CURREY lists the 1957, 1958, and 1959 anthologies as the Second Annual Volume, the Third Annual Volume and the Fourth Annual Volume. While technically accurate, this designation is not found on the covers or title pages of any of the Gnome books, although Third Annual Volume and Fourth Annual Volume are found on the front flaps of the 1958 and 1959 books respectively. Dell is more forthright and yet far more confusing, pairing Second Annual Volume on its cover and title page with 2nd Annual Volume on its spine, Third Annual Volume only on the title page with 3rd Annual Volume on the spine, and 4th Annual Volume with Fourth Annual Volume on cover and title page respectively and nothing on spine. As this is a Gnome Press bibliography I am compelled to leave those designations off my titling.
After these four annual volumes, Dell would continue to publish Merril’s best of the year anthologies 5 through 12. Hardback publication was given over to the far more prestigious and better-paying mainstream press Simon & Schuster for volumes 5 through 9 and Delacorte for 10 through 12. Dell acted as a reprint publisher for each of those (and the 1967 volume, SF: The Best of the Best, also published by Delacorte) with the hardcover edition appearing a year earlier, not simultaneously.
The dust jacket is mis-sized, more than usual for Gnome. A white strip appears down the right side of the front cover, indicating space that should have been wrapped around for the front flap. The back cover is even worse, because the rear flap print wraps around the edge of the boards. The spine coloring also is too small to cover. This is an in-house error, not the fault of the cover artist, W. I. van der Poel, Jr. Blame for the cover design itself is his. The mutated cornstalk or whatever the misshapen thing on the cover is supposed to be vies for the dishonor of the worst Gnome cover, although the decision to paint the cover in shades of government fallout shelter green may have been made by anyone, possibly as a bar bet.
Contents and original publication
Judith Merril, “Introduction” (original to this volume)
Carol Emshwiller, “Pelt” (Fantasy & Science Fiction, November 1958)
J. F. Bone, “Triggerman” (Astounding, December 1958)
Robert Sheckley, “The Prize of Peril” (Fantasy & Science Fiction, May 1958)
Richard Gehman, “Hickory, Dickory, Kerouac” (Playboy, March 1958, as by Martin Scott)
Rog Phillips, “The Yellow Pill” (Astounding, October 1958)
Gerald Kersh, “River of Riches” (The Saturday Evening Post, March 8, 1958),
Theodore L. Thomas, “Satellite Passage” (If, December 1958)
Richard McKenna, “Casey Agonistes” (Fantasy & Science Fiction, September 1958)
Fritz Leiber, “Space-Time for Springers” (Star Science Fiction Stories, No. 4, edited by Frederik Pohl)
Avram Davidson, “Or All the Seas with Oysters” (Galaxy, May 1958)
Brian W. Aldiss, “Ten Story Jigsaw” (Nebula, January 1958)
E. C. Tubb, “Fresh Guy” (Science-Fantasy, June 1958)
Arthur Zirul, “The Beautiful Things” (Fantastic Universe, May 1958)
Theodore Sturgeon, “The Comedian’s Children” (Venture, May 1958)
John Steinbeck, “The Short-Short Story of Mankind” (Playboy, April 1958; originally published as “We’re Holding Our Own” in Lilliput 37, November 1955)
From Science Fiction to Science Fact: The Universe and Us
Daniel Lang, “Man in Space” (The New Yorker, November 15, 1958)
Judith Merril, “Rockets to Where?” (original to this volume)
Isaac Asimov, “The Thunder Thieves” (Future, October 1958 as “It’s All How You Look At It”)
Judith Merril, “The Year’s SF: Summary and Honorable Mentions” (original to this volume)
SF:59 The Year’s Greatest Science-Fiction and Fantasy, Judith Merril, Editor, 1958, title #78, 256 pages, $3.50, 5000 copies printed
Hardback. Jacket Design by W. I. Van der Poel, Jr. ”First Edition” stated on copyright page. Designed by Western Printing & Lithographing Company. Printed by Noble Offset Co., New York. Bound by H. Wolff, New York. Back cover: 32 titles. Gnome’s address given as P. O. Box 161, Hicksville, N.Y.
Variants in order of probable priority:
1. CURREY (A) Red boards, dark red boards with spine lettered in black.
2. CURREY (B) Green boards, green boards with spine lettered in black.
3. CURREY (C) Red cloth, dark red cloth with spine lettered in black.
Note, printed simultaneously with Dell First Editions B129, no priority known. Dell printed 149,500 copies plus an additional 8,460 for the Canadian edition.