First Edition Points and Criteria for Portnoy's Complaint

Year Published: 1969
Author Last Name: Roth
Author First Name: Philip
Publisher: Random House
Original Price: $6.95
Pages: 274

There is a bit of confusion about whether the Limited Edition or the so called "First Trade Edition" is the true first. While the limited edition is certainly desirable because it is signed and there were only 600 copies produced, we believe that the first trade edition is the true first edition. We say this not because we believe that one was released before the other, but rather because we believe that the first trade edition was intended to be the true first. We base this conclusion on the fact that the first trade edition's copyright page specifically states "First Printing", while the copyright page on the limited edition has no indication of first printing or first edition. Furthermore, the signature page on the limited edition simply says "LIMITED EDITION" and not limited first edition. That said, we would imagine that a signed trade edition would be more valuable than a limited edition. However, unsigned trade editions will probably continue to be less valuable than the limited edition because the signature makes up for its less-than-first status.

Now to address the points of the first trade edition, which we will refer to as simply "the first edition". "First Printing" is stated on the copyright page. The boards are navy blue cloth with gold lettering and red top stain. The back of the first issue jacket has two reviews for Goodbye, Columbus (beginning with one from Saul Bellow), two reviews for Letting Go, and two reviews for When She Was Good.

Every first edition we have located has a clipped dust jacket, with a price still present at the edge of the clip. This suggests that there was another price that the Publisher did not want shown. Later printing dust jackets have the corrected $6.95 price in the normal position (unclipped). These later printing jackets are otherwise identical to the first edition jackets.

Someone was kind enough to send a photo of a first edition dust jacket that was not clipped and it shows two different prices. On the left is $6.95, and on the right is $5.95. Please see the photo on the bottom of this page for reference. This rare dust jacket and it sheds light on the mystery. The publisher was likely unsure of pricing as the publication date approached, and so it printed two prices on the jacket. If the decision was made to charge $5.95, then the publisher would black out the price on the left. If the decision was made to charge the higher price, then price on the right would be clipped off. Apparently the latter happened, and the price on the right was clipped.

This practice of printing multiple prices and clipping them later is not unusual. Macmillan used a similar approach to give them pricing flexibility without jeopardizing. production schedules. See Why Macmillan Clipped Their Dust Jackets: Mystery Solved for more information.

Portnoy's Complaint is one of Time Magazine's 100 Best Novels. Other Time 100 Novels include Slaughterhouse-Five and The French Lieutenant's Woman

Picture of the 1969 first edition dust jacket for Portnoy's Complaint.
Picture of the 1969 first edition dust jacket for Portnoy's Complaint.

Picture of the first edition copyright page for Portnoy's Complaint.
Picture of the first edition copyright page for Portnoy's Complaint.

Picture of dust jacket where original $6.95 price is found for Portnoy's Complaint.
Picture of dust jacket where original $6.95 price is found for Portnoy's Complaint.

Picture of the back dust jacket for the first edition of Portnoy's Complaint.
Picture of the back dust jacket for the first edition of Portnoy's Complaint.

Picture of the first edition Random House boards for Portnoy's Complaint.
Picture of the first edition Random House boards for Portnoy's Complaint.

Picture of the back dust jacket flap for the first edition of Portnoy's Complaint.
Picture of the back dust jacket flap for the first edition of Portnoy's Complaint.

This is the dust jacket flap from the seventh printing.  The $6.95 is in the correct
This is the dust jacket flap from the seventh printing. The $6.95 is in the correct position and is unclipped.

Someone was kind enough to send a photo of a first edition dust jacket that was not
Someone was kind enough to send a photo of a first edition dust jacket that was not clipped and it shows two different prices. On the left is $6.95, and on the right is $5.95. The publisher was likely unsure of pricing as the publication date approached, and so it printed two prices on the jacket. If the decision was made to charge $5.95, then the publisher would black out the price on the left. If the decision was made to charge the higher price, then price on the right would be clipped off. Apparently the latter happened, and the price on the right was clipped.



Other first edition points for books by Philip Roth include: American Pastoral, The Plot Against America, Sabbath's Theatre, Exit Ghost, Indignation, Goodbye, Columbus .

\"American \"The \"Sabbath's \"Exit \"Indignation" \"Goodbye, 

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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.