I always like to find books that are unique in some way or are somehow compellingly different. Bantam Books No. 75, Cannery Row by John Steinbeck, with its original dust jacket, is just such a book. Most of us are familiar with mass market paperbacks, even the vintage ones such as this early Bantam offering. Most of us like them because of the lurid covers that most often have nothing to do with the story inside. It’s that cover illustration that gets us. I believe the vintage paperback specialists call it GGA, or Good Girl Art.
Front cover of book itself, as illustrated by Lester Kohs
But how many of us know about paperbacks being issued with dust jackets? Bantam was certainly not the first to try this experiment. There were a number of European publishers who issued paperbacks with dust jackets on a regular basis. In the United States it was not done regularly and almost never with first printings. That is the case with this copy of Cannery Row. Bantam first issued Cannery Row in January of 1947. It had several printings through March of that year, including this fifth printing issued with a dust jacket. It wasn’t until the fourth or fifth printing that Bantam issued the book with a jacket. In the example shown here, it is a fifth printing. The famed Ben Stahl illustrated the dust jacket, but Lester Kohs illustrated the front cover of the book itself.
Front cover of dust jacket, illustrated by Ben Stahl
These dust-jacketed paperbacks are highly prized by vintage paperback collectors. They certainly are not the same old thing, which is why I like them. I also like the idea that a different area of book collecting (vintage paperbacks) can teach a new trick now and then. How many times have I heard a collector sneer that “I don’t collect paperbacks” as if they are untouchables in an ancient caste system? Why be so hard-headed, and stupid? Lolita, for example, was first published as a two-volume paperback, and its value would make any hard-core collector of “only” hardcovers blush with envy.