Editions, Printings, and States

Shakespeare’s First Folio, the edition of Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies printed in 1623, has a full page portrait of the Bard of Avon by Martin Droeshout. It was engraved on copperplate for fineness and printed by a specialty shop before being turned over to William Jaggard to bind in to the other 900 pages of the text. Copper is comparatively soft. Over time the plate wore, so that the very earliest impressions are clearly discernible from the later ones by their crispness. In addition, the worn plates were retouched so that three distinct “states” of the portrait are known: one without a shadow on the collar; a second with a cross-hatched shadow but black pupils; a third also adding little white lines in Shakespeare’s pupils.

Collectors learned to seek out not just the first state, but the earliest copies of the first state, the ones with the best quality image, along with the hundreds of other details they and other fanatically obsessive scholars and bookdealers have learned to identify. What works for Shakespeare trickled down to all collectibles. The finest, earliest, closest to the original that came first off the press is most sought after and commands the highest prices.

That’s absolutely true for Gnome as well. So how would you as a prospective collector tell which is which?

Let’s start with a definition of a first edition, taken from the Independent Online Booksellers Association’s Book Terminology section, combining text from EDITION and FIRST EDITION.

All of the copies of a book printed from the same setting of type, at one time or over a period of time, with no major changes, additions or revisions. Minor changes, such as the correction of some misspelled words, or the addition of a dedication, or similar very minor alterations, may be made and the revised copies are still considered as part of the same edition, simply being described as different states or issues. Second or subsequent editions usually involve the entire resetting of type. … In the world of literature and Modern Firsts, the term… means the very first printing of those copies, done at the same time. A second print run, though it is technically still the “First Edition”, is not what is meant by the phrase in the world of collectible Modern Firsts.)

Therefore, not only is the most desirable edition the first edition, desirability narrows into being the first printing of the first edition, and the first state of the first printing of the first edition.

Gnome scholars are not as obsessive as those Shakespearean scholars have been. The amount of money involved is at most tenths of a percent of a good First Folio and the knowledge is worth little to nothing in academia. Nevertheless, over the years a tremendous amount of information has accreted and has been collected in the references given on the Home page, to which I’ve been adding a few bits and pieces garnered from my own collection.

Which means I also know how much we don’t know. Few written records of the Gnome operation exist. Martin Greenberg talked to Lloyd Eshbach, but his memory had gaps and sometimes dredged up bad info. Remember, nobody thought any of these details would be important. Getting the books printed and sold was the only goal; that the priority of variant bindings would be argued over was inconceivable. Cost was another factor that loomed in Greenberg’s always-close-to-the-edge business practices. Changing the plates costs money; not doing so saved a few pennies. So he didn’t, even when conventional printing tradition called for it. Other times… well, there are simply no explanations for why Gnome did some of the strange things we find on close examination. Many of the individual title pages contain Gnome mysteries that are likely to forever remain so.

Bill McBride’s A Pocket Guide to the Identification of First Editions, released in seven ever-expanding editions, was an indispensable tool for collectors back before every piece of information was presumed available portably through an electronic link. The seventh edition lists almost 6000 publishers, most of them as obscure to outsiders and non-specialists as Gnome would be to non-f&sf people. I assume every bookdealer has it or an equivalent; no head can remember that many variations. You might think that all presses simply put the words First Edition onto the copyright page. Most do, but there are many variations. Some only record later printings. Others have dates that must match one another. More modern books may use a row of numbers. And then there is the heart-stopping qualifier of “usually.”

Gnome is followed (in my Sixth Edition copy) by the notation NAP: “no additional printings are listed in the book.” That’s unfortunately useless or just plain wrong. Gnome published 86 titles. There are eight known second printings, one known third printing, and several other printings which seem likely to be a second or third. Yet with a single exception, Gnome never mentioned that it had reprinted a book, leaving the words First Edition unchanged on the copyright page.

That one exception is their first title, The Carnelian Cube. That is the only Gnome title to have a marked Second Printing. There was indeed a second printing, but the designation was first put on the book during the initial press run, making some stated Second Printings actually a First Edition, Second State. Only Gnome could have achieved this pinnacle of confusion.

Nor is there consistency in the other direction. Gnome issued five books in which it left the First Edition designation off, even though the book truly was a first. Worse, Gnome left another publisher’s First Edition statement in place when it reprinted that book. A full dozen books in total were first published elsewhere: three by American hardback publishers, one by an English hardback publisher, seven by paperback publishers, and one as a magazine. There was one slipcased special edition. Four titles were published in paperback, so-called but certainly mislabeled Armed Forces Editions. Greenberg frequently bound only part of a run, warehousing the remaining pages until they were needed. At that time they were bound in whatever stock the printers had available, as many as four other boards. Dust jacket covers were completely changed or partially changed; the back panels of dust jackets for many variants were updated to include the latest books Gnome had published.

What’s needed is a book-by-book guide, and I’ve never seen one before. Here’s my attempt at one. I’m listing the books in my revised publication order. The following code will be used.

FE – The words First Edition are included on the copyright page
SP – The words Second Printing are included on the copyright page
NED – No edition is designated
2nd, 3rd – A known reprinting, not merely a later binding
AFE – “Armed Forces Edition” paperback
SC – Slipcased hardback special edition
STATES – Variant boards on a printing
COVERS – Variant covers exist
True first – The true first edition for titles Gnome reprinted

The three main bibliographies – by Publication Order, by Author, and by Title – contain all the identification information I’m aware of. I will be posting individual pages for every title, detailing variants and giving my reasoning about dates of issue.  Author’s names are those on the book: see the Guide to Pseudonyms page for authors behind pseudonyms.

1 L. Sprague de Camp & Fletcher Pratt, The Carnelian Cube, 1948: FE STATES; 2nd, 1949.
2 Frank Owen,The Porcelain Magician, 1948: NED
3 George O. Smith, Pattern for Conquest, 1949: FE, AFE
4 Robert A. Heinlein, Sixth Column, 1949: FE
5 Nelson Bond, The Thirty-first of February, 1949: FE, SC, AFE
6 Martin Greenberg (ed), Men Against the Stars, 1950: FE
7 L. Sprague de Camp & Fletcher Pratt, The Castle of Iron, 1950: FE STATES
8 William Gray Beyer, Minions of the Moon, 1950: FE
9 Robert E. Howard, Conan the Conqueror, 1950: FE
10 Clifford D. Simak, Cosmic Engineers, 1950: FE STATES, AFE
11 Isaac Asimov, I, Robot, 1950: FE, AFE
12 Martin Greenberg (ed), Journey to Infinity, 1951: FE, 2nd
13 Raymond F. Jones, Renaissance, 1951: FE
14 L. Ron Hubbard, Typewriter in the Sky and Fear, 1951: FE
15 Will Stewart, Settee Ship, 1951: FE
16 Isaac Asimov, Foundation, 1951: FE, 2nd
17 Lewis Padgett, Tomorrow and Tomorrow/The Fairy Chessmen, 1951: FE
18 Martin Greenberg (ed), Travelers of Space, 1951: FE, 2nd, COVERS
19 Robert E. Howard, The Sword of Conan, 1952: FE
20 Martin Greenberg (ed), Five Science Fiction Novels, 1952: FE
21 Arthur C. Clarke, Sands of Mars, 1952: NED, 2nd, 3rd. True first: Sidgwick & Jackson, UK, 1952
22 A. E. Van Vogt, The Mixed Men, 1952: FE STATES
23 Lewis Padgett, Robots Have No Tails, 1952: FE
24 Clifford D. Simak, City 1952: FE
25 Isaac Asimov, Foundation and Empire 1952: FE, 2nd, possible 3rd, COVERS
26 Leigh Brackett, The Starmen, 1952: FE
27 C. L. Moore, Judgment Night 1952: FE STATES
28 Robert E. Howard, King Conan 1953: FE
29 Martin Greenberg (ed), The Robot and the Man, 1953: FE
30 Hal Clement, Iceworld, 1953: FE
31 Arthur C. Clarke, Against the Fall of Night, 1953: FE
32 Wilmar H. Shiras, Children of the Atom, 1953: FE
33 Isaac Asimov, Second Foundation, 1953: FE STATES, 2nd 
34 Lewis Padgett, Mutant, 1953 FE
35 Jeffrey Logan (ed), The Complete Book of Outer Space, 1953: NED. True first: Maco Magazine, 1953
36 Robert E. Howard, The Coming of Conan, 1953: FE
37 Nat Schachner, Space Lawyer, 1953: FE
38 C. L. Moore, Shambleau and Others, 1953: FE
39 Arthur C. Clarke, Prelude to Space, 1954: FE, possible 2nd, STATES. True first: Galaxy Novel #3, 1951
40 L. Sprague de Camp, Lost Continents, 1954: FE, STATES
41 William Morrison, Mel Oliver and Space Rover, 1954: FE
42 Murray Leinster, The Forgotten Planet, 1954: FE, STATES, COVERS
43 C. L. Moore, Northwest of Earth, 1954: FE
44 Robert E. Howard, Conan the Barbarian, 1954: FE
45 Frederik Pohl & Jack Williamson, Undersea Quest, 1954: FE
46 Martin Greenberg (ed), All About the Future, 1955: FE, STATES
47 Groff Conklin (ed), Science Fiction Terror Tales, 1955: FE
48 Jack Williamson & James Gunn, Star Bridge, 1955: FE, possible 2ND
49 F. L. Wallace, Address: Centauri, 1955: FE, STATES
50 Andrew North, Sargasso of Space, 1955: FE, STATES
51 H. Chandler Elliott, Reprieve from Paradise, 1955: NED, STATES
52 James Gunn, This Fortress World, 1955: FE, STATES
53 Robert Howard & L. Sprague de Camp Tales of Conan, 1955: FE, STATES
54 Andrew North, Plague Ship, 1956: FE, STATES
55 Arthur K. Barnes, Interplanetary Hunter, 1956: FE
56 Judith Merril (ed), SF: The Year’s Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy, 1956: FE, STATES. True first: Dell B103
57 George O. Smith, Highways in Hiding, 1956: FE
58 Frederik Pohl & Jack Williamson, Undersea Fleet, 1956: FE, STATES
59 Martin Greenberg (ed), Coming Attractions, 1957: FE
60 James Blish, The Seedling Stars, 1957: FE, STATES
61 Murray Leinster, Colonial Survey, 1957: FE
62 Fritz Leiber, Two Sought Adventure, 1957: FE, STATES
63 Judith Merril (ed), SF: ’57: The Year’s Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy, 1957: FE. True first: Dell B110
64 Poul Anderson & Gordon Dickson, Earthman's Burden, 1957: FE, STATES
65 Bjorn Nyberg & L. Sprague de Camp, The Return of Conan, 1957: FE
66 Robert Randall, The Shrouded Planet, 1957: FE
67 Mark Clifton & Frank Riley, They'd Rather Be Right, 1957: FE
68 Tom Godwin, The Survivors, 1958: NED, STATES
69 Robert A. Heinlein, Methuselah's Children, 1958: NED, STATES
70 Frederik Pohl & Jack Williamson, Undersea City, 1958: FE, STATES
71 Judith Merril (ed), SF: ’58: The Year’s Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy, 1958: FE, STATES. True first: Dell B119
72 Talbot Mundy, Tros of Samosthrace, 1958: First Gnome Edition; spine reads Fantasy Classic Library. True first: D. Appleton-Century, 1934
73 Robert Silverberg, Starman's Quest, 1958: FE, STATES
74 George O. Smith, Path of Unreason, 1958: FE
75 Talbot Mundy, Purple Pirate, 1959: First Gnome Edition; spine reads Fantasy Classic Library. True first: D. Appleton-Century, 1935
76 Judith Merril (ed), SF: ’59: The Year’s Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy, 1959: FE, STATES. True first: Dell B129
77 Robert Randall, The Dawning Light, 1959: FE
78 Wallace West, The Bird of Time, 1959: FE
79 Robert A. Heinlein, The Menace from Earth, 1959: FE
80 Robert A. Heinlein, The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag, 1959: FE
81 James A. Schmitz, Agent of Vega, 1960: FE, STATES
82 Edward E. Smith, The Vortex Blaster, 1960: FE, STATES
83 Frederick Pohl, Drunkard's Walk, 1960: NED. True first: Ballantine 439K
84 John W. Campbell, Invaders from the Infinite, 1961: FE, STATES
85 Edward E. Smith, Grey Lensmen, 1961: FE [copyright page reprinted from true first]. True first: Fantasy Press, 1951
86 E. B. Cole, The Philosophical Corps, 1962: FE

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