1937, referring to a newspaper cutting he has enclosed (not present). Orwell takes issues to references in the Daily Worker that he said the working classes smell in Wigan Pier, asking Gollancz to use his clout to stop the references, which he says is a misquote. Orwell says there is organized libel orchestrated by the communists as Orwell had served with the anti-Stalinist POUM in Spain.

31. Carbon of response to Orwell, 23 August 1937, saying his letter is being passed to the appropriate quarters.

32. Carbon from Gollancz to Mrs Shepherd, 11 September 1937, providing copyright details of various photographs in Wigan Pier.

33. Carbon from Gollancz to Moore, 28 September 1937, informing him that Random House are not interested in the book.

34. Letter from Moore, 29 September 1937 thanking him for his note.

35. Letter from Sands and Co to Gollancz, 27 April 1938, asking to quote from Wigan Pier in a book entitled Christ and the Workers.

36. Carbon response, 3 May 1938, giving permission provided attribution is made and Orwell also consents.

37. Response from Sands & Co., 10 May 1938, thanking Gollancz and enclosing a letter to send to Orwell.

38. Carbon from Gollancz to Moore, 20 October 1938, giving permission for Teachers World to quote from Wigan Pier.

39. Letter from Leonard Moore, 24 October 1938, thanking Gollancz for giving permission.

40. Carbon from Gollancz to Father Martindale at The Month, 16 February 1939, questioning a statement in an article that Gollancz must have hated publishing the book; clipping of article enclosed.

41. Response from Martindale, 18 February 1939, replying: he felt Orwell's criticism of the left-wing intelligentsia would have affronted Gollancz.

42. Letter from A. W. Berry commenting on the book, 6 March 1939.

43. Carbon response from Gollancz, 7 March 1939, thanking him for his letter.

44. Two letters from John Lehmann, 8 October 1940, asking permission to quote from Wigan Pier and other books in his upcoming work enclosing proof of relevant passage.

45. Carbon response from Gollancz giving permission, 16 October 1940.

46. Letter from Leonard Moore, 2 August 1944, asking if there is any intent to do a reprint of Wigan Pier.

47. Carbon reply from Gollancz, 9 August 1944, saying he is holding from reprinting the book until it can be part of their post-war socialist propaganda campaign.

48. Letter from R. C. Churchill, 30 October 1948, asking for permission to quote from Wigan Pier in his forthcoming book.

49. Carbon response from Gollancz, 5 November 1948, assenting.

50. Letter from W. P. Matthews, 14 June 1949, asking for permission to quote from Wigan Pier in his forthcoming book.

51. Carbon response from Gollancz, 21 June 1949, assenting.

52. Letter on behalf of Shipley Divisional Labour Party to Gollancz, 11 October 1949, asking for permission to reproduce photos from Wigan Pier.

53. Carbon response, 14 October 1949, saying copyright resides with the original copyright holders, and to contact Christy and Moore.

54. Letter from Christy and Moore to Gollancz, 27 October 1949, saying they have been contacted regarding the photographs but they do not own a copy of the book so can't check.

55. Carbon response from Gollancz, 31 October 1949, saying they have lost the files and do not know where copyright resides.

56. Letter from Christy and Moore, 9 November 1949, saying Orwell also does not know who holds the copyright, and asking for them to check again.

57. Carbon response from Gollancz, 10 November 1949, reiterating they do not know where copyright resides, but including a document referring to some of the photographs (not present).

58. Letter from Christy and Moore, 14 November 1949, thanking them and saying they will pass the information on.

59. Letter from Heath & Co., on behalf of Sonia Orwell, 15 June 1950. They state they have taken over as literary executors, and that Sonia Orwell would like back the rights to Wigan Pier, Clergyman's Daughter and Inside the Whale, so they can be published in an edition Secker & Warburg are publishing.

60. Carbon from Gollancz, 3 July 1950, agreeing to the rights reverting.

61. Carbon of telegram from Gollancz to Harbrace, 17 July 1958, expressing shock that their edition will include his foreword, and asking when it is to be published.

62. Telegram from McCallum Harbrace to Gollancz, 17 July 1958, saying the edition of Wigan Pier has already been published with Gollancz's foreword.

63. 3-page Carbon from Gollancz to Heath & Co., 31 July 1958, complaining that Harcourt, Brace and Co., had reproduced Gollancz's foreword to Wigan Pier without permission.

64. Letter from Harcourt, Brace and Company, 27 August 1958, apologizing for not seeking his consent for publishing the foreword.

Confused? Read our glossary


Housed in a green morocco album with centre tool to spine separated by raised bands by the Chelsea Bindery.


Some chips and tears to a few documents, but generally in very good condition.


With the exception of framed items*, Peter Harrington offers free delivery on all UK orders of rare books, maps and prints placed through this website. Delivery to USA and the rest of the world is similarly free for orders over £200.

View Full Delivery Details



Established in 1969, Peter Harrington is one of the leading rare book firms in the world. It is a proud member of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association – along with ILAB, the PBFA and Lapada – and from shops in Mayfair and Chelsea, London, sells rare books, prints and ephemera to customers across the world.

Email: mail@peterharrington.co.uk

Tel: +44 (0)20 7591 0220

ABA Antiquarian Bookseller Association ILAB International League of Antiquarian Booksellers LAPADA The Association of Art and Anatique Dealers PBFA Provincial Booksellers Fairs Association

Our Guarantee Page

Ask us a question


Contact us with details of the book you are interested in or selling and we will contact you

Sell Old Books Help me find a book