My favorite copy of The Road to Serfdom

I found this at a used book store in Nashville when I was in college there. It’s the eighth American printing, from July 1945.

hayek-003

In his biography of Friedrich Hayek, Alan Ebenstein writes that paper rationing in World War II made it impossible for UK publishers to keep up with reader demand for The Road to Serfdom:

The initial print run of 2,000 copies sold out within days. According to British intellectual historian Richard Cockett, Hayek’s publisher, Routledge, ordered an immediate reprint of 1,000 copies, and in the “following two years they were to be engaged in a losing race to satisfy the huge public demand for the book.” Because of wartime paper rationing, Routledge could not print as many copies as it wished. The summer following the work’s release, Hayek complainingly referred to it as “that unobtainable book.”

I don’t know if it was ever quite so rare here in the US, but wartime scarcity affected American publishers too. The book is very small, practically a pocket edition. The dedication page explains in tiny print:

hayek3

“This printing has been redesigned to conform to the government’s request to conserve paper.” On the classic book against central economic planning. Gotta love it.

Leave a Comment

*