Uncovered Covers

I admit that when I wrote that column about books which are more valuable in the paperback than in the hardcover edition, I was thinking of Europa. But times have changed: I blame the Internet. The novel itself is making its way onto lists of great literature, and the price of the hardcover first edition has gone up while people hunting for the legendary paperback have turned up more copies than were previously suspected, and the price of that has gone down.

Robert Briffault is remembered one nonfiction classic, The Mothers, and one novel, Europa. In The Mothers, he postulated Briffault’s Law, in which he states that in a state of nature, the female makes all family decisions and is the determining character in the lives of her children. Europa is, or at least was, famous because the Avon Books paperback cover was racy enough to be replaced. The heavy-lidded and apparently topless brunette gazing at you from in front of a map is the “map cover”, the less valuable version which replaced the original, in which a similar woman, with her hair done up and decidedly topless, is being whipped (the bondage cover). Both of these, published in 1950, are worth more than the later paperback, in which a roguish but fully clad blonde looks out at you from the street. (The dustjacket of the hardcover refers to the classical legend of Europa, and features a nude blonde riding on a bull.)

Paperback collectors find that this sort of thing happened fairly often as the rowdy Fifties turned sedate. For the Dell paperback of A.A. Fair’s Fools Die Friday, you really want the first version, with the sultry redhead unzipping her skirt. The art is almost identical in the second version, except that she is now undoing the buttons on one sleeve, and has not gotten nearly so far unbuttoning her blouse.

The most famous cover change which does not involve nudity involves Hobbits instead. The publishing of J.R.R. Tolkien in paperback is a saga of adventure and ire. Ace Books, realizing that Hobbits were more marketable than previously thought, issued The Lord of the Rings without bothering to inform Tolkien or his hardcover publishers. This edition, with cover art by Jack Gaughan, who gave science fiction its distinctive look in the sixties, is known as the “pirated” edition, always with the word pirated in quotes because it was not pirated. A loophole in the law of international copyright made this edition perfectly legal. Tolkien was furious.

The only way he could bring out an edition under his own rights was to revise the text, making it a new work. So he prepared a new edition, which included his remarks about people who take advantage of copyright law, and this was published by Ballantine. The cover was by Barbara Remington, who was unable to get a copy of the text before she did the covers for the three volumes, plus The Hobbit. Tolkien loathed them.

Everything he hated most could be seen on the cover of The Hobbit. Why, he demanded, were eggplants hanging from a tree? And why were emus grazing under said eggplant tree? And above all else, why oh why was there a small lion prowling the edge of The Shire menacing the unsuspecting emus under the eggplant tree?

The book was selling too fast to change things until the third printing. To pacify an angry author, somebody at Ballantine took green paint and removed the offending lion. So a collector does NOT want the edition with a deep green mound, under which the lion lies buried, but the printings where he stands growling defiance of authors who feel that just because there is no lion in the story there shouldn’t be one on the cover.

(There was a crusade, by the way, in the Fifties by cover artists who felt they should not have to put topless women on the cover of a book if the women in the story kept their clothes on. This didn’t get very far.)

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