Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The House with a Clock in its Walls (1974, Dell)

In addition to The House with a Clock in its Walls being Bellairs’ “first book for young readers,” it was also his first book to hit paperback. Ace first released The Face in the Frost in 1978 but it was still four years after Dell released House. The edition, on Dell’s Yearling imprint, featured all of Edward Gorey’s interior artwork but enlisted a different illustrator to create the cover.

And what a cover it is. Similar to what Gorey created, artist David Stone makes the titular house loom large over its surroundings. Its pitch black silhouette stands in front of a psychedelic sky of sapphire and violet. Standing in front of the house, outside a fence whose entrance yields a broken gate, is Lewis – clad in a red jacket and his corduroy pants. Between two stone pillars that open up into the front yard Lewis appears startled; Stone paints his picture at the moment Lewis is taken back at the sight of the towering old house…or sounds from within.

Or maybe the ghastly green phantasm that hovers across the house. Two swollen eyes stare downward at Lewis and the face's mouth attempts to open but strands of something force it to remain closed. The circular face is surrounded by numbers – yes, this visage is also the face of some spectral clock, marking off the minutes until doomsday. At least that’s the tag line across the top of the book.

There’s something else at the top of the book: the price. Normally these things don’t stand out after all these years but when you have multiple scans in your archives you sometimes find a surprise or two. Here the shocker was the changes in the price,cluing us into the fact we had images from various printings from over the years.

Bellairsia contributor Russ Bernard notes that any paperback that has gone through very many printings will have numerous cover changes:
“It seems like times publishers change the ISBN whenever the cover changes (even for price changes) and sometimes they hardly ever change the ISBN. I guess it is up to the individual publisher how it’s handled. I have tried to find first paperback copies of a few other titles and I have noticed minor cover changes just like the ones on House. I write to sellers and ask about the printing of their copy of the book, but most sellers that bother to sell paperbacks know very little about books (they might as well be selling canned goods).”

And just how many printings has this gem gone through? Bernard says September 1974 was probably the printing date for the 1st Dell printing – “a year wait [after the 1973 Dial edition] for the paperback edition is or at least was about normal…it gives the hardcover publisher a better chance to sell its books without competition.”

Next in our archives are a 2nd and 4th Dell printing: “Note the copyright page includes the date and says which printing, proof that the publisher is only counting their own printings. I find the two different September printings interesting, but perhaps they expected big Halloween sales.”

We also have a 16th and 18th printing in the collection that Bernard places sometime in the 1980s. These editions don’t have specific dates but include the strike line – something not seen in the 2nd or 4th Dell printing.  "Many publisher did not adopt the strike line method until a later date and used their own methods to identify the first edition,” notes Bernard. “I would guess that a true 1st Dell printing would look similar to the 2nd and 4th Dell printing but with ‘First Dell Printing - September 1974’ on the copyright page and a $1.25 or less cover price.”

Although book cover prices can go up or down, Bernard says they go up over time, not down. Hence why we feel the $2.50 price to be shortly before the 16th printing and the $3.50 price to have come sometime after the 18th printing. We also have an image where no price is shown - possibly the first printing or someone monkeying around with Photoshop to clean up (read: genericise) the image.

Our thanks to contributors Russ Bernard and Dave Brudie for providing us with additional images to sweeten this post. So what’s sitting in your collection? Do you have a printing of House similar to one we’ve mentioned, or have you an even rarer gem? Do you find this level of book collecting interesting? Russ and other fans have shared some thoughts and images on Bellairs book collecting in our Books, Covers, and Collectors discussion group within our forum. Stop by and share...use the spell!

1 comment:

Diversos said...

Muito legal este livro !