Question for collectors RE The City and The Stars, 1st edition

AlanMintaka

Member
Joined
Dec 11, 2008
Messages
6
Hi Everyone,

Like a lot of folks who post in this forum, I've been reading Clarke since I was a kid. In my case this corresponds to the time when some of his books were first being published.

The City and The Stars is a case in point. My local library had a copy of the first American edition published by Harcourt, Brace in 1956. I probably read this copy around 1959 or so.

As a determined old fogey, I've taken up collecting first edition Science Fiction novels, collections, pulps, etc. And not just any first editions - I'm trying to recreate the Science Fiction shelf at that old local library. For a small town outfit they had an amazingly good selection of first editions in those days.

In the case of The City and The Stars, the Harcourt Brace first American edition commands some pretty big bucks. I'm having a lot of trouble finding a copy I can afford which is in reasonably good shape. The search is complicated by a book club edition, also published by Harcourt Brace, which also came out in 1956.

How to tell the difference between the print and book club editions is turning out to be a little difficult. Here's a case in point: one seller has a good copy at a price I can afford. In answer to my question about the edition he said he sees no indication that it's the book club edition. However, in fairness he said that the inside front flap of the dust jacket has been clipped diagonally at the top AND bottom corners of the flap.

The lingo used by sellers is "price-clipped", which usually means a small diagonal clipping at either the top or bottom of the dust jacket flap corners. This would indicate that the price had been removed, as is done by a lot of folks who give books away as gifts.

A dust jacket that's been clipped on both the top and bottom of the inside front flap might mean that the words "Book Club Edition" were also removed. Or, it might mean something else was removed.

That's the quandry here. If "Book Club Edition" is what was removed from the top or bottom of this dust jacket flap, then this copy of The City and The Stars is the 1956 book club edition and is of close to zero value - especially to me. If some other text was removed, then this book is likely the print edition and is worth the sale price.

I thought I'd throw the question out here to see what happens. Does anyone out there have the first American edition of The City and The Stars, published by Harcourt Brace? If you have a copy and there's a dust jacket, what's printed on the top and bottom of the inside front flap of the dust jacket? The price is probably in one location. Is there anything at all in the other location?

I figure if there's nothing at the other end of the flap, then the one I'm looking at buying is probably the book club edition. Why remove the extra flap corner if nothing's there? If "Book Club Edition" is there, then that would be a good reason to remove the corner.

Thanks for your time in reading this and have a good day,
Big Al Mintaka
 

Omphalos

הדרךקפיצת
Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
776
I dont have the first edition of this book, but you also ask generally how to tell the difference. You are onto the best way, I think. BCE's sometimes have "Book Club Edition" written in the lower corner of the inside front cover (but not always), and lack the price on the top of that flap. In cases where both the top and the bottom was clipped, I would be very concerned. Book flaps were often cut on the tops because books are given as gifts, and the giver does not wish for the givee to know what was spent. But prices in that time (or ever really) were not put on the bottom of the flap, so if that is clipped its often because a reseller does not want for a potential customer to be able to easily identify it as a BCE.

Id ask the seller to send you a scan of the copyright page too. Often BCE's only have the publisher and year of publication. For BCE's published before teh 70's (only for a few years, as the ISBN gained wide use in the mid 60's) or so there may be a unique ISBN that correlates to a BCE, but in any event the copyright page will have much less data on it than the print edition. IOW, where the regular edition has things such as Library of Congress data, publisher data, and other errata, the BCE will often only have the title, publisher name, year and occasionally its own unique ISBN.

I would bet that Harcourt Brace also has a historian or other senior employee around who can help you identify the first edition sight unseen. I have called a few publishers in the past and if there is someone around who knows that kind of stuff, like a librarian or just an employee who has been there since the Messozoic, they are often willing to help. They can tell you how the first edition was marked, and how later editions were marked too.

You can also see how big the BCE is, and how much margin space there is in the text. I have been collecting books for so long now that often I can just pick up a BCE and by weight and feel alone, tell what it is. But in the odd case where I cannot, I just look at the dimensions and the margin space. BCE's sometimes were and sometimes were not facsimilies of first editions, but usually they pared down the margins and shrunk the text to save paper. You may also want to ask your seller to give you the dimensions of the book (height, width and depth), then send an e-mail to someone who you are more sure is selling the real first edition and ask them for their dimensions. The smaller one is often the BCE.

The one rule that I learned the hard way is that if you cannot positively identify it as a first edition, nobody else can, but even if you cannot rule out BCE, nobody else will be ble to either. And Murphy's Law instructs that it usually will be.

Good luck.
 

AlanMintaka

Member
Joined
Dec 11, 2008
Messages
6
Hi Omphalos,

Thanks for that detailed response. You added a lot of points in terms of title page info and BCE dimensions that I hadn't been considering. I also never thought to ask someone at Harcourt Brace if they knew how to tell the difference.

Your info gives me a little more ammunition to discuss with the seller, who is being pretty honest about what he does and does not know about this book.

I'll post whatever information I can obtain. This is turning into an interesting search !!!

Have a good one,
Big Al Mintaka
 

Omphalos

הדרךקפיצת
Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
776
No problem, Big Al. As a last bit of advice if you cannot rule out BCE, don't pay more than a few dollars for it.
 

AlanMintaka

Member
Joined
Dec 11, 2008
Messages
6
No problem, Big Al. As a last bit of advice if you cannot rule out BCE, don't pay more than a few dollars for it.
Actually, if I can't rule out a BCE, I won't pay more than zero dollars for it! I want the real thing, which is what I read at the old library so many years ago.

The way I look at it, even if I wanted to pay a few bucks for a BCE, the shipping charge wouldn't justify the purchase.

Right now I'm locked up by another blizzard. At least I still have power this time. Now I'm off to shovel and scrape.

And that's just in the bathroom!

Have a good one,
Big Al Mintaka
 

K. Riehl

FrogSqrl
Joined
Nov 22, 2006
Messages
807
Location
My cats run my life :^)
I checked my copy and it does have "First Edition" listed on the copyright page. So if you don't see the words in the picture provided by the seller it is a BCE copy.
For reference the L.W. Currey, Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors lists stated first edition as well. pp. 113.

That sounds like a fun way to structure your collection. Good Luck!
 

AlanMintaka

Member
Joined
Dec 11, 2008
Messages
6
I
checked my copy and it does have "First Edition" listed on the copyright page. So if you don't see the words in the picture provided by the seller it is a BCE copy.
For reference the L.W. Currey, Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors lists stated first edition as well. pp. 113.
That sounds like a fun way to structure your collection. Good Luck!
Hi K.,
It's an interesting coincidence that you referenced an L.W. Currey listing for that first edition info. As it turns out, I wound up buying a copy of The City and The Stars from Currey!

The seller I talked about in my first post was not Currey. I had seen Currey's editions for sale but his were the higher priced books I was trying to avoid buying if I could.

Well, I couldn't avoid the inevitable I guess. I've done business with Currey before and have been very satisfied with the purchases and service there. One of his more pristine editions of The City and The Stars, priced more or less in the midrange of all of them, included an inscription by ACC to the editor David Hartwell. I was helpless in the face of this onslaught.

Besides, he was having a sale. This brought the price to within striking distance of my collection budget.

Sure enough, "first edition" is printed on the copyright page. In this case the DJ front flap is also clipped top and bottom. However, the back flap is clipped top and bottom as well. The top clipping on the front flap is much larger than the other 3; presumably this is where the price used to be. Who knows why the other corners were clipped.

RE how I structure the collection: I am having a lot of fun doing it this way, and it's also why I typically try to get first American editions by British authors. Those were the editions I borrowed from the old local library. It's certainly not for lack of the British first editions because those seem to be in good supply too.

Anyway, many thanks to you and the others who responded here. This board is a great resource for collectors!

Have a good one,
Big Al Mintaka
 

SpanishMill

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 7, 2013
Messages
65
I know this is an ancient thread... but not a lot of activity in this forum anyway...

I have the BCE 1956 version of this book.
 

Nightspore

From Inner Space
Joined
Jul 3, 2013
Messages
123
Changing the topic ever so slightly, has anyone read 'Against the Fall of Night' which was the precursor of The City and the Stars. I've read the former, but I've never read the more famous 'The City and the Stars'.
 

SpanishMill

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 7, 2013
Messages
65
It's amazing how one person's junk is anothers treasure.. I sold my crappy copy pictured above for triple what I paid. And used that to get a better one.

 
Top