First Edition Points and Criteria for To Kill a Mockingbird

Year Published: 1960
Author Last Name: Lee
Author First Name: Harper
Publisher: Lippincott
Original Price: $3.95
Pages: 296

This book is in high demand. Approximately 5,000 first printings were produced. "FIRST EDITION" is stated on the copyright page. Boards are brown with green cloth spine.

A first edition dust jacket has no statement of printing and has a price of $3.95 on the lower corner of the front flap. There appears to be two states of the first edition dust jacket. One state has two reviews on the back flap - by Shirley Ann Grau and Phyllis McGinley. We have seen only one of these. The other state dust jacket has a single Jonathan Daniels review, and we have seen many of these. Both states have the Capote blurb in green, the $3.95 price, and no printing statement on the front flap. They both have the author's photo on the back panel. They are identical except for the back flap reviews.

There has been significant debate about the order of the states. The case for the Grau/McGinley state being first is that the Grau and McGinley reviews were replaced by the Daniels blurb on the stated second printing of the dust jacket. Also, an early advertisement establishes that Grau and McGinley read advance copies and "poured out their enthusiasm... weeks before publication of the book". The case for the Daniels state being first is that normally blurbs for a first book progress from obscure reviewers to more famous ones as a book becomes more popular. So it raises questions of the why the publisher would change blurbs from two well known authors to one lesser known minister. This is supported by the fact that the Grau review returns to the back flap, and the McGinley review to the front flap of the seventh printing.

The Jonathan Daniels who wrote the dust jacket review was not Jonathan Myrick Daniels, the Episcopal seminarian killed for his civil rights work in 1965. Rather, the review was written by Jonathan Worth Daniels, who at the time was the editor of the Raleigh News and Observer. Jonathan Worth Daniels was an author and an outspoken supporter of civil rights. He also served as press secretary for Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman. Jonathan Worth Daniels was hardly obscure.

While the stated second printing dust jackets have the Daniels review, we have found that the stated third printing jackets have the Grau/McGinley reviews.

In 1960, To Kill a Mockingbird was issued by at least four book clubs. One of these was the Book-of-the-Month Club (BOMC), which differs from other book clubs by producing books of the same quality and design as the trade editions. BOMC issues of Mockingbird have the same green cloth backing and brown-papered boards as the trade editions, but the well-known BOMC indentation is added to the back cover. The BOMC does NOT have the Capote photograph of Lee on the rear panel. Earlier book club editions (BCEs) do have the desired photograph on the rear panel, but the books are thinner and of cheaper material and of at least three different cover designs.

The first edition does not have a "W" on the copyright page. However, many people write and ask what the "W" means on their later printing copies. We cannot support the common thought that it is a book club indicator. Although we certainly have seen it on BOMC editions, we have also consistently found it on the seventh through thirteenth printings of the genuine Lippincott trade editions (priced dust jackets and no book club indicators). Consequently the presence of the "W" is not an accurate indicator of the BOMC or any other book club edition. So what does the "W" mean? We don't know. We have never seen it on the first through sixth printings, nor have we seen it on the fourteenth through twenty-first printings. One possible explanation is that is a printing-plant indicator.

Signed first printings of the first edition command the highest value. But unsigned first printings are extremely valuable as well. Second printings are very rare and have high value. Book club and anniversary copies are common.

To Kill a Mockingbird won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. This book is also one of Time Magazine's 100 Best Novels. Other Time 100 Novels include The Assistant and Catch-22

Picture of the 1960 first edition dust jacket for To Kill a Mockingbird.
Picture of the 1960 first edition dust jacket for To Kill a Mockingbird.

"FIRST EDITION" is stated.
"FIRST EDITION" is stated.

Early printings had Harper Lee's photograph on the back.  Later printings have
Early printings had Harper Lee's photograph on the back. Later printings have reviews on the back.

The first printing of the dust jacket had a price of $3.95 on the bottom of the front
The first printing of the dust jacket had a price of $3.95 on the bottom of the front flap with no printing statement.

later printings are stated on the bottom of the front dust jacket flap as is the case
later printings are stated on the bottom of the front dust jacket flap as is the case with this second printing jacket. Book club jackets did not state printing, nor did they state price. So even thought the price on this jacket is clipped, we know it is not a book club jacket because it states the printing.

First, second, and at least third printing dust jackets have a Truman Capote quote in
First, second, and at least third printing dust jackets have a Truman Capote quote in green ink on the front flap.

The Grau/McGinley state dust jacket has reviews by Shirley Ann Grau and Phyllis McGinley
The Grau/McGinley state dust jacket has reviews by Shirley Ann Grau and Phyllis McGinley on the back flap.

The Daniels state has the Jonathan Daniels blurb on the rear flap.
The Daniels state has the Jonathan Daniels blurb on the rear flap.

Boards are brown with green cloth spine cover.
Boards are brown with green cloth spine cover.

Identification picture of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Caution: the presence of the FEL logo on the bottom back flap indicates that this is a
Caution: the presence of the FEL logo on the bottom back flap indicates that this is a facsimile dust jacket produced by the First Editions Library of Shelton, CT. Beware of a jacket that has damage in this area which may indicate that someone removed the logo.

There are two variants of the advance reading copy of To Kill A Mockingbird.  The variant
There are two variants of the advance reading copy of To Kill A Mockingbird. The variant on the left says that the novel "will be published in July", and the variant on the right (photo courtesy of Ernestoic Books) states specifically that it is "to be published July 11, 1960". The more precise publishing reference on the variant on the right suggests that it was issued after the variant on the left.

The first edition binding of To Kill a Mockingbird on the top with its green spine is
The first edition binding of To Kill a Mockingbird on the top with its green spine is very different than the book club edition below it with a black spine.



Other first edition points for books by Harper Lee include: Go Set a Watchman, Go Set a Watchman (UK).

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Disclaimer: This website is intended to help guide you and give you insight into what to look for when identifying first editions. The information is compiled from the experience of reputable collectors and dealers in the industry. Gathering and updating information about these books is more an art than a science, and new identication criteria and points of issue are sometimes discovered that may contradict currently accepted identification points. This means that the information presented here may not always be 100% accurate. If you spot a mistake, drop us an e-mail and we will do our best to investigate and correct it.