New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1947. First edition, first printing. Hardcover. This is a signed first edition, first printing of the first novel published by one of the twentieth century’s pioneering and preeminent science fiction authors.
The author signed “Robert A. Heinlein” immediately below his printed name on the title page. First printing is confirmed by the Scribner’s “A” on the copyright page and the unclipped “$2.00” price on the upper front flap confirms first issue of the dust jacket. Condition of the volume is near fine, the jacket very good. The illustrated cloth binding is square, clean, and tight with nicely rounded spine and sharp corners. Shelf wear to extremities is trivial, including a few tiny dings to the edges and minor wrinkling to the spine ends. The contents are notably clean, with only the mildest age-toning, no spotting, and no previous owner marks apart from the author’s signature. Even the page edges remain unblemished. The dust jacket is substantially complete, fractional loss confined to the upper joints and flap fold corners. The unfaded spine shows no color shift between it and the front face. We note light overall scuffing and a short, closed tear with associated wrinkling to the bottom edge of the front face. The dust jacket is protected beneath a clear, removable, archival cover.
Beginning with this, his first published book, Heinlein spent his early career establishing what we now call the “young adult” market in science fiction. Heinlein’s so-called “Juveniles” ran to a dozen novels published before 1959. Starting with Rocket Ship Galileo, Heinlein’s early novels earned him the reputation, material security, and literary confidence to infuse his subsequent work with more complex and controversial cultural, political, and philosophical perspectives. However, not all of Heinlein’s “Juveniles” were quite so juvenile, and the line of demarcation between Heinlein’s more and less serious works blurs.
As implausibly simple as the plot for Rocket Ship Galileo may seem – a trio of teenage boys helping a scientist build an atomic rocket and pilot it to the moon – even here there are the seeds of future Heinlein, including more than passing attention to actual science, as well as subversive socio-political elements. Offering useful perspective on Heinlein’s literary precocity, in the late 1940s, at the embryonic beginning of the space age, the story was originally considered “too far out” for publication. Rocket Ship Galileo became a basis for the 1950 film Destination Moon (with Heinlein contributing to the script), and the beginning of Heinlein’s illustrious career as a defining novelist in the genre.
Robert Anson Heinlein (1907-1988) was one of the “Big Three” mid-twentieth century “Golden Age” science fiction writers, along with Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke. A prolific writer with a career spanning half a century, Heinlein published more than 30 novels, along with numerous short stories and collections. He was already an established and successful author in the genre when he won his first Hugo Award for Double Star in 1956. He would be recognized thus three more times – for Starship Troopers in 1960, for Stranger in a Strange Land in 1961, and for The Moon is a Harsh Mistress in 1966.
Noticeable in his early writing but particularly prevalent after Starship Troopers, Heinlein used his novels to provoke thought and limn his own perspectives about the role, limitations, and confining structures of society, the obligations of citizenship, and the prerogatives of freedom. Heinlein was lauded not just for individual stories, but also for weaving coherent speculative futures with themes and characters that spanned swathes of his writing over decades. Heinlein’s “Future History” series was nominated for a Best All-Time Series Hugo Award in a very strong field in 1966, losing (along with fellow nominee The Lord of the Rings) to Asimov’s Foundation series. Fittingly, Heinlein’s name accompanies his imagination into space; an asteroid and a crater on Mars are named after him. Item #007660