85. Gray Lensman


Discon, 1963

The saga of the Lensman, Kimball Kinnison, is the second of the two legendary series of super-science Smith created by in the 1930s. The first story in the series was “Galactic Patrol,” which ran in Astounding from September 1937 – February 1938. Gray Lensman followed that from October 1939 – January 1940. The chronology of the series changed when Fantasy Press (FP), another of the small postwar f&sf presses, started putting Kinnison into hardcovers. Smith rewrote a 1934 serial, Triplanetary, to make it fit into the Lensman universe. He then had to write a new novel, First Lensman, to bridge the gap between that and Galactic Patrol. Grey Lensman was published in 1951 as the fourth book. Two more hardback versions of older serials, Second Stage Lensmen and Children of the Lens, completed the series.  FP put them all out as The History of Civilization as a six-volume boxed set in a true box, which is today one of priciest collectibles in the field.

Weirdness accompanied the book from its beginning. Smith of course earned the cover for the October 1939 Astounding, and Hubert Rogers produced a cover so iconic that both Fantasy Press and Gnome borrowed it for their editions. He can’t be blamed for the text blocks printed over the illustration that managed to misspell the title as “Grey Lensman.” Campbell spelled it correctly inside the magazine.

Cover art by Hubert Rogers

The “grey” spelling continued to haunt the title. Fantasy Press used it on the cover of its 1951 release, but not on the boards or inside. Gnome kept the cover, shrinking it down and removing color, but changed the spelling back to “gray.” So did FP when it did the History of Civilization set in 1961. The many American paperback reprints kept the “gray” spelling, but British ones used the more familiar to them “grey.”

Gnome Notes

Greenberg reused the Fantasy Press plates, subtracting nothing and adding only the Gnome name and address on the title page and a mention of Noble Offset Printer’s Inc. on the copyright page. Putting extraneous apostrophes into plurals is not an invention of today’s screen-bound youth. The faithfulness to the original means that the book is falsely labeled a first edition.

You may wonder how Greenberg got permission to reprint this FP volume down to keeping the First Edition label on the copyright page after stiffing Lloyd Eshbach with his non-payment for printing Invaders from the Infinite. So do I.

As with Drunkard’s Walk, Greenberg claimed that all 3000 printed copies were bound. CHALKER says, without a reference, that “other sources suggest no more than 1500 were.” The title is so easy to find today that the 3000 figure is more reasonable.


V. S., Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, December 9, 1961
One almost forgets that it is science fiction, for Professor Smith’s style, that of a history of Lensman Kim Kinnison and the Galactic Patrol, makes for top reading anytime, and once read, it will be sure to be looked into again and again. Tops on my list. [Review of the Burns and MacEachern, Toronto, release.]

Contents and Original Publications

• “Foreword” (original to this volume).
• Chapters 1-25 (rewritten from Astounding Science-Fiction, October, November, and December 1939, and January 1940).

Bibliographic Information

Gray Lensman, by Edward E. Smith, Ph D., 1961, [no copyright registration], Library of Congress Catalog Card Number not given, title #85, back panel #41, 306 pages, $3.50. 3000 copies printed. Jacket design by Hubert Rogers. Illustrations by Ric Binkley. Copyright page repeats the “First Edition” and “Copyright 1951 by Edward E. Smith, Ph. D.” from the Fantasy Press edition. Printed in U.S.A. Noble Offset Printer’s [sic] Inc. Back panel: 29 titles. Gnome Press address listed as P. O. Box 161, Hicksville N.Y.


None known.

True First Printing

Reading, PA: Fantasy Press, 1951.


Gray Lensman, light-blue cloth, yellow lettering
Grey Lensman, Fantasy Press, 1951, true first printing, cover art by Ric Binkley, image from ISFDB