The Catcher in The Rye

BY JD Salinger
Book Information1/1/0/US/LB/1951/?  •  202x142x30  •  430 (with dj) 

The first post since a long time, and what a great way to return with the first edition, first printing of JD Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye"! Salinger's first and only novel - the other three publications were short story collections - placed Holden Caulfield in the rarified realm of literary icons as Jay Gatsby and Huckleberry Finn. The title is a reference to Robert Burn's sexually-themed poem, "Comin' Thro' the Rye", that Caulfield initially misinterpreted as referring to a guardian of callow innocence. 

This book is one of the few indisputable American classics that never won an important literary prize. It did make the list of ten non-winning NBA finalists in the year when James Jones' "From Here to Eternity" took the prize. Herman Wouk won the Pulitzer with "The Caine Mutiny", and whilst Salinger did not make the shortlist, the book did receive an honorable mention from one of the two juries. How the tides turned.

Shields and Salerno's "Salinger" detailed some well known facts about the book's publishing history, including its rejections first by The New Yorker and then by Harcourt, Brace despite Robert Giroux desire to publish it (he was overruled by the boss, Eugene Reynal. Salinger took the book to Little, Brown, who published it on July 16, 1951 and the rest was history. The book must have sold well for it was the Book-of-the-Month Club's midsummer selection, and was reprinted 11 times in the same year (five times in July, thrice in August and twice in September). Lesser known were the facts that Salinger wrote the flap copy - the short narrative of the book on the front flap - and that Salinger expressly requested Little, Brown to remove his portrait on the back of the dust jacket after the third printing. 

These publication details give rise to the specificities of this title's first printing, including the obsession over the first state dust jacket. The first printing book is easily identifiable from the copyright page: it should state "FIRST EDITION" with no reprinting statement. The first state dust jack is the most desirable, and should have these two defining features: First, there must be a $3.00 price on the top right corner of the front flap, and it must be positioned such that the $ sign aligns vertically with the rounded part of the letter R from the word "CATCHER" below. If the $ sign is to the right of the rounded part of R, then it is not the first state dust jacket. Second, the top of Salinger's portrait at the back of the first state dust jacket is slightly truncated compared to the second state dust jacket. But there's a complication: there are second-state dust jackets where the $ sign is correctly placed, but the portrait's top is not truncated. Consequently, book sellers have been known to trim the top edge of such second state dust jacket slightly and pair it with a first printing book.

I got this copy from Christie's auction in the past month, and it comes with a nice clamshell box. Below is the unwrapping process, and then the book in its full glory. I just need to get a good copy of "Nine Stories" now.


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