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John Steinbeck – First Edition Books: Identification Guide

John Steinbeck
John Steinbeck

John Ernst Steinbeck Jr. (1902 – 1968) was an American author and the 1962 Nobel Prize in Literature winner “for his realistic and imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humour and keen social perception.” He has been called “a giant of American letters.”

During his writing career, he authored 33 books, with one book coauthored alongside Edward Ricketts, including 16 novels, six non-fiction books, and two collections of short stories. He is widely known for the comic novels Tortilla Flat (1935) and Cannery Row (1945), the multi-generation epic East of Eden (1952), and the novellas The Red Pony (1933) and Of Mice and Men (1937). The Pulitzer Prize-winning The Grapes of Wrath (1939) is considered Steinbeck’s masterpiece and part of the American literary canon. In the first 75 years after it was published, it sold 14 million copies.

Most of Steinbeck’s work is set in central California, particularly in the Salinas Valley and the California Coast Ranges region. His works frequently explored the themes of fate and injustice, especially as applied to downtrodden or everyman protagonists.

In 1962, Steinbeck won the Nobel Prize for literature for his “realistic and imaginative writing, combining as it does sympathetic humor and keen social perception.” The selection was heavily criticized, and described as “one of the Academy’s biggest mistakes” in one Swedish newspaper.

Fifty years later, in 2012, the Nobel Prize opened its archives and it was revealed that John Steinbeck was a “compromise choice” among a shortlist consisting of Steinbeck, British authors Robert Graves and Lawrence Durrell, French dramatist Jean Anouilh and Danish author Karen Blixen. The declassified documents showed that he was chosen as the best of a bad lot. “There aren’t any obvious candidates for the Nobel prize and the prize committee is in an unenviable situation,” wrote committee member Henry Olsson. Although the committee believed Steinbeck’s best work was behind him by 1962, committee member Anders Österling believed the release of his novel The Winter of Our Discontent showed that “after some signs of slowing down in recent years, [Steinbeck has] regained his position as a social truth-teller [and is an] authentic realist fully equal to his predecessors Sinclair Lewis and Ernest Hemingway.”

Many of Steinbeck’s works are required reading in American high schools. In the United Kingdom. A study by the Center for the Learning and Teaching of Literature in the United States found that Of Mice and Men was one of the ten most frequently read books in public high schools. Contrariwise, Steinbeck’s works have been frequently banned in the United States on ground of profanity. According to the American Library Association Steinbeck was one of the ten most frequently banned authors from 1990 to 2004, with Of Mice and Men ranking sixth out of 100 such books in the United States.

John Steinbeck – First Editions Identification Guide

How to Identify First Edition books by John Steinbeck
YearTitlePublisherFirst edition/printing identification points
1929Cup of GoldRobert M. McBride, New York, 1929Yellow cloth. "First published, August, 1929" stated on © page. Dust Jacket spine has "McBride" at tail of spine, price of $2.50.
1932The Pastures of HeavenBrewer, Warren & Putnam, NY, 1932Green cloth. Three issues, priority as listed:
  • (A) BREWER/WARREN/PUTNAM stamped in gilt on tail of spine. "Copyright 1932 by John Steinbeck" on the © page.
  • (B) ROBERT BALLOU stamped in gilt on tail of spine. Title page has "NEW YORK, 1932/BREWER, WARREN & PUTNAM". "Copyright 1932 by John Steinbeck" on the © page.
  • (C) ROBERT BALLOU stamped in gilt on tail of spine. NEW YORK, 1932/ROBERT O. BALLOU" on the title page. "COPYRIGHT, 1932, BY JOHN STEINBECK" on the © page (Uppercase)
1935To a God UnknownNY: Robert O. Ballou, [1933]Two issues, priority as listed:
  • (A) Published by Robert O, Balllou. "First Published 1933" stated on © page. Dust Jacket price of $2.00.
  • (B) Published by Covici-Friede [1935]. "First published 1933" on © page. New Dust Jacket, price of $2.50.
1936Tortilla FlatCovici Friede Publishers, [1935]
  • Two bindings, no priority:
  • (A) Wrappers. "Copyright, 1935, by John Steinbeck" on © page. No other printings. Approx. 500 copies were bound in wrappers
  • (B) Tan cloth. "Copyright, 1935, by John Steinbeck" on © page. No other printings. Dust Jacket price of $2.50 with no mention of later printings, no review blurbs and does not mention the author's other novels.
1937The Red PonyCovici Friede Publishers, 1937Beige cloth. Limited to 699 copies, numbered & signed by the author.
Note: There maybe 52 signed lettered copies, numbered from AA-ZZ with same limitation page.
1937In Dubious BattleCovici Friede Publishers, [1936]Two issues, no priority:
  • (A) Limited edition of 99 numbered copies, signed by the author.
  • (B) Yellow cloth. "COPYRIGHT, 1936, BY JOHN STEINBECK " on © page. No other printings. Dust Jacket price of $2.50. Review blurbs for Tortilla Flat on rear panel.
1937Of Mice and MenCovici Friede Publishers, [1937]Beige cloth. Two issues, priority as listed:
  • (A) Page 9 has "and only moved because the heavy hands were pendula" and a bullet between two 8s on page 88.
  • (B) Page 9 reset without nine words above and bullet removed from page 88.
Dust Jacket price of $2.00 on front flap.
1938The Long ValleyThe Viking Press, 1938Brown cloth: "FIRST PUBLISHED IN SEPTEMBER 1938" stated on the © page. Dust Jacket price of $2.50, back panel has no text.
1938Their Blood is StrongSimon J. Lubin Society of CaliforniaWrappers. "Published, April, 1938 " on title page, no other printings. Price of 25c.
1939The Grapes of WrathThe Viking Press, 1938Gray cloth. "FIRST PUBLISHED IN APRIL 1939" on © page with no other printings mentioned. Dust Jacket price of $2.75 and "FIRST EDITION" slug printed on lower front flap.
1941The Forgotten VillageThe Viking Press, 1941Coarse buckram. "FIRST PUBLISHED IN MAY 1941" on © page. No additional printings.
1941Sea of Cortez: A Leisurely Journal of Travel and ResearchThe Viking Press, 1941
  • Two issues, no priority:
  • (A) Wrappers. "First published in December 1941 " stated on © page, no additional printings. Price of $5.00.
  • (B) Green cloth. "First published in December 1941 " on © page. Dust Jacket price of $5.00.
1942The Moon Is DownThe Viking Press, MCMXLIITwo issues, no priority:
  • (A) Wrappers. "First Published in March 1942;" stated on © page, no additional printings. Page 112, line 11, has a large period between "talk" and "this".
  • (B) Blue cloth. "First Published in March 1942;" stated on © page, no additional printings.Page 112, line 11, has a large period between "talk" and "this".
Dust Jacket price of $2.00 on top front flap.
1942Bombs Away: The Story of a Bomber TeamThe Viking Press, 1942Blue cloth. "FIRST PUBLISHED BY THE VIKING PRESS IN NOVEMBER 1942" stated on the © page, no other printings. Dust Jacket price of $2.50 on top of front flap..
1945Cannery RowThe Viking Press, 1945Two issues, no priority:
  • (A) Blue wrappers. "First Published by The Viking Press in January 1945" stated on the © page. No other printings.
  • (B) Two bindings, priority as listed:
    • (1) Light-buff (tan) cloth. "First Published by The Viking Press in January 1945" stated on the © page. No other printings.
    • (2) Same as above, but yellow cloth.
Dust Jacket price of $2.00.
1947The Wayward BusThe Viking Press, 1947Bright red cloth. "PUBLISHED BY THE VIKING PRESS IN FEBRUARY 1947" stated on top of the © page and "PRINTED IN THE U.S.A BY THE HADDON CRAFTSMEN" on the bottom, no other printings. Top edge stained green.
Dust Jacket price of $2.75.
Note: Do not confuse with the common BCE issued in salmon cloth, top edge not stained and printed by H. WOLFF, NEW YORK.
1947The PearlThe Viking Press, 1947Brown cloth. "PUBLISHED BY THE VIKING PRESS IN DECEMBER 1947" on © page, no other printings.
Dust Jacket price of $2.00 and the portrait of Steinbeck on the back panel is looking toward his left (spine).
1948A Russian JournalThe Viking Press, 1948Four bindings, in order of scarcity, no priority:
  • (A) Greyish-green cloth/Light greyish-yellowish brown spine.
  • (B) Same cover/Greyish-yellow spine.
  • (C) Same cover/Yellow spine.
  • (D) Light blueish-green cloth/yellow spine.
"PUBLISHED BY THE VIKING PRESS IN APRIL 1948" stated on © page, no other printings. Dust Jacket price of $3.75.
1950Burning BrightThe Viking Press, 1950Gray cloth. "FIRST PUBLISHED BY THE VIKING PRESS IN NOVEMBER 1950" stated on © page, no other printings. Dust Jacket price of $2.50.
1951The Log from the Sea of CortezThe Viking Press, 1951Maroon cloth. Second edition, reissued of the 1941 edition with new title, contains first appearance of "About Ed Ricketts". "PUBLISHED BY THE VIKING PRESS IN SEPTEMBER 1951" stated on © page. Dust Jacket price of $4.50.
1952East of EdenThe Viking Press, 1952Two issues, no priority:
  • (A) Dark green cloth. Limited edition of 1500 signed copies of which 750 are for private distribution. Issued in brown slipcase
  • (B) Green cloth. Trade edition. "First published by The Viking Press in September 1952" on © page, no other printings. Page 281, line 38 has "bite" for "bight", corrected only in Bantam Books A32. Not a first state point.
Dust Jacket price of $4.50, rear panel has photo of Steinbeck with no reviews.
1954Sweet ThursdayThe Viking Press, 1954Two issues, no priority:
  • (A)Wrappers. "First Published by the Viking Press in June, 1954" stated on © page.
  • (B) Beige cloth. "First Published by the Viking Press in June, 1954" stated on © page, with Colonial Press as the printer, no other printings. Top edge stained red. Dust Jacket price of $3.50 and rear panel has photo of Steinbeck with no reviews.
ALSO: Book Club Edition, tiny red dot on bottom corner of the rear board, lacks top stain.
1957The Short Reign of Pippin IV: A FabricationThe Viking Press, 1957Strawberry cloth. "FIRST PUBLISHED IN 1957" and printed by "BY AMERICAN BOOK-STRATFORD PRESS, INC. NEW YORK".
Dust Jacket price of $3.50, rear panel has blurb for Pippin.
ALSO: Book Club Edition. Lacks printer statement and a small round dot on the bottom corner of the rear board.
1958Once There Was A WarThe Viking Press, 1958Brown marbled boards. "Published in 1958 by The Viking Press, Inc." stated on © page, no other printings. Dust Jacket price of $3.95.
1961The Winter of Our DiscontentThe Viking Press, 1961Two issues, no priority:
  • (A) Limited edition of 500 copies specially printed and bound for friend of the author and publishers. Issued with a clear cellophane jacket in red "LIMITED EDITION" over the regular Dust Jacket.
  • (B) Trade edition. Dark blue cloth, top edge stained. "First published in 1961" stated on © page. Dust Jacket price of $4.50.
1962Travels with Charley: In Search of AmericaThe Viking Press, [1962]Gray cloth. "Published in 1962 by The Viking Press, Inc." on © page, no other printings. Dust Jacket price of $4.95.
1966America and AmericansThe Viking Press, 1961Gray borads. "First published in 1966 by the Viking Press, Inc." stated on © page. Dust Jacket price of $12.50.

John Steinbeck – First Printing Dust Jackets Identification Guide

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

Reference:

  • Wikipedia
  • John Steinbeck a bibliographical catalogue of the Adrian H. Goldstone Collection.

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

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