Butterfield 8

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Author: O'Hara, John Henry (1905-1970)

Year: 1935

Publisher: Harcourt Brace and Company

Place: New York


310 pages. Octavo (8 1/4" x 5 3/4") bound in original publisher's black cloth with gilt lettering to spine in original jacket. First edition.

A bestseller upon its publication in 1935, BUtterfield 8 was inspired by a news account of the discovery of the body of a beautiful young woman washed up on a Long Island beach. Was it an accident, a murder, a suicide? The circumstances of her death were never resolved, but O’Hara seized upon the tragedy to imagine the woman’s down-and-out life in New York City in the early 1930s. “O’Hara understood better than any other American writer how class can both reveal and shape character,” Fran Lebowitz writes in her Introduction. With brash honesty and a flair for the unconventional, BUtterfield 8 lays bare the unspoken and often shocking truths that lurked beneath the surface of a society still reeling from the effects of the Great Depression. The result is a masterpiece of American fiction. The unconventional title of the novel and film (capitalized "B" and "U") derives from the pattern of old telephone exchange names in the United States and Canada. Until the early 1970s telephone exchanges were commonly referred to by name instead of by number. BUtterfield 8 was an exchange that provided service to ritzy precincts of Manhattan's Upper East Side. Dialing the letters "BU" equates to 28 on the lettered telephone dial, so "BUtterfield 8" would equate to 288 as the first three digits of a seven-digit phone number. The preface to the (1934) novel is a notice by the telephone company that an extra digit will be added to all exchanges, "for instance, the exchange BUtterfield will become BUtterfield 8.

BUtterfield 8 was made into a 1960 drama film directed by Daniel Mann, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Laurence Harvey. Taylor won her first Academy Award for her performance in a leading role. Location filming was done on City Island on the Bronx; and Stony Point and West Nyack in then-rural Rockland County, New York. Studio shots were at Chelsea Studios.


A few faint blemishes to front board. Jacket spine panel with tiny paint drip and head and foot wrinkled, small corner nicks; ownership inscription, Christopher Clark Geest bookplate else a very good copy in like jacket.

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