First Edition of Chairman Mao's "Little Red Book"Mao Zedong. Mao zhuxi yulu. [Quotations of Chairman Mao]. [N.p. (probably Beijing): Central Intelligence Bureau of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, [May 1964]. First edition, first state, of Chairman Mao's "Little Red Book," after the Bible the most printed text in the world. Twelvemo. Approximately 5.5 x 4 inches. [iii, i], [2, preface], [2, table of contents, with thirty chapters], 250, [2, blank] pages. Complete with the frontispiece portrait of Mao and Lin Biao's calligraphic endorsement leaf. Half-title printed in red, title in red and green. Wire-stitched in the original printed wrappers. Wrappers a little soiled and creased, joints rubbed. Some very minor rubbing and wear, lower edge of spine rubbed and mildly chipped, some inoffensive ink underlining and markings throughout (mostly in red ink). Still, a fine copy of this rare and fragile item.
This first state, of which around 50,000-60,0000 copies were printed, was never intended for sale, but issued to members of the military as inspirational reading. It is only in the second state that the well-known red vinyl plastic cover first appeared. By 1967, the book had been translated into more that thirty-six languages and an estimated 720 million copies had been printed. Now, thirty-five years later, almost certainly more than one billion copies have been printed worldwide.
The printing history of Mao's "Little Red Book" (actually entitled "Quotations from the Chairman Mao") is partially obscured due to its great rarity and the fact that the very earliest printing is undated. This original first printing of selections from Mao Zedong's (1893-1976) writings and speeches was originally conceived and produced in May 1964 for military use as a pocket handbook of inspirational reading, intended by army General Lin Biao (1907-1971) to flatter Chairman Mao and improve his own advancement within the Party. Clearly even he never realized the popularity and impact of this anthology. The initial demand proved so popular that it was reprinted several times in 1965: with two additional chapters added to the second edition (March 1965) and a final thirty-third chapter added to the third edition (August 1965). By 1966, it was decided that every citizen must possess a copy (as a symbol of loyalty to the Party) and a massive printing project was created to translate the text in every language where there would be Communist followers or sympathizers.
This first edition is slightly taller in height than all the later editions and collates with fewer letterpress pages. The book originally included a calligraphic endorsement in facsimile of Lin Biao's handwriting and also has a two-page introductory preface by Lin, telling of the book's importance as a guide for daily life and moral precept. But, following Lin's alleged unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Mao in September 1971, an effort was made to obliterate his existence from recent memory, and everyone was instructed to tear out this endorsement page (and sometimes also the preface). Neither was included in copies printed from the end of 1971 onwards. Remarkably, our copy retains the endorsement leaf, a fact which would certainly have jeopardized the safety of its owner.
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