02 August, 2015

Who Do You Think You Are?

BY Alice Munro
Book Information1/1/0/CA/MMC/1978/o.8,500  •  227x149x27  •  442  •  Nobel'13  •  GGA'78

"Who Do You Think You Are" is a landmark publication for Alice Munro. This fourth book, in winning the 1978 Governor General's Award, a decade after her first in 1968 with "Dance of the Happy Shades", affirmed Munro's status of one of finest Canadian writers. Published in 1978 by MacMillan Canada, it also marked her departure from McGraw-Hill Ryerson and her lifelong working relationship with Douglas Gibson, her publisher. Munro also engaged Virginia Barber as her literary agent, who worked tirelessly to promote Munro's work in the US.  Munro had previously tried to sell her stories to The New Yorker on her own but did not have any success. With Barber, The New Yorker made the first purchase - "The Royal Beatings" was published in March 1977 - and subsequently offered a first-read contract that was accepted, thus beginning decades of collaboration.

The publication history of "Who" was complicated*. Following the retirement of her editor at McGraw-Hill Ryerson and the constant of wooing from MacMillan's Gibson, Munro finally signed with MacMillan. The US publication was initially signed to Norton, but due to a change in the book's editorial staff that could delay its publication, the Norton's contract was rescinded and a new contract was signed with Alfred Knopf. This marked the start of Munro's collaboration with her long-time editor, Ann Close, who took over as the book's editor at Knopf. 8,500 first printing copies was finally published on November 11, 1978 after Munro paid $1,864 of reset costs for 99 pages to incorporate her last minute changes when the book was already being printed. The first printing, costing $10.95 each, was sold out by January 1979 and a second printing of 2,500 copies was commissioned. The US version, published on September 28, 1979 under a different title "The Beggar Maid", had the same stories but with varying degree of revisions by Munro.

This is the first Canadian edition first printing with first state dust jacket that is unclipped and without price, as issued. The book is bound in green clothed board with gilt lettering, and has no topstain. The book is "perfect bound", meaning the pages are glued to the hardboard, and is therefore extremely fragile over time. Well-thumbed copies tend to have dislodged leaves. The copyright page should state "(c) Alice Munro 1978" with no mention of additional printing.

This book is rare and a VG first printing copy with first state dust jacket is now quite hard to find. The scarcity is due to the very poor "perfect binding". The listing price on Abebooks, of which only a few copies are available, is $100 onwards. This is a VG+ copy with a VG+ dust jacket due to some rubbing and a crease at the lower right corner on the front, and a VG+ book that is still tight with no dislodged leaves but has a single crack. 
There are no official signed first editions but you can find signed copies of this edition. Munro's signature is rather simple, so caveat emptor.

* Thacker, Robert. (2011). Alice Munro: Writing Her Lives, A Biography. Random House.


















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