Collecting John Steinbeck
This article appeared in Firsts Magazine, January 2007 Volume 17, Number 1.
View our collection of Steinbeck and Steinbeckiana
By James M. Dourgarian
Re-edited & Reformatted for the Web with different images
All Images Copyright 2007 - 2008 James M. Dougarian
Table of Contents
Completists are a unique and sometimes strange group. They want everything by, about, or related to their favorite author. They don't want just primary first editions and signed/limited editions. They want any and every kind of ephemera they can find.
They want the first printings by all subsequent publishers of an author's works, all the anthology and periodical appearances, and all the books written about "their guy." They want film and theatre memorabilia related to their favorite.
But this sort of broad-range collecting isn't limited to completists. If To Have and Have Not is your favorite Hemingway book, you may want some stills from the film version; or a script, if you could find it; or maybe one of those large, 27-by-41-inch film posters. Maybe you're into esoteric items; such as collecting William Faulkner periodical appearances that were not collected into a story compilation or that were collected in some other manner. Why? Because a collection of Hemingway or Faulkner or Jack London first editions looks pretty much like your neighbor's collection, but if you were to color the collection with those vintage periodical serializations of his stories, you would set your collection apart from the crowd. This sort of collectinglooking for the odd or unusual or uniqueis usually limited to major authors rather than writers like Joe Doakes. No offense, Mr. Doakes, but booksellers aren't likely to stock that rare stage play adaptation of your seldom seen second book. They are, however, likely to stock every weird language translation of any title F. Scott Fitzgerald that they can come up with.
And there is plenty of material to find, because writing a novel or short story collection has never been a road to immediate financial security. But writers are smart: They know they can maximize their dollar intake if they can sell the same item many times over. Let's take Wallace Stegner, for example. Before his big book, The Big Rock Candy Mountain, was published in September of 1943, Stegner managed to carve out no fewer than four sections to be published as short stories in periodicals. One example is his famous short story "Two Rivers." It also won the second place award in the O. Henry Memorial Prize Stories of 1942, which meant it was also published in that annual anthology of prize stories. And while some collectors might shake their heads at other collectors for having to have the "Two Rivers" appearance in the June 1942 issue of The Atlantic magazine as well as the Herschel Brickell-edited Prize Stories of 1942 and, of course, a first edition of The Big Rock Candy Mountain, others take pride in having all three items in their collection.
Maybe it gives them bragging rights. Maybe they just have a silent pride that needs no explanation or expression.
John Steinbeck is certainly one author who fits the profile of broad collecting. In fact, there may be as much Steinbeckiana sold as publications by the author himself. Let's look at some of the more interesting items.
- Goldstone, Adrian and John R. Payne
John Steinbeck Bibliography
University of Texas, 1974
Hardcover issued with clear plastic dust jacket
- Morrow, Bradford
John Steinbeck. A Collection of Books & Manuscripts
Bradford Morrow Bookseller Catalogue 8, 1980
Issued both in wrappers and as a limited hardcover with dust jacket.
In wrappers, $40-$50
Hardcover with jacket, $100
- Harmon, Robert B.
The Collectible John Steinbeck
Hardcover issued without jacket
These three books are the best reference works available for Steinbeck and as such, indispensable to a Steinbeck collector. Each lists a great deal of Steinbeckiana in addition to primary firsts. Two are scarce: it usually takes the death of a collector and the sale of his library before a copy is dispersed to the marketplace.
Goldstone and Payne, which is the only useful Steinbeck bibliography ever published, is a rare book itself. Only 1,200 copies were produced, and many of those went to libraries. And while the University of Texas at one time contemplated reprinting the book, it eventually demurred.
When the Morrow catalogue was issued in September 1980, listing its whopping and impressive 700 items, the prices were shocking. Today, they seem tame, although the variety of items in the catalogue and its breadth are still amazing. The Morrow catalogue is the easiest to find of these three items.
The Harmon book is filled with useful pieces of information such as print runs, and is a good substitute for Goldstone & Payne.
4. El Gabilan 1919
Salinas High School Yearbook
5. "The Gifts of Iban"
The Smoker's Companion
Written under the pseudonym of John Stern
6. "His Father"
Reader's Digest, September 1949
First appearance of this story
7. "A Model T Named 'It,'"
Ford Times, July 1953
First appearance of this story
8. Uncollected Stories of John Steinbeck
Edited by Kiyoshi Nakayama
Tokyo: Nan'un-do, 1986
Softcover with dust jacket
El Gabilan 1919 is Steinbeck's high school yearbook. It includes several contributions by and photos of the author. There is no hard information about how many copies were printed, but there were only 24 members in Steinbeck's graduating class at Salinas High School. The yearbook was recorded by Goldstone & Payne as C1, C2 and C3, although this item wasn't in the Goldstone collection. It was cited via a photocopy from the Salinas Public Library. C1 records "The How, When and Where of The High School" on page 19 of the yearbook. C2 records Steinbeck's portion of the Class Will on page 36. C3 records "Woodwork" on page 50. However, there area number of other appearances by Steinbeck which aren't recorded. For example, Steinbeck is listed as a staff member of El Gabilan in charge of "departments & organization," on page 4. He is pictured as senior class president, page 9. He is mentioned as a preacher in the class prophecy, page 38. He contributes Student Body, page 43. He is mentioned in senior notes, page 46. He is mentioned in the "military" section, page 54. He is listed as character "Justin Rawson" in the senior class play, page 63. He is pictured in the boys' basketball team photo, page 72 and again with the boys' track team photo, page 76. Steinbeck is also pictured in a photo of "dignified senior officers," page 80. The massive Morrow catalogue did not locate a copy of this very scarce item.
Number 8, Uncollected Stories of John Steinbeck, collects items 5 through 7"The Gifts of Iban," "His Father" and "A Model T Named 'It'"and five other stories for the first time. All of these stories were first published in the periodical listed and were not collected until the Nakayama-edited book was published. Since Steinbeck was a master of the short story, his stories were usually anthologized. Thus, finding a story that wasn't collected can be a challenge.
Although published in Japan, Uncollected Stories reproduces the stories in English as they originally were in their periodical appearances. (There are notes in Japanese at the end. Steinbeck has a large following in Japan.) Although the demise of bookstores in this country has been steady, back issue magazine dealers have nearly been wiped out. Thus, it has become increasingly difficult to find the issues in which most of these stories first appeared.
Finding the March 1927 issue of The Smoker's Companion may well be impossible. I have never seen one listed for sale. Goldstone & Payne cited this item as C8, but Goldstone himself did not have a copy. It was cited via a photocopy from the New York Public Library. The price estimate given is likely too conservative.
9. Cup of Gold
Armed Services Editions, n.d. (1945)
ASE No. 750
First edition thus, in wrappers
10. Tortilla Flat
Armed Services Editions, n.d. (1943)
ASE No. A-9
(just the ninth title issued in this series)
First edition thus, in wrappers
11. The Wayward Bus
Armed Services Editions, n.d. (1947)
ASE No. 1232
First edition thus, in wrappers
12. Lâchez Les Bombes!
Overseas Editions, n.d. (c.1944)
Steinbeck's Bombs Away issued in French
||Items 9, 10 and 11 are part of the same series, the Armed Services Editions series, the biggest book give-away in world history. Issued by the Council on Books in Wartime between 1943 and 1947, the Armed Services Editions series was designed to produce paperbound books that would fit into the pocket of a World War Two American GI. For more details on this important series, see my article in the November 2001 issue of Firsts.
There were seven Steinbeck books in the series, one of which, The Grapes of Wrath, was so popular that it was published twice. The first issue is very difficult to find. Tortilla Flat and The Wayward Bus, the latter issued late in the series in the very scarce upright format, are equally difficult to find.
Steinbeck stories also appeared in a few anthologies issued in the ASE series, and one entry includes some material about Steinbeck himself.
Lachez Les Bombes! is included in this group because the Overseas series was a cousin to the Armed Services Editions series. This volume includes first edition material, a previously unpublished preface by Steinbeck written specifically for this edition.
12. Of Mice and Men
San Francisco Theatre Union, May 1937
13. Tortilla Flat
Henry Miller's Theatre, 1938
14. "All At Once You Love Her"
Song from Pipe Dream
Sheet music, 1955. $45
15. Here's Where I Belong
Billy Rose Theatre, 1968
Most people think the first production of Steinbeck's play version of Of Mice and Men took place in New York, but they are wrong. Before it reached Broadway, the play premiered in San Francisco. Any memorabilia from that production is rare. I have seen two copies of the original playbill, and nothing else. The play is listed as E1, the first item in Goldstone & Payne's "Theatre and Film" section, but there is no notation as to whether Goldstone had a copy of the playbill or any other memorabilia. This item is not among Morrow's 700 items, nor are any of the other theatre items listed.
Steinbeck's Tortilla Flat was adapted into a Broadway play by Jack Kirkland, but the play was a bust. It ran just five performances. Any memorabilia related to this adaptation, cited as G&P E3, is very difficult to find.
"All At Once You Love Her" is sheet music from the Rodgers and Hammerstein Broadway musical Pipe Dream, which was an adaptation of Sweet Thursday. The play had some success, so material can be found. See G&P E20.
Here's Where I Belong had no success whatsoever. They play is, believe it or not, a musical adaptation of East of Eden. It had only one Broadway performance. Good luck trying to find any memorabilia. G&P makes no citation of this musical flop.
16. The Grapes of Wrath
20th Century-Fox, 1940
Set of eight 11-by-14-inch
lobby cards for the original
release of the film version.
Individual posters, $750-$1,000
Complete set in original stamped
$7,500 to $10,000
17. The Pearl
Set of eight 11-by-14-inch
lobby cards for the original
release of the film version.
|18. A Medal for Benny
one-sheet film poster,
27 by 41 inches. $350
20th Century-Fox, 1943
Original release film pressbook
20. O. Henry's Full House
20th Century-Fox, 1952
Original release film pressbook
Film memorabilia related to Steinbeck is an area filled with challenges, but one that provides many rewards. Film scripts by a favorite author seem like a perfect fit for a book collector. Still photographs from author-related movies are fun. Pressbooks, which are sort of how-to manuals for hyping a movie, are excellent references to individual films, as they usually show examples of advertisements and posters that were issued for the same movie. And the posters themselves often have great graphics that can add a wonderful feel to your collection.
Many of Steinbeck's books were made in to films, so there are a number of titles to seek and a myriad of items for each title, but some are more difficult to find than others. Since The Grapes of Wrath is probably the most recognizable Steinbeck title, it is a natural film to pursue, although prices can be steep. Lobby card sets, which are usually a group of eight 11-by-14-inch posters, can be difficult to come by. Finding a complete set is a bonus. Finding its original housing envelope is nearly impossible, but then, if it were easy, it wouldn't be as much fun and the set wouldn't be as valuable.
The Pearl was hardly a blockbuster film, which makes memorabilia difficult for film buffs and Steinbeck collectors to find. Lifeboat is pursued not only by Steinbeck fans, but also fans and collectors of the film's director, Alfred Hitchcock. Viva Zapata! is wanted by Steinbeck collectors and Marlon Brando fans to the same degree that East of Eden is wanted by both Steinbeck and James Dean collectors. A Medal for Benny was based on a story by Steinbeck and his boyhood friend, Jack Wagner. It may not be the most recognizable Steinbeck film title, but the image of star Dorothy Lamour that dominates most of the posters is huge and simply gorgeous.
There was plenty of controversy surrounding Lifeboat. Steinbeck detested what Hitchcock did to his story and unsuccessfully tried to have his name removed from the film. Whether you find a pressbook for Lifeboat or any other Steinbeck film, be sure to check it carefully to ensure that images or entire pages have not been cut out. Pressbooks were created to publicize films and often includes "news" articles that some theatre managers would cut out to use either as advertisements or to give to local newspapers as press releases.
O. Henry's Full House is an oddity and only the pressbook for the film is a Steinbeck item. This movie was a compilation, an experiment with the omnibus film format. In this case, five of O. Henry's stories were brought to the screen by five different directors using five different screenwriters. Steinbeck himself makes a rare on-screen appearance to introduce the film. His voiceover narration also provides transitions between the film's segments. While Steinbeck is not credited as narrator in the film's posters, he is credited in the pressbook.
21. "Nothing So Monstrous"
Pynson Printers, December 1936
Hardcover, issued without dust jacket.
22. The Grapes of Wrath
World Books (London), 1940
Hardcover, issued with dust jacket
23. Sea of Cortez
Paul Appel, 1971
One of 750 copies; hardcover, issued with dust jacket
24. Cannery Row
Bantam Books, 1947
Softcover, issued with dust jacket
$100-$175, substantially more for a jacketed copy in very fine condition
Anchor Acorn Press, 1990
Issued in wrappers, one of 100 with wood engravings by Colleen Dwire Weaver
Each of these items has its own particular charm for a Steinbeck collector. "Nothing So Monstrous" is the first separate printing of the Junius Maltby story from Steinbeck's second book, The Pastures of Heaven. It includes first edition material in an epilogue written especially for this edition by Steinbeck. This fine press item is one of just 370 copies.
The first printing of the Paul Appel edition of Sea of Cortez was limited to 750 copies. Since Sea of Cortez remains a staple in the marine biology community, there once again is cross-competition for the book. The dust jacket of this edition was trimmed too short, so most of the run was issued without jackets. So, if you can find a copy with the "too short" dust jacket, you have done well.
The 1947 Bantam Books issue of Cannery Row is an exception to the rule that those who collect broadly only want first printings by subsequent publishers. Yes, collectors do want the first Bantam edition, but they also want the fourth or fifth printings, which were issued with dust jackets. (Yes, paperbacks with dust jackets.) This format was an experiment that didn't work. Today, copies are highly prized by both Steinbeck and vintage paperback collectors. Most of these dust jackets took a beating, so finding a perfect copy will be most difficult and acquiring it will extract a premium from your budget.
"Breakfast" is a fine press production of a storya sketch, reallythat is a perfect little gem. It was originally included in Steinbeck's short story compilation The Long Valley. This is the first separate publication. The illustrator, Colleen Dwire Weaver, produced this book as an intern project, and later received permission to sell her remaining copies. Most of the other copies were presented to her family and friends. It is another book that comes on the market only when someone sells a collection; no copies are listed for sale on the Internet as of this writing.
26. Braley, Berton
Morgan Sails the Caribbean
Hardcover, dust jacket by Artzybasheff
First edition, $150-$250
27. Hargrave, John
Summer Time Ends
First edition, in second issue jacket, $100
28. Gasser, John and Dudley Nichols (editors)
The Best Film Plays1945
Hardcover, issued with dust jacket, $100-$150
29. Capp, Al
The World of Li'l Abner
Farrar, Straus, and Young, 1953
Hardcover, issued with dust jacket, $200-$275
30. Halsman, Philippe
Philippe Halsman's Jump Book
Simon and Schuster, 1959
Hardcover, issued with dust jacket, $125-$150
31. Patrick, Ted
The Thinking Dog's Man
Random House, 1964
Hardcover, issued with dust jacket
First edition, $50-$75
All these items falls into the category of Steinbeck contributions to anthologies or books by others. Morgan Sails the Caribbean was Steinbeck's first contribution to a book (it is cited as G&P B1). It may also be the first book containing material about Steinbeck. It includes Berton Braley's acknowledgment to Steinbeck and his Cup of Gold, and Steinbeck's permission to use certain incidents from that novel in Braley's narrative poem. It also prints a Steinbeck letter to Braley.
The first issue dust jacket for John Hargrave's experimental novel Summer Time Ends was illustrated and carried no Steinbeck blurb. Steinbeck was so enthusiastic about the book that he wrote to the author, prompting the publisher to produce a new, second issue dust jacket prominently featuring Steinbeck's letter.
The Gasser and Nichols-edited book of screenplays is an underrated book. It includes Frank Butler's screenplay for A Medal for Benny, a film produced in 1945 that was based on a story by Steinbeck and his boyhood friend Jack Wagner. It also includes screenplays for such films as The Lost Weekend, Spellbound, Double Indemnity and Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, by the likes of Billy Wilder, Ben Hecht, Raymond Chandler and Dalton Trumbo.
Steinbeck provided the introduction to Al Capp's book of cartoons; his introduction is also excerpted on the rear jacket panel. The book was first issued as a Ballantine paperback original, but this hardcover version is by far the more collectable book. It also falls into a collecting category of its own, the Ballantine hardcover.
The Halsman book of photographs is fun. It is called The Jump Book because it is filled with photographs of famous people in the act of jumping. Steinbeck jumps on page 54.
Steinbeck's contribution to Ted Patrick's book comes in the form of a letter explaining why he could not write an introduction to the book, which, of course, the publisher used as an introduction. This non-introduction was separately printed as a promotional piece that is today a rare, seldom seen Steinbeck "A" item (see the "Books" section of this issue).
32. Moore, Harry Thornton
The Novels of John Steinbeck
Normandie House, 1939
Hardcover, issued with dust jacket, $75-$100.
33. Lisca, Peter
The Wide World of John Steinbeck
Rutgers University Press, 1958
Hardcover, issued with dust jacket, $75-$100
34. Maleska, Eugene T. and Albert Buranelli
50 American Authors: The Educational Crossword Puzzle Series
Giant Cardinal, 1963
Issued in wrappers, $25-$35
35. Benson, Jackson J.
The True Adventures of John Steinbeck, Writer
Uncorrected proof in wrappers, $350
First trade edition, hardcover with jacket, $60-$100
36. Dunbar, Maurice
Opuscula Press, 1983
Miniature hardcover, issued without dust jacket
Harry Thorton Moore's book is the first written about Steinbeck. One thousand copies were printed by the Black Cat Press. There also was a British edition, issued in wrappers. Peter Lisca, a long-time Steinbeck scholar, provided the first full-length critical study of Steinbeck.
The Maleska/Buranelli volume is an obscure item, a crossword puzzle book that is difficult to find without the literary puzzles being filled in. It carries a biographical note about Steinbeck, plus the Steinbeck crossword puzzle and a Steinbeck quiz (pages 181 to 184).
It took Jack Benson 12 years to research and write his massive biography, The True Adventures of John Steinbeck, Writer, and another three years to get it published. Lawsuits were threatened over some seemingly innocuous passages spanning about 20 pages, which subsequently were extracted from the trade edition. Thus, the proof state is the only state of the book that includes the disputed pages; it can be quite expensive. Several biographies have been written about Steinbeck, but the Benson biography remains the gold standard. Condition can be an issue, as both the proof and the trade edition are quite bulky and the dust jacket is extremely prone to fading and changing color.
The Dunbar book is one of a few miniatures done about Steinbeck. A previously unpublished photo of Steinbeck is tipped in. It is one of 250 copies signed by both Dunbar and the publisher.
37. Paul, Louis
The Wrong World
Doubleday, Doran, 1938
Hardcover issued with dust jacket
38. "Columbia Literary Series"
Columbia Records, 1953
39. "…like captured fireflies"
a 1959 broadside
Louis Paul was a friend of John Steinbeck early in his career. He apparently liked Steinbeck's second book very much. The dedication in Paul's book The Wrong World reads "To the author of The Pastures of Heaven affectionately." It is the earliest of several books dedicated to Steinbeck by a variety of authors.
The Columbia Literary Series is a great item, a set of 12 12-inch records with a variety of authors reading selections from their works. It was issued in an educational edition with a double sliding case, and a deluxe edition housed in a black leather attaché case with snaps. Both issues included a booklet about the making of the series, which was edited by Goddard Lieberson. The Steinbeck record has the author himself reading two of his most famous short stories, "The Snake" and "Johnny Bear." Other authors in the series are William Saroyan, the three Sitwells, John Collier, Edna Ferber, Truman Capote, W. Somerset Maugham, Christopher Isherwood, Katherine Anne Porter and Aldous Huxley.
||The last item is one of those to which the term "rare" can truly be applied. Only 12 copies of "… like captured fireflies" were produced by J. Wilson McKenney. It is one of three unrecorded Steinbeck broadsides, all of which are unknown except to a small handful of bibliophiles. The broadside measures about 10 by 14 inches, and is printed on the recto only.
"…like captured fireflies," a little piece on the teachers who influenced him, was first published in the November 1955 issue of the CTA (California Teachers Association) Journal. McKenney, for years both the publisher and printer of the CTA Journal, liked Steinbeck's story so much that he asked if he could publish it as a broadside. After much negotiation between McKenney and Steinbeck and his agents, it was agreed that McKenney could publish the broadside, but only if the print run was too small to make it a commercial venture. It remains virtually unknown today. No major institution owns a copy; not the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, which now controls what was once the collection amassed by the now-defunct Salinas Public Library, also known as the John Steinbeck Library; not Stanford University where Steinbeck was schooled; not San Jose State University, which has a fantastic Steinbeck collection; and not even the Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin, which now houses Adrian Goldstone's Steinbeck collection.
40. Benet, William Rose
Saturday Review, June 1, 1935. $50
41. "John Steinbeck"
Wilson Bulletin, March 1937. $65
42. Schwartz, Harry W.
"Book Collector's Packet," April 1938. $45
43. Gross, Milt
"I won't say a word about John Steinbeck's Novel The Grapes of Wrath"
Ken, June 1, 1939. $50
Goldstone & Payne does not have a "periodicals about/periodical items related to" section, so readers won't find these items listed there, and none of them were listed in the Morrow catalogue. It is a collecting area with a lot of room.
Item 40 may well be the earliest of all periodicals with contributions about John Steinbeck. Luckily, this one isn't that difficult to find.
The next item, however, is extremely difficult to find. It's not a mainstream publication, but is aimed at librarians. Many major collections are still looking for this one.
A copy of the periodical containing Harry Schwartz' article "Book Collectors Go Modern" might be found by those who specialize in books (and, hopefully, periodicals) about books and book collecting. Schwartz mentions such modern authors as Hemingway, Faulkner, Caldwell, Wolfe, Wilder and, of course, Steinbeck, noting, "Not only are the first editions of established writers like Hemingway and Faulkner eagerly sought for, but many authors of only one or two books go rapidly into collections. As an example, John Steinbeck, a young writer, with only six books to his credit, is today not only widely collected, but his first two books are now so scarce as to command stiff premiums." One wonders what a "stiff premium" meant in 1938.
The last item in this sampling of Steinbeck ephemera is a review of Steinbeck's masterpiece The Grapes of Wrath that appeared in the anti-war magazine Ken. It is an entirely wordless cartoon.
For more information on "The Steinbeck Collector," contact Robert B. Harmon at firstname.lastname@example.org or 408-297-2810.
The Center for Steinbeck Studies - San José State University