Ayn Rand wrote in her most famous work, Atlas Shrugged, “My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.”

This quote aptly defines Rand’s philosophy which she named Objectivism, or as she called it, “a philosophy for living on earth.” The belief that knowledge, pleasure, and perception are the elements that enable one to interpret reality and connect with the world appears in both her fiction and non-fiction throughout her life.

Rand was born Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1905 to middle-class parents who brought her up in the Christian tradition. From childhood she was intelligent and bookish, and at the age of eleven, was inspired to become a writer by the works of Victor Hugo.

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In her teens, she witnessed both the Russian Revolution and the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. To escape the fighting, she and her family moved to Crimea, where Rand finished high school. The new Soviet regime had reduced the Rosenbaums to near poverty, living together in a communal apartment. It was during this period that she became fascinated with U.S. History and believed American freedom an admirable model for government.

When she and her family returned to their home in Russia, Ayn Rand attended Petrograd University where she studied History and Philosophy. After graduating in 1924, she enrolled in a Cinema Arts school to study screenwriting. Two years later, she left Communist Russia permanently and moved to Hollywood, California to pursue her dream of writing for cinema.

She sold her first screenplay, “Red Pawn,” to Universal Studios, and saw her stage play Night of January, 16th produced in Hollywood in 1932. A few years later she completed her first novel, We the Living, but it was rejected by many publishers before finally going to print. In our collection we have a first edition copy of her play, Night of January, 16th, a story that takes place in a courtroom and centers around a murder trial. It is in a very good dust jacket and is inscribed and dated by Ayn Rand as pictured below.

She began writing one of her most famous works, The Fountainhead in 1935, but it was not published until 1943 by Bobbs-Merrill. The story of Howard Roark, creative designer and architect, misunderstood by a society in love with tradition, promotes Rand’s ideas on objectivism and promotes themes of independence and individuality. In our collection we have several copies of The FountainheadThe first edition is 754 pages long and states “first edition on the copyright page. The binding is red cloth with a gold lettering and a red top-stain. The dust jacket has a price of $3.00 on the front flap and the back of the jacket has two columns of other books printed by Bobbs-Merrill.

The copy pictured below is a first edition inscribed by the author in a near fine issue dust jacket. On the front endpaper is written: “To Eugene Walker- Cordially- Ayn Rand July 24, 1949.”

In 1946, Rand began working on her legacy, Atlas Shrugged. Published in 1957, despite initial negative reviews, it quickly became a bestseller.

Watch our video about Atlas Shrugged to learn more about the novel and the copies we have in our collection.

If you prefer not to watch the video, here is a transcript of part of the video below:

Atlas Shrugged was published by Random House in October of 1957 and due to her previous success with her book The Fountainhead, it had an initial print run of 100,000 copies. This was Rand’s fourth and last novel and it was also her longest at a whopping 1168 pages long. She considered it to be her magnum opus in the realm of fiction writing, and fans of Rand will heartily agree. The character John Galt has become a symbol of capitalist society, with the opening question to the novel, “Who is John Galt?” becoming an iconic statement in American economic thought.

Ayn Rand’s philosophy, objectivism, promotes rational self-interest and laissez-faire capitalism.  John Galt epitomizes all that is glorious of capitalism in its purist form — innovation, self-reliance, and freedom from government interference. In the novel he states  “I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.” 

The title of the book is a reference to Atlas, of Greek mythology. Rand states in the novel “If you saw Atlas, the giant who holds the world on his shoulders, if you saw that he stood, blood running down his chest, his knees buckling, his arms trembling but still trying to hold the world aloft with the last of his strength, and the greater his effort the heavier the world bore down upon his shoulders – What would you tell him?” I…don’t know. What…could he do? What would you tell him?” To shrug.”

This is an analogy to the basic plot of the book, where many of the United States most prominent and successful industrialists abandon their fortunes and even the nation itself, in response to aggressive new regulations, and because of this the most vital industries and the economy itself collapses.

This iconic bright jacket design by George Salter had an original retail price of $6.95, which can be found on the inside front flap of the dust jacket.  The first issue dust jacket shows a photo of Rand and statement by her with her signature in facsimile as you can see here, and it lacks any review about the book, which can be found in later editions. It also shows 10/57 on the bottom of the front flap.

On the copyright page you will see that “First Printing” is stated. The boards are green cloth with author’s initials in gold on the front, and spine lettering in black and gold. The top stain is dark (black or blue).

Although there was a large print run for this book, the desirability for the book has only continued to grow, as Atlas Shrugged has remained one of the most popular and influential books written in the twentieth century; one survey in 1991 found it second only to the Bible in having the greatest impact upon its readers. The book also places first on Modern Library Reader’s Poll of the Top 100 novels of the 20th century.

Atlas Shrugged.

Along with the works of fiction that Ayn Rand wrote, she also wrote non-fiction books on philosophy such as, For the New Intellectual, The Virtue of Selfishness, The Romanic Manifesto, and many more. Rand wrote in the preface of For the New Intellectual, “I am often asked whether I am primarily a novelist or a philosopher. The answer is: both. In a certain sense, every novelist is a philosopher, because one cannot present a picture of human existence without a philosophical framework. . .In order to define, explain and present my concept of man, I had to become a philosopher in the specific meaning of the term.” In our collection we have several copies of this book. The copy pictured bellow is a first edition inscribed and dated by the author. Rand signed it to her close friend Deems Taylor: “To Deems -Affectionately Ayn 4/7/61.”

Ayn Rand’s holds a special place in the literary canon, as bibliophiles and philosophers alike delve into her stories and theories with minds eager to absorb the great insight Rand has to share about humanity. She is an iconic figure and someone whose works and thoughts have lived on to be must-reads for students and intellectuals.