The Early American Chronicles

France, 1978
Hungary, 1986
Croatia, 1978
Croatia, 1981
Italy, 1977

Gore Vidal wrote his American Chronicles semi-backwards. He began the series in 1967 with what would become the final book - if you arrange the books in the chronology of American history. That book, Washington, D.C., covered the years 1937-1954. It was a huge best seller in the U.S. and received wide critical acclaim. Then, in 1973, Vidal wrote Burr, which would be the first book in the Chronicles in terms of the era of American history that it explores (the late 18th Century).

So in the chronology of American history, the first five books in Vidal's American Chronicles are Burr, Lincoln, 1876, Empire and Hollywood. They cover a period in American history from around 1775 through the 1920s, and all through the lens of Aaron Burr and his descendants. Pictured here are covers of these books from around the world. The last two books in the series, Washington, D.C. and The Golden Age, cover the same years (1937 and beyond) from different points of view, thus offering alternative endings of a sort to the series.

Italy, 2009
Turkey, 2005
Spain, 2003
Japan, 1981
Japan, 1978

All of the American Chronicles have been popular around the world, and especially so in the (now former) Soviet bloc, where readers enjoyed the way the books criticized American history and politics. In fact, the Bulgarian publisher Ciela has begun to issue the first six books in uniform Bulgarian editions, and these books join several earlier Bulgarian translations of the Chronicles. Burr is one of the most popular books in the series, and the Swedish edition of the book, pictured here at left, retitles the story "Duel" and features a lush watercolor of the famous gunfight between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton, one of the book's climaxes. Lincoln, the longest book in the series, also enjoyed worldwide success, even in Korea and Japan, where it was published in three volumes. Perhaps the strangest edition of an American Chronicles novel is the 2009 Italian edition of 1876, retitled Il Candidato (above left), and illustrated on the cover with a campaign button from Vidal's 1960 run for the U.S. Congress.

Russia, 1999
Russia, 1999
France, 1988
Germany, 1990
Korea, 1999

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