IDENTIFYING
FIRST PRINTINGS
in
THE THREE INVESTIGATORS SERIES
Editions vs. Printings

Random House published two separate hardbound Three Investigators editions simultaneously: the regular Trade Edition available to the public in retail shops and the Gibraltar Library Binding (GLB) Edition available to schools and libraries.  There are no known Second Editions of either  - all Three Investigators hardbound books are First Editions.  There are several different editions of the Random House paperback Three Investigators books and not every title is a part of every edition - this will be seen later in other areas of the site as we begin to look at the different paperback editions.  Quickly, an Edition of a book does not change from a First to a Second Edition until at least one of the following four things happens: a change or revision to the text of a book; a change in the binding format; a change in the text plates of a book (typeface change) or a change of publisher.

An Edition can consist of one or more Printings.  A printing is a batch or a "run" of a set number of copies of a given title.  For example, a publisher may choose to print 10,000 copies of a title and try to sell or distribute them before printing up another run (a second printing, a third printing, etc.).  This cycle continues until a new edition or a Second Edition is created or the book simply goes out of print.

Since all Random House Three Investigators hardbound books are First Editions, collectors are generally most interested in obtaining the earliest Printing of each title.  Unfortunately, publishers of children's series books seldom included Edition or Printing information within the books and so collectors of these books have had to do some of their own investigative work to determine if a given book is an earlier or a later printing.  And this is true with the first twenty titles in The Three Investigators series as well.

Fortunately, starting with title #21 "Haunted Mirror", Random House began including a number-line on the copyright page of both the Trade Edition and the GLB Edition.   For a First Printing the number-line will read 1234567890, a Second Printing will read 234567890, a Third Printing will read 34567890 and so on.  In general, First Printings are more highly sought after by collectors than are later printings.  With the exception of the Windward paperback edition, all of the paperback editions of The Three Investigators contain a number-line (although occasionally a book will be found where the number-line is missing).

Identifying Trade Edition First Printings:

Because Random House hardbound Three Investigators titles #1 - #20 do not have a number-line indicating the printing on the copyright page, it can be difficult to accurately determine if one has a First or a Second or an Eighth Printing of any of these first 20 titles.  However, by using the following information shared futher below and by ferreting out the clues found in or on the books themselves, collectors can fairly easily determine if a book is an earlier or a later printing. And, directly below, for those who want to take a quick short-cut, is a list of the first 20 titles in the hardbound Trade Edition with the number of titles listed on the back cover along with the bare minimum of additional necessary information which will help you easily and accurately identify what is regarded to be the true First Printing:
(Important: The following information applies only to the TRADE Edition.  Information concerning the GLB Edition is further down the page!)

    #1 Terror Castle - No Titles Listed, text error on page 47, uncut endpapers, stitched textblock.
    #2 Stuttering Parrot - No Titles Listed, No Author Credit, Illustrations Incorrectly Credited to Ed Vebell.
    #3 Whispering Mummy - No Titles Listed
    #4 Green Ghost - No Titles Listed
    #5 Vanishing Treasure - Lists to #6 on back cover and no ISBN inside on the copyright page.
    #6 Skeleton Island - Lists to #6 on back cover.
    #7 Fiery Eye - Lists to #8 on back cover.
    #8 Silver Spider - Lists to #8 on back cover.
    #9 Screaming Clock - Lists to #10 on back cover.
    #10 Moaning Cave - Lists to #10 on back cover.
    #11 Talking Skull - Lists to #12 on back cover.
    #12 Laughing Shadow - Lists to #12 on back cover.
    #13 Crooked Cat - Lists to #14 on back cover and no ISBN on the back cover.
    #14 Coughing Dragon - Lists to #14 on back cover and no ISBN on the back cover.
    #15 Flaming Footprints - Lists to #16 on the back cover and no "summary" on the copyright page.
    #16 Nervous Lion - Lists to #16 on the back cover and no "summary" on the copyright page.
    #17 Singing Serpent - Lists to #16 on the back cover.
    #18 Shrinking House - Lists to #16 on the back cover.
    #19 Phantom Lake - Lists to #20 on back cover and lists only #'s 17 - 20 on the inside.
    #20 Monster Mountain - Lists to #20 on the back cover.

    **If your book lists more titles on the back cover than you see on this chart, you definitely do NOT have a First Printing.  Please note that First Printings of #17 and #18 do actually list only to #16 on the back covers and are NOT rare variations as some unscrupulous sellers may lead you to believe.

With few exceptions, new titles in The Three Investigators series were issued in pairs once every year, usually in August through October in time for the new school year and Christmas.  When they were first published, the first four books did not have a title list on the back cover but beginning in approximately early 1966, each hardbound Trade Edition Three Investigators book included a list of all available titles (four, at that time) printed on the back cover.  In late 1966, two new titles were published (#5 and #6) and they listed six titles on the back cover - and when the first four titles went through a print run in late 1966/early 1967, their back covers were updated to include all six available titles in the series.  Continuing, a book manufactured or printed in late 1967/early 1968 will list eight titles on the back cover while a book printed in late 1968/early 1969 will list ten titles on the back cover, etc. 

As mentioned in the previous paragraph, in 1964 and 1965 Random House did not list titles on the back covers, thus, books #1 - #4 can be found with no list of titles and these are all very early printings. Both #1 "Terror Castle" and #2 "Stuttering Parrot" each had at least two print runs before a list was added to the back cover.  A collector must be very observant to catch the differences between these two early printings:

The very earliest or First Printing of "Terror Castle" has no title list on the back cover, contains a text error on page 47 (just over half way down the page, two lines of text have been switched), the endpapers are UNCUT (not sliced in the middle at the inside hinges of the book) and the textblock consists of 6 signatures STITCHED together.  Second Printings of "Terror Castle" also have no title list on the back cover BUT the error on page 47 has been corrected, the endpapers are CUT into two halves and the textblock is glued at the spine. 

The text error (highlighted in bold red) on page 47 of true First Printings of "Terror Castle" reads as follows:
         
          "I'm afraid you're wrong," Jupiter said.  "It's
    definitely a painted eye.  But we'll go closer and see."
    ing, followed.  Now they were both shining their lights
          He walked toward the picture, and Pete, after hesitat-
    on the picture, and Pete could see that Jupiter was
    right --- it was a painted eye.

The true First Printing of "Stuttering Parrot" has no title list on the back cover and has full wrap-around cover art (later printings, for unknown reasons, have a bright yellow spine).  There are two errors on the title page: the author of the book is not mentioned and Ed Vebell is incorrectly credited with the internal illustrations (although Mr. Vebell did paint the cover artwork for this book).  In addition, true First Printings will exhibit UNCUT endpapers (a solid, two-page sheet that hasn't been split down the middle where the textblock meets the covers) and the textblock consists of 6 signatures STITCHED together.  Corrected First Printings of "Stuttering Parrot" exist but these appear to be very uncommon at present.  These have no title list on the back cover and have full wrap-around cover art BUT the incorrect title page has been neatly razored out and a corrected title page (Robert Arthur is credited as the author and Harry Kane is correctly credited with the internal illustrations) has been expertly tipped-in by the publisher.  You'll have to examine your copy closely to see this fix.  The endpapers are UNCUT into two halves and the textblock is STITCHED at the spine.  Second Printings of "Stuttering Parrot" are very similar to the first printing BUT the endpapers are CUT into two halves (in the inside hinges where the textblock is affixed to the covers) and the text-block is GLUED to the spine.  Later printings are easily identified by their yellow spine.

It is my observation that Second Printings of both of the above titles seem to be less common than First Printings.

Titles #3 and #4 are somewhat more difficult to find with no titles on the back cover and they are true First Printings.  Titles #3 and #4 which list four titles on the back cover are most assuredly Second Printings from early 1966 which were printed before the release of titles #5 and #6 later that same year. 

True First Printings of titles #5 and #6 will list six titles on the back cover, BUT please be aware that several examples of #5 Vanishing Treasure have been discovered which list 6 titles on the rear cover and contain a textblock with an ISBN on the copyright page.  Such examples are not true First Printings as they date from 1971 or later.

True First Printings of #7 and #8 will list eight titles on the back cover, #9 and #10 will list ten titles on the back cover and #11 and #12 will list twelve titles on the back cover. 

True First Printings of titles #13 and #14 will list fourteen titles on the back cover and will NOT have an ISBN on the back cover (or the copyright page).  If the book has an ISBN, then you have a Second or Later Printing.

True First Printings of titles #15 and #16 will list sixteen titles on the back cover and will NOT include a summary of the book on the copyright page.  If the book has a summary of the plot, then the book is a Second or Later Printing.

True First Printings of titles #17 and #18 will list just sixteen titles on the back cover.  Books listing 18 or more titles are Second or Later Printings.

Finally, True First Printings of titles #19 and #20 will list twenty titles on the back cover BUT, for #19 "Phantom Lake", you will also need to look at the list of titles contained inside the book (usually found on the second to last page of the book).  If the inside title list contains just four titles, #17 - #20, the book is a True First Printing.  If it contains all 20 titles then it is a Second Printing.

This information is subject to change based on new findings.  For example, up until March of 2007 all copies of "Terror Castle" that didn't list any titles on the rear cover were considered to be true First Printings.  We now know differently.  If you have any new information to add or just need to ask some questions about the books you have, please don't hesitate to contact me.


Identifying Gibraltar Library Binding (GLB) First Printings:

As with the Trade Edition, a number-line was included on the copyright page of all titles after #20 in the GLB Edition.  But for the first 20 titles in the series, identifying the First Printing of a GLB is a nearly impossible task.  Instead, we must rely on general clues found in the books to help us out and these will often only give us a rough estimate as to the age of the book.  These clues include the endpapers, the copyright page and any markings or notations made by the library.

Blue Graveyard Endpapers:  Unless they have been removed, the first 22 titles in GLB may have the blue graveyard endpapers.  If the eps are plain white, this indicates the book was most likely manufactured sometime after 1974 and is definitely not a First Printing or even an early printing.  You will quickly note that, due to the way GLBs were manufactured, the blue eps in almost all GLBs look a bit strange, the right side of the two page scene is on the left and the left side of the scene is placed on the right.

The ISBN:  ISBN's are located on the copyright page and/or on the back cover.  They weren't used on this series until 1971.  Therefore, a book with an ISBN and blue eps most likely was manufactured in the 1971 - 1974 time period.  Any of the first 20 titles in GLB can be found with these two traits.  If titles #1 - #14 exhibit both traits, they can definitely be excluded as potential First Printings.  But titles #15 - #20 which exhibit both traits could potentially be First Printings.

If a GLB has blue graveyard endpaper and does not have an ISBN, then the book was most likely manufactured before 1971.  Any of the first 14 titles can be found with these traits and could potentially be a First Printing.

Library Markings/Notations: Most GLB books were used in a library and are usually found with a card pocket and other library markings both on the inside and outside of the book.  These can provide valuable clues in further determining the age of the book.  For example, what was the date the first time the book was borrowed from the library?  Often, the librarian would discreetly note somewhere within the book the date the book was acquired and its cost.  Be an investigator and look for these clues and others!  Only very basic logic and reasoning skills are usually required.  For example, let's say we find a #7 Fiery Eye GLB and it has blue endpapers,no ISBN, and all library markings have been removed/erased from the book. 
A.) Between which years does this particular book most likely date? 
B.) Between which years would it date if it had blue eps and an ISBN?
C.) What does it mean if the book has plain white endpapers?

The answers can be found at the bottom of the page.  No cheating!

Compared to the Trade Edition books, a much smaller number of GLB's have passed through my hands.  Here is what I can share regarding the earliest printings of the first 20 titles in GLB:

Titles #1 and #2:  First Printings share the exact same traits and errors as the first two titles in the Trade Edition with the exception that the blue eps are not a solid two page scene, they have been cut.  These are REALLY tough to find in GLB, especially #1.

Titles #3 - 14:  The earliest printings will have blue endpapers and no ISBN.  Titles #3 - 12 will require some kind of library notation or other evidence to establish a firm year of manufacture while titles #13 and #14 which exhibit these traits are most likely First Printings.

Titles #15 - 18:  The earliest printings will have blue endpapers and an ISBN.  Titles #15 - 18 will require some kind of library notation or other evidence to establish a firm year of manufacture.  If copies of #15 and #16 with these two traits exist that DO NOT have a summary on the copyright page, they would pre-date examples that have the summary and would most likely be First Printings.

Title #19:  First Printings have blue eps, an ISBN and the internal list of books shows only titles #17 - 20.

Title #20: The earliest printings will have blue eps and an ISBN.  It may require some kind of library notation or other evidence to establish a firm date of manufacture but most copies with these traits can probably be assumed to be First Printings.

I welcome any input from other collectors and fans who can share additional information about the first 20 GLB's that would help further identify First Printings from later printings.

Answers:
A.) 1967 - 1970 or early in 1971
B.) 1971 - 1974
C.) The book was most likely manufactured sometime after 1974.




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