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Sinclair Lewis – First Edition Books: Identification Guide

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Sinclair Lewis
Sinclair Lewis

Harry Sinclair Lewis (February 7, 1885 – January 10, 1951) was an American writer and playwright. In 1930, he became the first writer from the United States (and the first from the Americas) to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature, which was awarded “for his vigorous and graphic art of description and his ability to create, with wit and humor, new types of characters.”

He is best known for Main Street (1920), Babbitt (1922), Arrowsmith (1925), and It Can’t Happen Here (1935).

In 1930 Sinclair Lewis won the Nobel Prize in Literature, the first writer from the United States to receive the award. In the Academy’s presentation speech, special attention was paid to Babbitt. In his Nobel Lecture, Lewis praised Theodore Dreiser, Willa Cather, Ernest Hemingway, and other contemporaries, but also lamented that “in America most of us—not readers alone, but even writers—are still afraid of any literature which is not a glorification of everything American, a glorification of our faults as well as our virtues,” and that America is “the most contradictory, the most depressing, the most stirring, of any land in the world today.” He also offered a profound criticism of the American literary establishment: “Our American professors like their literature clear and cold and pure and very dead.”

His works are known for their critical views of American capitalism and materialism in the interwar period. He is also respected for his strong characterizations of modern working women. H. L. Mencken wrote of him, “[If] there was ever a novelist among us with an authentic call to the trade … it is this red-haired tornado from the Minnesota wilds.”

Compared to his contemporaries, Sinclair Lewis’s reputation suffered a precipitous decline among literary scholars throughout the 20th century. Despite his enormous popularity during the 1920s, by the 21st century most of his works had been eclipsed in prominence by other writers with less commercial success during the same time period, such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway.

Sinclair Lewis – First Editions Identification Guide

How to Identify First Edition books by Sinclair Lewis
YearTitlePublisherFirst edition/printing identification points
1912Hike and the AeroplaneNew York: Frederick A. Stokes & Co., [1912]First American edition. Grey-beige cloth, black lettering. Pictorial cover in grey, black and orange.
Dust jacket: White, pictorial, with five titles ads for the Outdoor Series for Boys on rear panel. 1000 copies printed,
1914Our Mr. WrennNew York: Harper & Brothers, ]1914]First American edition. Date code "M - N" stated on © page. Grey cloth, gilt lettering. Gilt heart surrounded by gilt fronds on cover.
Dust jacket: light brown, brown lettering, pictorial front panel, Harper's Magazine ads on front flap, The Reader's Duty blurb on rear flap. 3000 copies printed.
1915The Trail of the HawkNew York: Harper & Brothers, [1915]First American edition. Date code "H - P" stated on © page. Dark blue cloth, gilt lettering. Gilt shield design surrounding title, author’s name and small gilt landscape of trees and clouds.
Dust jacket: White, pictorial front panel, Harper's Magazine ads on front flap, The Reader's Duty blurb on rear flap. 6500 copies printed.
1917The JobNew York: Harper & Brothers, [1917]First American edition. Date code "B - R" stated on © page. Dark olive green cloth, gilt lettering.
Dust jacket: pale grey, black lettering. 5000 copies printed.
1917The InnocentsNew York: Harper & Brothers, [1917]First American edition. Date code "F - R" stated on © page. Grey cloth, gilt lettering.
Dust jacket: brown, white, blue and red lettering. 4000 copies printed.
1919Free AirNew York: Hartcourt, Brace & Howe, 1919First American edition. "Copyright 1919" stated on © page. Blue cloth, sky blue lettering.
Dust jacket: cream, pictorial panel, blue lettering. 11,000 copies printed.
1920Main StreetNew York: Hartcourt, Brace & Howe, 1920First American edition. Numeral "4" at page 54 unbroken at tail, the "y" in "may" on p. 387 unbroken at tail. Dark blue cloth.
Dust jacket: white, pictorial panel, black lettering, no review blurb. 1000 copies printed.
1922BabbittNew York: Hartcourt, Brace & Howe, 1922First American edition. Copyright 1922 with no additional printings. p. 49, line 4 "Supposing Purdy and I...” for "Supposing Lyte and I...” and p.49, line 5 “...to ruin my fellow human...” for "“...to ruin any fellow human...” in subsequent printings. Dark blue cloth.
Dust jacket: Light brown, black letttering. 9500 copies printed.
1925ArrowsmithNew York: Hartcourt, Brace & Howe, 1925First American edition. Two issues, no priority:
  • (A) Limited edition of 500 signed and numbered copies.
  • (B) Dark blue cloth. "Second printing [first trade edition] January, 1925.” stated on © page.
Dust jacket: Pale yellow, black lettering. 51,750 copies printed.
1926John Dos Passos' "Manhattan Transfer"New York: Harper & Brothers, [1926]First American edition. Grey-green paper covered boards, black cloth spine and comers. Limited edition of 975 numbered copies.
1926MantrapNew York: Hartcourt, Brace & Howe, 1926First American edition. Dark blue cloth.
Dust jacket: Pale yellow, black lettering. 25,550 copies printed.
1927Elmer GantryNew York: Hartcourt, Brace & Howe, 1927First American edition. Spine lettering reads: “Elmer Cantiy,” corrected in subsequent printings. Dark blue cloth. Dust jacket: cream white, black lettering. 18.650 copies printed.
1928The Man Who Knew CoolidgeNew York: Hartcourt, Brace & Howe, 1928First American edition. Copyright 1928 with no additional printings.Dark blue cloth.
Dust jacket: pale yellow, black lettering. 30,000 copies printed.
1929DodsworthNew York: Hartcourt, Brace & Howe, 1928First American edition. "Published, March 1929" stated on © page with no numeral (eg. "2") after. Dark blue cloth.
Dust jacket: pink, black lettering. 50,000 copies printed.
1933Ann VickersNew York:Doubleday, Doran & Co, 1933First American edition. "First edition" stated on © page. Limited edition of 2350 unumbered copies as so stated on the front flap of Dust jacket. Medium blue cloth.
Dust jacket: white, blue lettering.
1934Work of ArtNew York:Doubleday, Doran & Co, 1934First American edition. "First edition" stated on © page. Medium blue cloth. Dust jacket: pictorial, white lettering.
1935It Can't Happen HereNew York:Doubleday, Doran & Co, 1935First American edition. "First edition" stated on © page. Black cloth.
Dust jacket: white, black lettering. 20,000 copies printed.
1938The Prodigal ParentsNew York:Doubleday, Doran & Co, 1938First American edition. "First edition" stated on © page. Red cloth covered boards.
Dust jacket: black panel, white lettering. 50,000 copies printed.
1940Bethel MerridayNew York:Doubleday, Doran & Co, 1940First American edition. "First edition" stated on © page. Red cloth.
Dust jacket: blue panel, red lettering. 33,250 copies printed.
1943Gideon PlanishRandoim House 1943First American edition. "First printing" stated on © page. Beige linen.
Dust jacket: dark grey panel, white/black lettering. 50,000 copies printed.
1945Cass TimberlaneRandoim House 1945First American edition. "First printing" stated on © page. Grey cloth. Dust jacket: Three states, priority as listed:
  • (A) Black over blue
  • (B) Black over orange
  • (C) Black over green. 80,100 copies printed.
1947Kingsblood RoyalRandoim House 1947First American edition. "First printing" stated on © page. Two editions, no priority:
  • (A) Limited edition of 1050 signed & numbered copies. Brick-red linen covered boards. Mauve paper covered slipcase.
  • (B) Yellow-grey cloth over boards.
Dust jacket: black, red/yellow lettering. 50,245 copies printed.
1949The God-SeekerRandoim House 1949First American edition. "First printing" stated on © page. Medium blue cloth.
Dust jacket: black pictorial, yellow/write lettering. 30,450 copies printed.

Sinclair Lewis – First Printing Dust Jackets Identification Guide

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

Reference:

  • Wikipedia
  • Sinclair Lewis: A Descriptive Bibliography by Stephen R. Pastore, 1997

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

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