Collecting, Identifying, and Valuing First Edition Childrens Books

Collecting, Identifying and Valuing First Edition Childrens Books

The Cat In The Hat: First & Later Editions Identification

The Cat In The Hat, written & illustrated by Theodor Seuss Geisel
Random House, 1957

This article is to help Dr. Seuss booksellers and collectors to identify the various printings of The Cat In The Hat from its initial first printing in 1957 through its 1967 printing a decade later. Hopefully this will create some additional clarity within the Dr. Seuss collector marketplace.

In 2006 I posted the first edition identification points for the The Cat In The Hat which was the first time the 'single signature' binding was identified as the key point for the book. The 2002 Younger/Hirsch First Editions of Dr. Seuss Books: A Guide to Identification omitted this point and instead made note of the matte finish of the first printing book versus the glossy cover of the second printing.

The first edition The Cat In The Hat is not scarce, however is very collectible - I consider it the most desirable first edition American picturebook. The Cat In The Hat is an extremely popular book, with millions of copies sold along with several instances of crossing-over into mainstream pop culture. But it also a tremendously important book as its publication forever changed the way in which children would learn to read and be educated. Please see First Edition Beginner Books for more on The Cat In The Hat as a strong collectible.

The Cat In The Hat Early Edition Overview

Mar 1957: The Cat In The Hat First Edition - '200/200' & Single Signature

The Cat In The Hat was initially published in March 1957 bound with a single signature and at a price of $2.00, with '200/200' on the top right of the dust jacket's front flap.

[Note: In bookbinding a 'signature' is a folded gathering of pages which are collected together to form the text block of a book, and later sewn or glued to the boards.].

Sales immediately exceeded initial projections therefore there were several printings of this 'single signature/200' format from April to mid-1957. These additional printings are identical to the initial first printing, with a single signature binding and '200/200' on the front flap.

Be very careful with sellers substituting the 1985 facsimile dust jacket on the first edition book.  The only difference between the 1985 facsimile DJ and the first edition DJ is the phrase "Printed in U.S.A." on the bottom back flap of the facsimile.

Mar 1957 First Edition: DJ Back & Copyright

From the first printing in 1957 through the sixth printing in 1958, the back dust jacket design remained identical, with a chalkboard at the top stating 'Educators hail / The CAT / in the HAT*' on three seperate lines. Below the chalkboard are four reviews by various educators, each a separate paragraph.

During this same time frame the copyright page remained the same, with 9 lines of text as follows:

COPYRIGHT, 1957 BY DR. SEUSS
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED UNDER INTEERNATIONAL AND PAN-AMERICAN
COPYRIGHT CONVENTIONS INCLUDING THE RIGHT TO REPRODUCE
THIS BOOK OR PARTS THEREOF IN ANY FORM
EDUCATIONAL EDITION PUBLISHED BY HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY, BOSTON
TRADE EDITION PUBLISHED SIMULTANEOUSLY IN NEW YORK BY RANDOM HOUSE, INC.
AND IN TORONTO, CANADA, BY RANDOM HOUSE OF CANADA, LIMITED
MANUFACTURED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOG CARD NUMBER: 56-5470

Jun 1957: Horn Book Magazine Review

It was generally accepted knowledge within the collectible book market that the first edition The Cat In The Hat was initially priced at $2.00 even before the 2002 publication of the Younger/Hirsch Seuss Guide. In the 20 years since its publication this 'issue point' has become further cemented.

However nice to see a tangible confirmation of the $2.00 retail price from the June 1957, Horn Book Magazine's Review, page 215: "Theodor Seuss Giesel, Author-Illustrator The Cat In The Hat     61pp. 7" x 9 1/4" Random 2.00" Please note that the review makes no mention of an educational edition.

Also rather illuminating the criticism as the reviewer states "I wish 'For Beginning Readers' were not so obvious on jacket and cover - this is a fine book for remedial purposes, but self-consciouos children often refuse material if it seems meant for younger children."

Educators did not initially embrace The Cat In The Hat, since at that time 'prescribed readers' (i.e. Dick & Jane and such) ruled the day. These prescribed readers were strongly centrally administrated across the country, however within a decade of its publication, The Cat In The Hat and other commercially successful beginning reader books dominated the market place and subsequently the early reader bookshelf in public and elementary school libraries.

Oct 1957: Retail Price Remains At $2.00

In the October, 1957 Horn Book Magazine, Random House's advertisement shows the The Cat In The Hat's retail price was still $2.00.

The ad copy states "No wonder this delightful fun-to-read book has take the country by storm! Using only 220 different words - which a beginner can read himslf - it tells the hilarious story of a cat with a bagful of humor and tricks."

Although not pertinent to this article, please note the retail price of the first edition How The Grinch Stole Christmas for $2.50. Grinch was a large format Seuss book published by Random House.

~Dec 1957-Mar 1958: 2nd & 3rd Printing - No Price On DJ

During 1957, due to the runaway success of The Cat In The Hat, Beginner Books was formed as an independent publishing company with Ted Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) as President. During the development process to determine the initial books in the series, discussions were held to determine the retail price of the early reader line of books. During this time The Cat In The Hat was commercially available with no price on the front flap of the dust jacket.

The unclipped dust jacket with no price on the top right of the dust jacket's front flap can be found on books with both single signature and three signature bindings, which further cements it as a transitional edition.

The second printing is an unclipped dust jacket with no price on the front flap - and no 'B-1' on DJ spine - wrapped around a book with a single signature binding.

The third printing is an unclipped dust jacket with no price on the front flap - and no 'B-1' on DJ spine - wrapped around a book with a three signature binding.

Change To 3-Signature Binding & $1.95 Price

~Mar 1958: Change Fron One- to Three- Signature Binding

Sometime in early 1958 the book's binding was changed from a single signature to three signatures. In conjunction with this change the matte finish boards were changed to a glossy finish.

Presumably this change was made because the three signature binding was more durable and less prone to seperation of the text block from the book's boards. With three signatures the text block has a flatter surface therefore able to be attached to the book's boards more securely than the more rounded profile of the single signature.

The change must have had positive benefits since the three signature binding was used on The Cat In The Hat for decades.

Note that all single signature bindings of The Cat In The Hat books have boards with a matte finish, and all three signature bindings have a glossy finish to the illustrated boards.

~Mar 1958: 4th Printing Price Change From $2.00 to $1.95

At some point in early-1958 the price for the Beginner Books was determined, and the retail price of The Cat In The Hat was reduced from $2.00 to $1.95, with '195/195' on the top right of the dust jacket's front flap. There was no 'B-1' on the either the dust jacket or book spine.

'B-1' & The Beginner Book Era Begins

Mid-1958: 5th & 6th Printing - Beginner Books 'B-1' on DJ Spine

Later in 1958, with the retail price The Cat In The Hat at $1.95, with '195/195' on the top right of the dust jacket's front flap, the Beginner Books 'BB-1' was added to the bottom of the dust jacket spine. There was no 'B-1' on the book's spine.

The October 1958 Horn Book Magazine had a full-page Random House advertisement which contained the initial books in the Beginner Book line-up. It stated:

"BEGINNER BOOKS / A great new series of books for beginning raders, sparked by the electrifying success of THE CAT IN THE HAT by Dr. Seuss. Illustrated in 3 colors on every page. Ages 6-8. $1.95 each"

The advertisement then went on the list the other five Beginner Books, and numbered them 'B-2' through 'B-6'.

Oct 1958: The Cat In The Hat Seventh Printing - Back DJ Same As BB-2 to BB-6

Beginner Book #2 ('BB-2'), The Cat In The Hat Comes Back was published in the fall of 1958, simultaneously with BB-3, BB-4, BB-5, & BB-6, as evidenced by the list on the back of all five books.

At that same time, The Cat In The Hat had been redesigned as Beginner Book #1 ('BB-1') with the back dust jacket graphics consistent with the other five Beginner Books. Each of the six books was priced at $1.95 (i.e. '195/195' on the front flap).

1959 to 1967 Printings - Beginner Book Back Dust Jacket Graphic

The front dust jacket cover graphic was changed in the 1959 printing of The Cat In The Hat, as the graphic circle with the diagonal text 'FOR BEGINNING READERS' was changed to a Beginner Books logo with 'I CAN READ IT ALL BY MYSELF' encircling a small image of the Cat In The Hat, and underneath it 'Beginner Books' in red text enclosed in a black lined box, all against a white background. See photograph at right.

The front of the dust jacket and the price remained at $1.95 ('195/195') from 1958-to-1969 for all editions of The Cat In The Hat.

Each edition of The Cat In The Hat published from 1959-to-1969 can be determined by the graphic on the back of the dust jacket. See Beginner Books Back Dust Jackets to determine the year of publication of the edition you are researching.

Summarizing The Cat In The Hat First & Early Editions

Mar 1957 - Sep 1958 Dust Jackets

The Cat In The Hat was published with five dust jackets from 1957-to-1958 with different prices on the dust jacket front flap, along with and without the Beginner Book 'B-1' designate printed on the bottom of the DJ spine.

Since the Beginner Books were not published until late in 1958, the DJ's without the 'B-1' on the spine are the earlier printings.

Congruent with these dust jackets The Cat In The Hat was published with two variations of the book itself, one with a single signature binding, then later one with a three signature binding.

  • 1st printing: Dust jacket price '200/200' / no 'B-1' on DJ spine / single signature
  • 2nd printing: Dust jacket price blank / no 'B-1' on DJ spine / single signature
  • 3rd printing: Dust jacket price blank / no 'B-1' on DJ spine / three signatures
  • 4th printing: Dust jacket price '195/195' / no 'B-1' on DJ spine / three signatures
  • 5th printing: Dust jacket price blank / with 'B-1' on DJ spine / three signatures
  • 6th printing: Dust jacket price '195/195' / with 'B-1' on DJ spine / three signatures





© Stan Zielinski
A serious collector having fun with fun books.


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