Book Collecting

Jack London – First Edition Books: Identification Guide

Jack London
Jack London

John Griffith London (born John Griffith Chaney; 1876 –1916) was an American novelist, journalist and social activist. A pioneer of commercial fiction and American magazines, he was one of the first American authors to become an international celebrity and earn a large fortune from writing. He was also an innovator in the genre that would later become known as science fiction.

London was part of the radical literary group “The Crowd” in San Francisco and a passionate advocate of unionization, workers’ rights, socialism, and eugenics. He wrote several works dealing with these topics, such as his dystopian novelThe Iron Heel, his non-fiction exposéThe People of the Abyss, War of the Classes, and Before Adam.

His most famous works include The Call of the Wild and White Fang, both set in the Klondike Gold Rush, as well as the short stories “To Build a Fire”, “An Odyssey of the North”, and “Love of Life”. He also wrote about the South Pacific in stories such as “The Pearls of Parlay”, and “The Heathen”.

Jack London began his writing career just as new printing technologies enabled lower-cost production of magazines. This resulted in a boom in popular magazines aimed at a wide public audience and a strong market for short fiction. In 1900, he made $2,500 in writing, about $78,000 in today’s currency. Among the works he sold to magazines was a short story known as either “Diable” (1902) or “Bâtard” (1904), two editions of the same basic story; London received $141.25 for this story on May 27, 1902. In the text, a cruel French Canadian brutalizes his dog, and the dog retaliates and kills the man. London told some of his critics that man’s actions are the main cause of the behavior of their animals, and he would show this in another story, The Call of the Wild.

In early 1903, London sold The Call of the Wild to The Saturday Evening Post for $750, and the book rights to Macmillan. Macmillan’s promotional campaign propelled it to swift success.

London witnessed animal cruelty in the training of circus animals, and his subsequent novels Jerry of the Islands and Michael, Brother of Jerry included a foreword entreating the public to become more informed about this practice. In 1918, the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the American Humane Education Society teamed up to create the Jack London Club, which sought to inform the public about cruelty to circus animals and encourage them to protest this establishment. Support from Club members led to a temporary cessation of trained animal acts at Ringling-Barnum and Bailey in 1925.

London’s most famous novels are The Call of the Wild, White Fang, The Sea-Wolf, The Iron Heel, and Martin Eden.

The Iron Heel is an example of a dystopian novel that anticipates and influenced George Orwell‘s Nineteen Eighty-Four. London’s socialist politics are explicitly on display here. The Iron Heel meets the contemporary definition of soft science fiction. The Star Rover (1915) is also science fiction.

Jack London died November 22, 1916, in a sleeping porch in a cottage on his ranch. London had been a robust man but had suffered several serious illnesses, including scurvy in the Klondike. Additionally, during travels on the Snark, he and Charmian picked up unspecified tropical infections and diseases, including yaws. At the time of his death, he suffered from dysentery, late-stage alcoholism, and uremia; he was in extreme pain and taking morphine.

Jack London – First Editions Identification Guide

How to Identify First Edition books by Jack London
YearTitlePublisherFirst edition/printing identification points
1900Son of the WolfBoston & New York: Houghton, Mifflin & Co, 1900First American edition. "COPYRIGHT, 1900, BY JACK LONDON" stated on © page. Slate gray cloth stamped in silver on cover and spine. Frontis. with tissue guard. Four states, no priority:
  • (A) Publisher's imprint at bottom of spine reads: Houghton | Mifflin & Co.
  • (B) Publisher's imprint at bottom of spine reads: Houghton | Mifflin .&. Co
  • (C) Bound in green cloth, with overall square white panel on front cover delineating title in green, with profile design of trapper and dog. Back of spine also has overall white panel delineating title, head of trapper, author's name and publisher's imprint in green.
  • (D) Bound in green cloth, with overall square white panel on front cover delineating trapper and dog in green, but title is stamped in red. Backstrip is original green cloth, with title, author's name and publisher's imprint in red, and trapper's head profile in embossed green.
Dust jacket has the belt design as on the slate binding in black.
1901Chris Farrington, Able SeamanNew York: McClure, Phillips & Co, McmiFirst American edition. "Copyright, 1901, by McCLURE, PHILLIPS & CO." stated on © page. Dark blue cloth with gilt design and lettering on front cover and spine.
1902The Cruise of the DazzlerNew York: The Century Co., MCMIIFirst American edition. "Published October, 1902" stated on © page. Cream cloth, "St. Nicholas Books" in black on spine and front cover, balance of lettering red. Decorations on spine and front cover green, orange, and black.
Dust jacket cream color, green letering. The design is repeated from the binding.
1902A Daughter of the SnowsPhiladelphia: J. B. Lippincott Co., MCMIIFirst American edition. "Published October, 1902" stated on © page. Red cloth with white, green, and gilt decorations. Lettering on front cover and spine white. Frontis. in color with tissue guard. Two pages of publisher's advertisements at back.
1902Children of the FrostNew York: The Macmillan Co., 1902First American edition. "Set up and electrotyped September, 1902." stated on © page. Green cloth decorated in red, black, and white. Lettering on front cover and spine white. Frontis. Three pages of publisher's advertisements at back.
1903The Call of the WildNew York: The Macmillan Co., 1903First American edition. "Set up, electrotyped, and published July, 1903." stated on © page. Bound in vertically ribbed green cloth decorated in white, dark orange, and dark green. Lettering on front cover and spine gilt. Top edges gilt. Frontis. in color with tissue guard, included in pagination. Two pages of publisher's advertisements at back. Dust jacket stiff gray paper printed in green, with design repeated from the binding.
ALSO: Second edition binding horizontally ribbed green cloth, third edition standard grade cloth with design embossed.
ALSO: Toronto, George N. Morang & Company Limited, [1903]. First Canadian edition. Binding appears to be slightly lighter colored vertically ribbed green cloth decorated in white, blue, and dark green. Top edge gilt.
1903The Kempton-Wace LettersNew York: The Macmillan Co., 1903First American edition. "Set up and electrotyped May, 1903." stated on © page. No author's name on title page. Green decorated cloth stamped in black. Top edges gilt. Lettering on spine gilt. Lettering on front cover white. Three pages of publisher's advertisements at back.
ALSO: Reprint, September, 1903. Same binding, copyright as above, WITH author's name "JACK LONDON" on the title page.
1903The People of the AbyssNew York: The Macmillan Co., 1903First American edition. "Set up, electrotyped and published October, 1903." stated on © page. Dark blue cloth decorated in gilt and black. Top edges gilt, all other edges uncut. Lettering on spine gilt. Lettering on front cover black outlined in gilt. Frontis. Three pages of publisher's advertisements at back.
1904The Sea-WolfNew York: The Macmillan Co., 1904First American edition. "Published October, 1904." stated on © page. Light blue cloth decorated in white, orange, and dark blue. Top edges gilt. Lettering on spine gilt. Lettering on front cover white. Frontis. with tissue guard. Three pages of publisher's advertisements at back.
Note: Spine may be lettered either in gilt or white. Merle Johnson's American first editions says "former probably first." Many collectors ascribe no priority to either.
1904The Faith of Men and Other StoriesNew York: The Macmillan Co., 1904First American edition. "Set up, electrotyped, and published April, 1904." stated on © page. Light blue cloth decorated in white, green, and black. Top edges gilt, all other edges uncut. Lettering on spine gilt. Lettering on front cover black. Two pages of publisher's advertisements at back.
1905The GameNew York: The Macmillan Co., 1905First American edition. "Published June, 1905." stated on © page. Green cloth decorated in white and brown. Top edges gilt. Lettering on spine gilt. Lettering on front cover red. Frontis. in color with tissue guard, included in pagination. Six pages of publisher's advertisements at back.
Dust jacket is of stiff powder-blue paper lettered in deep red. The binding and wrapper are identical in type; the latter does not have the white and brown decoration of the cover of the binding.
Note: The second issue is rubber stamped on the copyright page; Copyright 1905, | By the Metropolitan Magazine Co.
1905War of the ClassesNew York: The Macmillan Co., 1905First American edition. "Published April, 1905." stated on © page. Dark red cloth. Lettering on spine gilt. Three pages of publisher's advertisements at back. Also noted in gray paper wrappers, lettered in black on front cover.
1906White FangNew York: The Macmillan Co., 1906First American edition. "Published October, 1906." stated on © page. Gray cloth decorated in white and black. Lettering on spine gilt. Lettering on front cover white. Frontis. in color with tissue guard. Four pages of publisher's advertisements at back. 
Note: The first issue does not have a tipped-in title-page; copies are fairly uncommon with the title-page as a part of the signature.
1906Tales of the Fish PatrolNew York: The Macmillan Co., 1905First American edition. "Published September, 1905." stated on © page. Dark blue cloth decorated in yellow, green, and blue. Lettering on spine gilt. Lettering on front cover pale green. Top edge gilt. Frontis. Three pages of publisher's advertisements at back. 
Note: Merle Johnson's American First Editions states, "Two states of binding; no established priority."
1906Moon-Face and Other StoriesNew York: The Macmillan Co., 1906First American edition. "Published September, 1906." stated on © page. Dark blue cloth decorated in gilt and green. Top edges gilt, other edges uncut. Spine and front cover lettered in light green. Four pages of publisher's advertisements at back.
Note: Merle Johnson's American First Editions states, "An advance copy at the Library of Congress has no month of publication on the copyright page."
1906Scorn of Women in Three ActsNew York: The Macmillan Co., 1906First American edition. "Published November, 1906." stated on © page. Red cloth with white spine. Top edges gilt. Lettering on spine black. Lettering on front cover white. Three pages of publisher's advertisements at back.
1907Before AdamNew York: The Macmillan Co., 1907First American edition. "Published February, 1907." stated on © page. Tan pebble-grain cloth. Red lettering outlined in white on cover and spine. Six animal footprints in brown diagonally across binding, from lower spine to upper right comer of front cover. Frontis. in colors. Four pages of publisher's advertisements at back. Pages uncut. Dust jacket is of the same design, printed in dark red.
Note: The George H. Tweney Collection contains two copies of the first edition. One of these is described above; the other has the title on the spine, also the publisher's name, both printed in red, and not outlined in white.
1907Love of Life and Other StoriesNew York: The Macmillan Co., 1907First American edition. "Published September, 1907." stated on © page. Blue cloth stamped in gilt on front cover and spine. Front cover enclosed in narrow white border. Four pages of publisher's advertisements at back.
1907The RoadNew York: The Macmillan Co., 1907First American edition. "Published November, 1907." stated on © page. Gray cloth stamped in black, and lettered in gilt on front cover and spine. Top edges gilt. Frontis. Four pages of publisher's advertisements at back.
1908The Iron HeelNew York: The Macmillan Co., 1908First American edition. "Published February, 1908." stated on © page. Dark blue cloth stamped in gilt and light blue. Four pages of publisher's advertisements at back.
Note: A number of copies were issued by Appeal to Reason, Girard, Kansas. These constitute a later issue.
1909Martin EdenNew York: The Macmillan Co., 1909First American edition. "Published September, 1909." stated on © page. Dark blue cloth stamped in light green. Lettering on spine and front cover gilt. Frontis. in sepia tone. Ten pages of publisher's advertisements at back.
1910Burning DaylightNew York: The Macmillan Co., 1910First American edition. "Published October, 1910." stated on © page. Light blue cloth stamped in light blue and yellow. Lettering on spine and front cover white. Frontis. Eleven pages of publisher's advertisements at back.
Note: Merle Johnson's American First Editions states, "Two states of binding are noted; (a) with MacMillan at foot of spine; (b) with The MacMillan Company. Earliest known presentation copies are of the latter state."
1910Lost FaceNew York: The Macmillan Co., 1910First American edition. "Published March, 1910." stated on © page. Dark blue cloth decorated in orange, white, and green. Lettering on spine and front cover white. Frontis. Four pages of publisher's advertisements at back.
1910Revolution and Other EssaysNew York: The Macmillan Co., 1910First American edition. "Published March, 1910" stated on © page. Dark red cloth stamped in gilt. Title "Revolution" only appears on front cover and spine. Four pages of publisher's advertisements at back.
1910Theft: A Play in Four ActsNew York: The Macmillan Co., 1910First American edition. "Published November, 1910" stated on © page. Red cloth with white spine. Top edge gilt. Lettering on spine black. Lettering on front cover white.
Note: Often title-pages have been removed from poor copies of the first edition and inserted in later printings. Textual differences may be noted by the split letters "a" and "t" in "that", page 47, line 1, and in the mutilation of the "d" in "perplexed" page 65, line 1.
1911AdventureNew York: The Macmillan Co., 1911First American edition. "Published March, 1911." stated on © page. Two bindings, no priority:
  • (A) Dark blue cloth stamped in light blue and white on cover and spine. Six pages of publisher's advertisements at back.
  • (B) Red cloth, with front cover and backstrip lettering and decorations in white.
1911The Cruise of the SnarkNew York: The Macmillan Co., 1911First American edition. "Published June, 1911." stated on © page, Light blue cloth lettered in gilt on spine and front cover. Colored print of the Snark inlaid on front cover, identical with frontispiece. Top edges gilt. Frontis. print of the Snark in color. Four pages of publisher's advertisements at back. Title page tipped-in.
1911South Sea TalesNew York: The Macmillan Co., 1911First American edition. "Published October, 1911." stated on © page. Light blue cloth lettered in gilt on spine and front cover. Colored print of the Snark inlaid on front cover, identical with frontispiece. Top edges gilt. Frontis. print of the Snark in color. Four pages of publisher's advertisements at back.
1911When God Laughs and Other StoriesNew York: The Macmillan Co., 1911First American edition. "Published January, 1911." stated on © page. Dark olive green cloth decorated in red and light green. Lettering on spine and front cover gilt. Frontis. Four pages of publisher's advertisements at back.
1912A Son of the SunGarden City, New York: Doubleday, Page & Co., 1912First American edition. "COPYRIGHT, 1912, BY DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY" stated on © page. Light blue cloth with embossed ship decoration on front cover in gray, white, and orange. Lettering on front cover and spine gray. Frontis.
1912The House of Pride & Other Tales of HawaiiNew York: The Macmillan Co., 1912First American edition. "Published March, 1912." stated on © page. Light green cloth decorated in blue, black, and white. Lettering on front cover and spine white. Six pages of publisher's advertisements at back.
1912Smoke BellewNew York: The Century Co., 1912First American edition. "Published October, 1912" stated on © page. Blue-gray cloth, decorated in cream, white, and black. Lettering in black. Frontis.
1913The Abysmal BruteNew York: The Century Co., 1913First American edition. "Published, May, 1913" stated on © page. Olive cloth stamped in yellow and black on cover and spine. Frontis. with tissue guard. One page of publisher's advertisements at back.
Dust jacket dark brown paper, overprinted in black and light green on the front with design of a man carrying a buck deer over his shoulders and a gun in his right hand. Inside front flap a publisher's "plug" for the book, and inside rear flap excerpts from reviewers' praises of Jack London as an author.
Notes: The second binding is similar, but with the design on front cover in green and black. A third issue is 16.5 x 11 cm. It is in cheap light green cloth with the conventional oak-leaf and com decoration in dark green and black respectively.
1913John BarleycornNew York: The Century Co., 1913First American edition. "Published, August, 1913" stated on © page. Deep green cloth stamped in gold on cover and spine. Frontis.
1913The Valley of the MoonNew York: The Macmillan Co., 1913First American edition. "Published October, 1913" stated on © page. Orange cloth decorated in yellow and light and dark blue. Lettering on spine gilt. Lettering on front cover white. Four pages of publisher's advertisements at back.
1913The Night BornNew York: The Century Co., 1913First American edition. "Published, February, 1913" stated on © page. Blue -gray cloth, decorated in black. Lettering in gilt on front cover and spine. Frontis. in colors with tissue guard. One page of publisher's advertisements at back.
1914The Mutiny of the ElsinoreNew York: The Macmillan Co., 1914First American edition. "Published September, 1914" stated on © page. Yellow cloth decorated in gray and blue. Lettering on spine gilt. Title on front cover white, author's name in gilt. Frontis. in color. Six pages of publisher's advertisements at back.
Dust jacket white calendared paper, printed in black, with a color reproduction of the frontispiece on the front, flaps and back are blank.
1914The Strength of the StrongNew York: The Macmillan Co., 1914First American edition. "Published May, 1914." stated on © page. Light blue cloth decorated in black and gold. Lettering on spine and front cover white. Frontis. Six pages of publisher's advertisements at back.
Dust jacket white, calendared paper, very fragile and brittle, lettered in blue on the front and spine, and flaps and back are blank. Twelve lines of text on front of dust wrapper extolling Jack London's ability to tell a good story
1915The Scarlet PlagueNew York: The Macmillan Co., 1915First American edition. "Published May, 1915." stated on © page. Dark red cloth decorated in yellow and light red. Lettering on spine gilt. Lettering on front cover light red. Frontis. included in pagination. Four pages of publisher's advertisements at back.
1915The Star RoverNew York: The Macmillan Co., 1915First American edition. "Published October, 1915" stated on © page. Light blue cloth decorated in light blue, dark blue, and white. Lettering on spine and front cover gilt. Frontis. in color. Eight pages of publisher's advertisements at back.
1916The Acorn-PlanterNew York: The Macmillan Co., 1916First American edition. "Published February, 1916." stated on © page. Red cloth with white spine. Top edges gilt. Lettering on spine black. Lettering on front cover white. Four pages of publisher's advertisements at back.
1916The Little Lady of the Big HouseNew York: The Macmillan Co., 1916First American edition. "Published April, 1916" stated on © page. Blue cloth decorated in dark blue, orange, and white. Spine lettered in gilt. Lettering on front cover white. Frontis. in color. Four pages of publisher's advertisements at back.
1916The Turtles of TasmanNew York: The Macmillan Co., 1916First American edition. "Published, September, 1916." stated on © page. Chocolate brown cloth decorated in blue and orange. Lettering on spine gilt. Lettering on front cover cream. Five pages of publisher's advertisements at back.
1917Jerry of the IslandsNew York: The Macmillan Co., 1917First American edition. "Published, April, 1917." stated on © page. Red cloth decorated in black. Spine lettered in gilt. Title on front cover gilt, author's name in black. Frontis. in color. Six pages of publisher's advertisements at back.
1917Michael, Brother of JerryNew York: The Macmillan Co., 1917First American edition. "Published, November, 1917." stated on © page. Red cloth decorated in black. Spine lettered in gilt. Title on front cover gilt, author's name in black. Frontis. in color. Eight pages of publisher's advertisements at back.
1918The Red OneNew York: The Macmillan Co., 1918First American edition. "Published, October, 1918" stated on © page. Brown paper over boards decorated in blue, orange, and black. Lettering on spine black. Lettering on front cover black except for "Red One" which is in orange outlined in black. Frontis. portrait of author. Four pages of publisher's advertisements at back.
Dust jacket white calendared paper, printed in black, reproduction of the frontispiece portrait of London on the front, lettered THE | RED ONE at the top, and JACK LONDON below. Inside front flap an advertisement for the book, back flap and back of wrapper are blank.
1919On the Makaloa MatNew York: The Macmillan Co., 1919First American edition. "Published, September, 1919" stated on © page. Light blue cloth decorated in yellow and dark blue. Spine and front cover lettered in yellow.
1920Hearts of ThreeMills & Boon, Ltd, London, [1918]First English edition. Foreword dated "Waikiki, Hawaii, March 23, 1916,". Blue cloth. Black lettering on spine only. This edition has no date, but according to the catalog of the British Museum it was published in England in 1918. Checked by Colin Clair against the copy in the British Museum. ALSO: New York: The Macmillan Co., 1920. First American edition. "Published, September, 1920" stated on © page. Red cloth. Spine lettered in gilt.
1922Dutch Courage and Other StoriesNew York: The Macmillan Co., 1920First American edition. "Published September, 1922." stated on © page. Red cloth decorated in black. Lettering on spine gilt. Lettering on front cover black. Frontis. portrait of author.

Jack London – First Printing Dust Jackets Identification Guide

Gallery of First state Dust Jackets of Jack London’s works. Only includes the first appearance in book form. Either the UK or US edition and does not include later printings.

Reference:

  • Wikipedia
  • Hensley C. Woodbridge, John London, George J. Tweney – Jack London, A Bibliography

BOOKSTORE: Rare, Antiquarian, First editions, Illustrated Children's Books

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