Foundation

All the novelettes comprising what we now know as the Foundation Trilogy were in print by 1949 so starting collecting them as Gnome’s second Asimov publication after I, Robot was a logical step to take in 1951. (The last piece, “…And Now You Don’t” was published in three parts in the November and December 1949 and January 1950 Astounding. That cover date meant that the issue would be on newsstands in December 1949.)

Greenberg printed up 5000 copies, which must have sold well. In 1954 he printed an additional 2500.The back cover lists five of the seven titles Gnome published in 1954. As confirmation, my copy has a July 1, 1954 date put there presumably by the purchaser. Apparently as a way to save money, Greenberg used smaller, thinner, and altogether cheaper paper. The text is the same physical size, but the side margin has been reduced by a full centimeter. The width of the book is a half centimeter thinner and new boards are two-tenths of a centimeter shorter. The paper is a lower grade and has darkened noticeably more over the years. Nothing could be more obviously a second printing distinct from the first, but the copyright page still reads First Edition.

OK, Greenberg didn’t want to bother correcting the text. The way he handled the new dust jacket is less forgivable. It’s total width is identical to that of the original and the identical cover and front flap were retained for the new boards, which were thinner. Therefore the front cover bleeds 1.2 cm onto the front flap, so far that the “v” in Asimov is cut off. The spine is shifted over so far that the final “s” in Gnome Press sits on the front cover. On the rear, the titles of the other Gnome Press books are bent around the curve of the rear board, making them almost unreadable. All that and the blue coloring of the spaceships is now gone. It’s a cheap, shoddy project. There have long been rumors of a book club edition of this title. Nobody has found one, so this lesser printing is probably the cause.

A conundrum. Is the book a novel or a collection of short works? The ISFDB calls it a collection as it does the next two books. Yet other strings of short fiction published as novels are called novels and few people today would think of Foundation as a collection. The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction solves the issue by calling such works “fixups.” I find the term too ugly to use. When the field comes up with a better coinage, I’ll use that.

Basil Davenport reviewed Foundation for The New York Times Book Review in the December 9, 1951 issue.

This book has a peculiar fascination for the student of historic parallels.

Groff Conklin reviewed it for the February 1952 Galaxy:

The result is a book of real intellectual entertainment and adventure.

Contents and original publication:

• “The Psychohistorians” (original to this volume)
• “The Encyclopedists” as “Foundation” (Astounding Science Fiction, May 1942)
• “The Mayors” as “Bridle and Saddle” (Astounding Science Fiction, June 1942)
• “The Traders” as “The Wedge” (Astounding Science Fiction, October 1944)
• “The Merchant Princes” as “The Big and the Little” (Astounding Science Fiction, August 1944)

Foundation, by Isaac Asimov, 1951, title #18, 255 pages, $2.75. 5000 hardbound copies printed, 1951. 2500 hardbound copies printed, 1954.

Dust jacket design by David Kyle. “FIRST EDITION” stated on copyright page. Designer: David Kyle. Printer: Colonial Press Inc.

1) CURREY (A) Dark blue cloth with red lettering on spine. Galaxy on front cover. Words on spine horizontal. Boards are 21 cm high. Sheets measure 20.3 x 13.5 cm and are 1.9 cm across the top. Back cover: 3 titles plus forthcoming Fantasy Calendar for 1952. Gnome Press address given as 80 East 11th Street, N. Y. 3

2) CURREY (B) Dark blue boards with red lettering on spine. Front cover blank. Words on spine vertical. Boards are 20.8 cm high. Sheets measure 20.3×12.5 cm and are 1.4 cm across the top. Back cover: 32 titles. Gnome Press address given as 80 East 11th Street, New York 3

Foundation jacket front first
Foundation jacket flaps first

Foundation jacket front second
Foundation jacket flaps secondFoundation dark blue cloth firstFoundation dark blue boards second

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