How many books are there in the Foundation Trilogy? Yes, this is a trick question. Having a complete set of Gnome variants requires seven copies: two states of Foundation, three of Foundation and Empire and three of Second Foundation. (CURREY posits there are four states of Second Foundation, which I audaciously disagree with.) Everybody agrees that there are three states of boards for Foundation and Empire (F&E), and CURREY lists two states of the dust jacket. There are three, because I have a third one.
Start with the boards.
Greenberg printed up 5000 copies of F&E in 1952. He used a thin paper of fairly good quality, meaning that it hasn’t browned as much over the years. The next time he printed the book he used thicker paper that browned more easily. The same plates were used: the pagination and individual pages are identical. So is the black galaxy logo on the front cover. Side by side, however, it’s immediately obvious that not only is the (B) state thicker, a change has been made to the font used to spell out Gnome Press. CURREY measures the (A) state imprint as 2.2 cm across with the sheets bulking 1.8 cm. The (B) state imprint is 2.8 cm across and the sheets bulk 2.3 cm. That half a centimeter can mean hundreds of dollars in value, so check it out very carefully. The green board variant, otherwise identical to the (B) state, is the CURREY (C) state, known to be later.
CURREY lists two states for the dust jacket, (A) printed in four colors; 26 titles listed on rear panel and (B) printed in blue and black only; 32 titles listed on rear panel. But there should be a (C) printed in blue and black only; 36 titles listed on rear panel.
F&E is Gnome book #27, published in 1952. Sure enough, the first state cover lists titles through #26, The Starmen, but not #28, Children of the Atom. The second state cover lists titles through #59, SF ’59: The Year’s Greatest, published in 1959. The third state cover lists titles through #58, Interplanetary Hunter published in 1956. But that can’t be right. The third state can’t precede the second state. Surely the 36 title variant belongs between the 26 and 32 title states. CHALKER calls the green boards a “True reprint, not merely a third binding,” but gives the date as 1955. That doesn’t seem possible either. Interplanetary Hunter was the last book Gnome published in 1956; it’s hard to believe that Greenberg would sit on a run of an Asimov title – always one of his best sellers – for a full year before releasing it. The real question is whether the third state boards are another true printing from 1959 or merely a rebinding of warehoused pages. Probably the latter, given that the interior pages are identical. Even so, the history of this Asimov title is even more twisted than the usual Gnome unanswerables. (See Drunkard’s Walk for a discussion of the phantom Heinlein titles found on the third state cover.)
J. Francis McComas reviewed F&E for the November 23, 1952 New York Times Book Review:
The story, unfortunately, is humorless and heavy-handed, much too much for the endurance of any but the stoutest reader.
Groff Conklin reviewed it for the January 1953 Galaxy:
Asimov takes his galactic civilizations up (and down) much the same culture steps that our own Earth society has trod , and this gives his imaginative romance a very solid, social-scientific air.
Contents and original publication:
• “Prologue” (original to this volume)
• “The General” (Astounding Science Fiction, April 1945 as “Dead Hand”)
• “The Mule” (Astounding Science Fiction, November 1945 & December 1945)
Foundation and Empire, by Isaac Asimov, 1952, title #27, 247 pages, $2.75. 5000 hardbound copies printed, 1951. 2500 hardbound copies printed, 1956. Printing?/Binding? in 1959?
Dust jacket design by Edd Cartier. “FIRST EDITION” stated on copyright page. Designer: David Kyle. Printer: H. Wolff
1) Currey (A) Red boards with black lettering lettering on spine. Released 1952. Galaxy symbol on front boards. “Gnome Press” on spine measures 2.2 cm across, sheets bulk 1.8 cm. Four-color cover with “A new science fiction novel by ISAAC ASIMOV” across front cover. Front flap says GNOME PRESS/NEW YORK. Back cover: Rear flap has DON’T MISS THE FIRST BOOK! printed in red. Gnome Press address given as 80 East 11th Street, N. Y. 3
2) Currey (C) Green boards with black lettering lettering on spine. Released ~1956. Galaxy symbol on front boards. “Gnome Press” on spine measures 2.8 cm across, sheets bulk 2.3 cm. “SCIENCE FICTION” on front cover. Front flap says GNOME PRESS/NEW YORK. Rear flap has DON’T MISS THE FIRST BOOK! printed in blue. Back cover: 36 titles. Gnome Press address given as 80 East 11th Street, New York 3. “FICTION BOOKS OUTSTANDING SCIENCE” at base.
3) Currey (B) Red boards with black lettering lettering on spine. Released ~1959. Galaxy symbol on front boards. “Gnome Press” on spine measures 2.8 cm across, sheets bulk 2.3 cm. “SCIENCE FICTION” on front cover. Front flap says GNOME PRESS/P. O. Box 161/HICKSVILLE, NEW YORK. Rear flap has DON’T MISS THE FIRST BOOK! printed in blue. Back cover: 32 titles. Gnome Press address given as P. O. Box 161, HICKSVILLE, N.Y. [Cover variant not in Currey]