Valid to use ML back-of-book catalogs as a way of dating books?

Gordon Neavill aa3401 at
Fri Jul 6 13:40:00 EDT 2001

Back-of-the book catalogs are nearly always a reliable way of dating ML
books.  They were never printed separately and bound in--a practice that
would have led to catalogs in books having been printed earlier than the
books themselves.  They were printed with the text and were an integral part
of the printed book.  They didn't appear in all ML titles--only those where
there were enough pages left over in the last gathering to accommodate a
catalog. The ML kept the catalogs up to date; there was one season during
the war when they messed up and used the previous season's catalogs, but
otherwise the catalogs--from 1925 to 1967 at least--are pretty reliable.

The exceptions were books printed with offset plates, which were rare before
the mid-1960s.  Later printings of these titles generally retained first
edition statements and didn't update catalogs (if they were present).  A
good example is THE THURBER CARNIVAL.  There's no catalog at the end, but
every printing I've ever seen includes the statement, "First Modern Library
Printing, 1957".  The only way of identifying a first printing of this title
is from the jacket which states "379 OUSTANDING BOOKS" at the head of the ML
list inside the jacket.


----- Original Message -----
From: "Scot Kamins" <kamins at>
To: "ML LIstServ" <modlib at>
Sent: Friday, July 06, 2001 11:38 AM
Subject: Valid to use ML back-of-book catalogs as a way of dating books?

> Folks,
> I've been using the catalogs that appear in the back of many ML books to
> tell the date of printing of that particular book. I compare what's in
> the catalog to what ISN'T in the catalog to find the most recent title in
> the series at the time the book was bound; then I find the date of first
> printing of that most-recent-title and assume that the book I have in my
> hand was printed in that same season.
> My question is: is this a valid method of dating a book's printing? To be
> valid, the catalog pages would have to be up to date when they were
> printed, and that they were bound into books right away (as opposed to
> laying around in the bindary waiting for books to stick them into).
>      `\|||/                     Scot Kamins
>       (@@)
>   ooO_(_)_Ooo___________________________________
>   _____|_____|_____|_____|_____|_____|_____|_____|
> ___|____|_____|_____|_____|_____|_____|_____|____

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