New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1947. First edition, first printing. Hardcover. This is the first edition, first printing of the first novel published by one of the twentieth century’s pioneering and preeminent science fiction authors.
First printing is confirmed by the Scribner’s “A” on the copyright page. Later states of the first printing dust jacket are known to have the original, printed “$2.00” price clipped from the upper front flap and a replacement “$2.50” price ink-stamped thereon. This jacket is a presumed later state; the original “$2.00” price is clipped and there is an additional small rectangle clipped from the front flap between the title and author’s name where, it seems plausible to assume, an ink-stamped “$2.50” price may also have been clipped by a later seller. The author’s signature “Robert A. Heinlein” is included on a separate 5.375 x 2 inch (13.65 x 5.1 cm) piece of paper tipped onto the front free endpaper recto.
Condition of the volume is very good, the jacket very good minus. The illustrated cloth binding is square, clean, and tight with only light shelf wear to extremities, minor wrinkling to the spine ends, and incidental scuffing to the otherwise clean and unfaded boards. The contents are notably clean, with only the mildest age-toning and no spotting. The untrimmed fore edges and the bottom edges are both unblemished. The top edges show just the slightest amount of shelf dust. Apart from the author’s cut signature, the only previous ownership mark is the tiny, vintage sticker of a Lowell, Massachusetts bookseller affixed to the lower rear pastedown.
The dust jacket is substantially complete. With the exception of the aforementioned price-clipping, fractional loss is confined to the spine head and flap fold corners. The spine is only mildly toned, retaining respectable pinkish hue. Light scuffing is primarily confined to a few extremities, the spine, and the front flap fold. 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 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. Fittingly, Heinlein’s name accompanies his imagination into space; an asteroid and a crater on Mars are named after him. Item #007668