451 is set in a future when the written word
is forbidden. "Fireman" Guy Montag, enjoys his duties as a
professional book-burner. He never questions the totalitarian government, nor
the barbaric acts he commits in its name.
His eyes are finally opened when a
young girl tells him of a time when books
were legal and people did not live in fear.
Montag begins stealing books marked
for destruction and meets a professor who agrees to educate him. When his pilfering
is discovered, he must run for his life.
- First paper edition published by Ballantine in 1953.Ballantine #41. This paper edition preceded the cloth edition by six weeks and is the true first edition. It contains the title novel, plus two short stories, "The Playground" and "And the Rock Cried Out."
- First hardcover edition published by Ballantine in 1953. This edition had a print run of approximately 4500 copies. 200 copies were signed and numbered and bound in "Johns-Manville Quinterra," an asbestos material. Identical contents to the first paper edition.
- First UK hardcover edition published by Rupert Hart-Davis in 1954. Contains the title novel only.
- Science Fiction Book Club (London) edition published in 1955. Contains the title novel only.
- First UK paper edition published by Corgi in 1957. Corgi #T389.
- Student edition was published by Bal-Hi (Ballantine) in 1967. Includes the title novel and two page "Note to Teachers and Parents" by Richard Tyre. There were ten printings of this edition through 1973.
- Hardcover edition published by Simon & Schuster in 1967. Contains the full contents of the first edition plus a new introduction by Bradbury.
- Book Club special edition, 1976.
- Hardcover edition published by Ballantine under the Del Rey Gold Seal imprint in 1981.
This full-cloth edition was published in dark brown cloth with gold print on spine and cover. Issued without a dust jacket. Contains the title novel and the "Investing Dimes" afterword by Bradbury.
- Limited Editions Club hardcover edition, 1982. Issued in a slipcase with no dust jacket. Contains an original lithograph and three fold-out color plates by Joseph Mugnaini. 2000 copies were signed by the author & artist.
- Large print, cloth edition published by G K Hall & Co. in 1988. ISBN #0745171060.
- Hardcover edition, Buccaneer Books, 1995. A full-cloth edition in grey cloth with dark blue lettering on spine and no dust jacket. Contains the title novel, "Coda" and "Investing Dimes" (afterword) by Ray Bradbury. ISBN #089968484X.
- 40th Anniversary cloth edition, published by Simon & Schuster in 1996. Limited to 7500 copies, of which 500 were signed and numbered by Bradbury.
- Commemorative trade paper edition, Ballantine (under the
Del Rey imprint), 1996. ISBN #0345410017. Features the cover art from
the 1953 first hardcover edition
- Mass-market paper edition, Ballantine (under the
Del Rey imprint) ISBN #0345342968.
It was a pleasure to burn.
It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed. With the brass nozzle in his fists, with this great python spitting its venomous kerosene upon the world, the blood pounded in his head, and his hands were the hands of some amazing conductor playing all the symphonies of blazing and burning to bring down the tatters and charcoal ruins of history. With his symbolic helmet numbered 451 on his stolid head, and his eyes all orange flame with the thought of what came next, he flicked the igniter and the house jumped up in a gorging fire that burned the evening sky red and yellow and black.
He strode in a swarm of fireflies.
He wanted above all, like the old joke, to shove a marshmallow on a stick in the furnace, while the flapping pigeon-winged books died on the porch and lawn of the house. While the books went up in sparkling whirls and blew away on a wind turned dark with burning.
Montag grinned the fierce grin of all men singed and driven back by flame.
He knew that when he returned to the firehouse, he might wink at himself, a minstrel man, burnt-corked, in the mirror.
Later, going to sleep, he would feel the fiery smile still gripped by his face muscles, in the dark. It never went away, that smile, it never ever went away, as long as he remembered.
A shorter version of Fahrenheit 451 was originally published in Galaxy Science Fiction Vol. 1 No. 5 (Feb. 1951) under the title "The Fireman."
A serialized version of Fahrenheit 451 appeared in the March, April, and May 1954 issues of Playboy.