The Bluest Eye

BY Toni Morrison
Book Information1/1/1/US/HRW/1970/o. 2,000  •  216x150x20  •  370  •   Nobel'93

This is the holy grail of any Morrison collection: a signed first edition of her debut novel, "The Bluest Eye" published in 1970 by Holt, Rinehart & Winston. It is also Morrison's only book by the publisher; her subsequent work were all published by Alfred Knopf. While the first printing size of this title is unknown, it is likely to be on the low side because Morrison gained national prominence only with her third book, "Song of Solomon", published in 1977, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award. One credible source claims that "[t]he initial print run was modest: two thousand copies in hard cover"

Morrison wrote "The Bluest Eye" while working at L. W. Singer, a Random House subsidiary in Syracuse, New York, where she joined in 1965 as a textbook editor. Before that, she was teaching at Howard University, her alma mater, where the earliest draft of this book was formed. She showed the manuscript to many editors but were turned down until Alan Rinzler at Holt, Rinehart & Winston came along. The book was published with critical acclaim and it placed Morrison on the radar of Tony Schulte, a senior executive of trade book at Random House and Alfred Knopf, who wanted Morrison to join trade publishing. He sent her to speak with the editors-in-chief at both Random House and Alfred Knopf. As it turned out, Morrison would secure a job as trade book editor at Random House, where she remained for 19 years. She would also secure Bob Gottlieb, the famed editor at Knopf, as her editor for the next book, "Sula".

"The Bluest Eye" deals with controversial themes of incest and rape, and was challenged as a high school reading material. It has since become a classic, and now taught at high schools and universities.

The dust jacket, designed by Herb Lubalin and Jay Tribich, depicts a photograph of Morrison taken by Bert Andrews at the back and the second prologue on the front. The first prologue was an extract from an old elementary school primer, "Fun with Dick and Jane", that was repeated with punctuation with each line converging into each other.

This is the first edition first printing with first state dust jacket that is unclipped, showing the correct price of $5.95 and "1070" at the top and bottom, respectively, of the front flap. Later state dust jacket does not have the "1070" imprinted on the front flap. The book is bound in green board with blue-clothed board and silver lettering at spine. The copyright page should state "First Edition".

This book is quite rare and a VG copy can be purchased from eBay or Abebooks at $2,500 and above. This is a NF copy with a NF dust jacket with minor sunning to spine and edges, some crease at the flaps and minor scuffs but without the chipping that is very common. The book is also NF with very tight binding suggesting that it was never read, but suffers from some dust stains at the top and bottom edges.  

There are no official signed copy (i.e., publisher issued) for this title and signed first editions are priced at $3,000 and above. This book has a Morrison signature, which is consistent with her early habit to sign on the ffep. The signature is somewhat different from the ones commonly seen today. I bought the book from a seller who could not provide the provenance on the signature.





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