Rafael Sabatini Books Published Before 1921
By Stephen Darley
Rafael Sabatini achieved his fame and significantly increased his readership with the publication in 1921 of his novel of the French revolution which he titled Scaramouche. Prior to Scaramouche he had written nineteen books, 13 of which were historical or romantic novels about characters that were set in various periods of historical significance beginning with The Lovers of Yvonne in 1902. During that period, he also wrote two biographies&151;one on Cesare Borgia and the other on Torquemada, who was the head of the Spanish Inquisition. The other four books were collections of short stories. Two of these books, Justice of the Duke and Banner of the Bull, were about Cesare Borgia, and the other two, which he called Historical Night's Entertainment, contained real historical incidents which he made into fictional accounts of the events in question.
There is an extensive supply of Sabatini books written after Scaramouche, all of which were first published in the UK by Hutchinson and Co. and in the US by Houghton Mifflin with one exception, The Reaping which was published by The Readers Library in 1929. Therefore, many beginning collectors and admirers of Sabatini assume that any Sabatini book published in the US by Houghton Mifflin or in the UK by Hutchinson must be a first edition. That this is not the case will be evident from the information contained in this article.
Publishing History of the 19 Books
The purpose of this essay is to clarify the publishing history of the nineteen Sabatini books published prior to 1921. I will present the books in chronological order and give the publishers name, the publishing date and the title of the book. I will also provide information on the editions of these first nineteen books that were first published by Houghton Mifflin even when the Houghton Mifflin edition is not the first US edition. Finally, I will present some specific details about some of the books to try to sort out the confusion created by Houghton Mifflin when they published these books in their various editions. I will attempt to clarify which of the editions published by Houghton Mifflin are US first editions, Houghton Mifflin first editions or a new and unusual printing of one of the books by Houghton Mifflin.
Observations About List
Based on the above publishing history, the following observations about the list can be made.
Houghton Mifflin Information
All of the first nineteen books, except for The Suitors of Yvonne and Justice of the Duke, were published in the US by Houghton Mifflin between 1922 (The Snare) and 1927 (The Tavern Knight), which was subsequent to the publishing of Scaramouche. From the above list, it is obvious that about half of the Houghton Mifflin books are US first editions and the rest are not. There are nine US first editions published by Houghton Mifflin (Tavern Knight, Bardelys, Trampling…, Love-at-Arms, …Motley, Saint Martin's…, Lion's Skin, Strolling Saint and Gates of Doom).
The last five books on this list, which were published in the United States by Lippincott, were also later published by Houghton Mifflin, but that edition is not the first US edition and should not be purchased or collected as such. It is interesting to note that the UK publisher of four of these five books is the publishing company of Martin Secker. Sabatini apparently worked at Martin Secker during this period and they published four of his books. For clarification purposes, the Houghton Mifflin publishing information on these five books is as follows.
Houghton Mifflin also published the two Sabatini biographies, Cesare Borgia and Torquemada, which were first published in the US by Brentano's in 1912 and 1913. The Houghton Mifflin publishing history is somewhat confusing but is important to be understood in order to distinguish the various editions.
The Life of Cesare Borgia was first published in the US by Brentano's in 1912. Houghton Mifflin published that same edition, not identified as revised, in 1924. That original unrevised edition had the date of 1924 on the title page and no date on the copyright page. This would be consistent with other books that were not published as a first US edition by Houghton Mifflin and were not copyrighted by them. There is even more confusion with this book because in 1924 Houghton Mifflin issued a first revised edition of this book and labeled it as a revised edition. That revised edition has the 1924 date on both the title page and the copyright page. It is clear that Houghton Mifflin did copyright the revised edition in 1924, obviously with Sabatini's permission. The changes in the revised edition are minimal but enough to enable Houghton to change its designation.
The publishing history of Cesare Borgia becomes even more confusing because in 1930 Houghton Mifflin, through their Riverside Library, issued a revised edition of this book with a 1930 date on the title page and a 1924 date on the copyright page and with a much different dust jacket. This 1930 edition has a dust jacket that is red and black with an outline of the profile of Cesare Borgia in black line. The earlier dust jacket has a colored portrait of Cesare Borgia facing to the front. Because there are dates on both the title and copyright page, this 1930 edition is often assumed to be a first edition, and has been offered as such by unknowing booksellers. However, it is only the first printing of the Houghton Mifflin Riverside Library edition.
Torquemada, which is the second biography written by Sabatini prior to 1921, also has a confusing publishing history with Houghton Mifflin. Brentano's published the original US first edition in 1913. Houghton did not publish any edition of the original unrevised book. They did, however, publish a revised edition of Torquemada in 1924 with a 1924 date on the title page and no date on the copyright page. The Autograph Edition of The Writings of Sabatini, which also came out in 1924, also had a 1924 date on the title page and no date on the copyright page and is a revised edition. For some reason, Houghton Mifflin never copyrighted the revised edition. In 1930, Houghton's Riverside Library also issued a revised edition of Torquemada with the 1930 date on the title page and no date on the copyright page. I have not been able to locate a copy of this edition in a jacket so I am not certain if it is different from the 1924 edition, which has a brown jacket with text and a black line portrait of Torquemada rather than a color illustration. As in the case of The Life of Cesare Borgia, this edition is the first printing of the Riverside Library edition and is neither the first US edition nor the first Houghton Mifflin edition.
The Writings of Sabatini
Most of the 19 books published prior to Scaramouche were included in The Writings of Rafael Sabatini, both the autographed edition and the definitive edition. This series, which includes most of the Sabatini books published prior to 1937, was published in 34 volumes by Houghton Mifflin beginning in 1924 and ending in 1937. The Writings have numbered volumes beginning with Scaramouche which was Volume I. Eleven of the first 19 books as published by The Writings have different publishing dates than the first editions as listed above. For example, The Shame of Motley as published in The Writings has a date of 1926 on the title page and 1926 on the copyright page. To the uninitiated, it would thus appear to be the first edition of The Shame of Motley. However, we know from the list that the first US edition, which is also the first Houghton Mifflin edition, was published by Houghton Mifflin in 1924 and printed in England. Even Scaramouche, which was first published in 1921 by Houghton Mifflin, is published in The Writings with a 1924 date on the title page and a 1924 date on the copyright page. It is possible that the nine books of the first 19 books, which were first published in the US by Houghton Mifflin between 1924 and 1927, were published in anticipation of being included by Houghton Mifflin in The Writings of Rafael Sabatini.
Anthony Wilding was first published in the UK under that title in 1910. In that same year, Putnam published the book in the US under the title of Arms and the Maid. This first US edition is very difficult to find and is impossible to find with a dust jacket. In 1924, Houghton Mifflin published this same book with no revisions under the title of Mistress Wilding. The Houghton Mifflin edition has the 1924 date on both the title page and the copyright page. The Houghton Mifflin edition is available in dust jacket and is a very collectible book. It is assumed by many collectors to be the first US edition because of the presence of the 1924 dates on both pages. However, that distinction goes to the Putnam edition of Arms and the Maid. The Houghton Mifflin edition with the 1924 date on both pages is simply the first Houghton Mifflin edition.
A Sabatini collector should be very careful when attempting to categorize any of the Houghton Mifflin editions of the first nineteen Sabatini books. As is demonstrated above, it is extremely easy to get confused and to assume a Houghton Mifflin book is a first US edition when, in fact, it is something else. Accurate understanding will help to make knowledgeable buyers and will hopefully help keep collectors from making mistakes when they purchase books.
The interested Sabatini collector will find that it is pretty much impossible to find dust jackets for any of the Sabatini books published before 1921. I have been unable to find any of these nineteen books in first edition dust jackets for any of the editions published before 1921 and am unable to locate any other collector who possesses them. The Houghton Mifflin first editions published after 1921 are generally available in dust jacket, with the exception of Love-at-Arms and The Shame of Motley, which are extremely rare. It is obviously, therefore, the rare collector who has any of the UK editions of these nineteen books in jacket and equally rare to find any of the books in dust jacket that were published in the US by Lippincott, Brentano's or Putnam. We can only keep looking.
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