Each book in the Hardbound Trade Edition measure 5-3/4" X 8-1/2" in size and contains seven full-page black & white internal illustrations interspersed throughout the text. These hardbound books are known as Picture Cover books since the cover art is printed directly on to the covers. None of the books in this series were ever issued with a paper dust jacket in the U.S. The cover art for hardbound titles #1 - #14 is referred to as wrap-around cover art because the scene encompasses the back cover, spine and front cover. There is one notable exception: #2 "Stuttering Parrot". Please click HERE to find out more interesting facts about the very early printings of this title. On titles #15 - #28, the cover art is confined to the front cover while the spine and back covers have one solid background color.
Near the top of the spine of every hardbound trade edition is a colored rectangular box which states "Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Series" and then the number of the title. Below this box is the title of the book and at the bottom of the spine are the words "Random House".
Except for the very earliest printings of the first four titles, the back cover of each book has a list of other titles available in this series. This list can be used to help determine approximately when any given book was actually manufactured. For example, a copy of #10 "Moaning Cave which lists 10 titles on the back cover was most likely manufactured in late 1968 or early 1969 while a copy which lists 12 titles on the back cover was most likely manufactured in late 1969 (after the 11th and 12th titles were published) or early 1970 (before the 13th and 14th titles were published), etc.
On books in this series printed in 1971 and thereafter, one can find the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) in the lower-right corner of the back cover. This number, or lack thereof, is particularly important in differentiating a First Printing from a Second Printing of #13 "Crooked Cat" and #14 "Coughing Dragon". First Printings of these two titles list to #14 on the rear cover but don't have an ISBN because they were manufactured in 1970. Second Printings of these two titles list to #14 on the rear cover and have an ISBN which indicates they were ,manufactured sometime in 1971 before the next two titles in the series were published. Later printings will list more titles.
It seems that the goal of almost every fan and collector of The Three Investigators is to obtain each of the titles in a hardbound format even if one grew up owning or reading only the paperbacks. A collection of hardbacks definitely looks quite impressive displayed on shelves in one's office or library.
In the Three Investigators series, there are two hardbound editions: the regular Trade Edition which was sold to the public through retail bookstores and the Gibraltar Library Binding (GLB) Edition which was made available to the public through schools and libraries. Each of these two editions was published simultaneously. In this section, we will concern ourselves solely with the Random House Hardbound Trade Edition.
The Random House Hardbound Trade Edition was manufactured from 1964 - 1978 and includes titles #1 - #28. In 1978, Random House decided to produce The Three Investigators series only in a paperback edition for the retail trade. Collectors wishing to complete a full set of all 43 original Three Investigators titles in hardbound must seek out and purchase the GLB editions of titles #29 - #43.
It is imperative to note that the adhesive that was used to bind the textblocks to the covers on most of the
Random House Trade Edition books was of a very poor quality which tends to dry out and become very brittle. Unfortunately, a very high percentage of Three Investigators books are found with textblocks that are either partially or completely detached from the covers. Often, books are found that have already been repaired by a former owner. Books that are currently in nice, tight condition often get jarred apart in the mailing process. For the most part, repairing the books is not too difficult. Please follow the link found at the bottom of this page to an excellent repair tutorial created by fellow collector, Robert Held.
The book on the left is a hardbound Trade Edition while the one on the right is a GLB Edition (one that does not feature Alfred Hitchcock).
The first 23 titles in this series were originally manufactured with matte covers. Matte covers have a textured look and feel to them, the finish might be described as dull. Titles #24 - #28 were manufactured with glossy covers which have a very smooth feel and a shiny finish to them. Some of the first 23 titles (#4, 5, 11, 13, 16, 17, 19 and 20) were also manufactured with the glossy covers in the 1975 - 1978 time period. Learn much more about the Glossy Cover Format. Three titles, #10, #12 and #14, can also occasionally be found with semi-glossy covers. These have a look and feel to them that lies somewhere between the other two types of covers and were manufactured for a very brief period in the early 1970's.
There are two varieties of endpapers found in the hardbound books: the magnificent blue cemetery/cobweb endpapers and the plain white, or blank, endpapers. The blue "Graveyard" endpapers (learn much more by clicking on the link) were used from 1964 until approximately 1975 and depict The Three Investigators traversing a cemetery and heading towards an ominous shadowy figure with a cane. The plain white, or blank, endpapers were used from approximately 1975 through to the end of the trade edition hardbound edition in 1978.
The endpapers may be uncut or cut. Uncut endpapers are one continuous, two-page sheet while cut eps have been sliced down the center with one half being pasted to the inside cover of the book and the other half attached to the textblock. In general, uncut endpapers were used on First Printings of titles #1 and #2, on all copies of #26, 27 and 28, and on some of the later glossy-cover printings of a few of the earlier titles like #4, 5, 11, 13, 16 and 17. Occasionally, one will find uncut endpapers on other books within the series but these are real oddities. Uncut endpapers helped make the books more sturdy and prevented separation of the textblock from the cover. Unfortunately, the vast majority of Three Investigators books contain cut endpapers.
Of additional interest:
All copies of the first six titles in the series which list either four or six titles on the back cover have an interesting error. "The Secret of Terror Castle" was mistakenly typed as "The Mystery of Terror Castle"! A sharp-eyed young reader probably caught the mistake and notified Random House who promptly corrected the error.
Hardbound books #7 and #8 state on the copyright page "Printed by Colonial Press Inc., Clinton, Mass." Hardbound book #12 states: "Printed and Bound by Colonial Press, Clinton, Mass." Hardbound book #7 states on the copyright page: "Designed by Jackie Corner". Ms. Corner was married in 1967 and books #9 - #12 all state: "Designed by Jackie Mabli". Please see my interview with Random House book designer Jackie Corner.
To learn how to professionally repair your damaged T3I books, click HERE.