The Ballantine Hardcover Books




H-9                         H-89









H-3                   H-25













One of the problems with collecting anything is that when we see a specimen of something, we tend to generalize and assume that others in a category will be similar. That fallacy is an easy one to acquire with regards to Ballantine's hardcover books.

The Board of Directors at Bantam (the second house that Ian Ballantine built) fired him in 1952. He and his wife, Betty, began publishing Ballantine Books that same year under their new label. Two of the "innovations" that Ballantine had had nixed at Bantam included higher royalties to authors (in order to attract more talent) and the release of original works. (Neither of these concepts would have worked under Bantam's business plan. See my write-up for Bantam in that publisher's folder.)

Ballantine's idea was to release TWO copies of some books simultaneously, one in hardcover and one in paperback, calling both "original publications." The authors were offered far greater royalties (percentage-wise) for the hardcover books, and didn't have to give up any portion of their royalties for paperback "reprints," as was the case with the other publishing houses.  But there was a catch, of sorts. The hardcover books sold only for two or three bucks (on average), less than traditional hardback books, so the authors' pay didn't improve that much. The royalty for the paperback originals, however, was very nice indeed, and Ballantine wound up attracting a lot of talent, especially in the field of Science Fiction.

Often, the hardcover books bore the same number designation as the paperbacks, only with an "H" prefix. The first of these books that I collected were almost identical to the paperbacks themselves, with the exception of their cloth boards and dust jackets. The pages were pulp and the same size as the books in wrappers (paperbacks). The covers were slightly larger than the pages, as is the case with all hardback books.

I incorrectly assumed that all of Ballantine's hardcover books were the same format. As if to confirm this fallacy, the only bibliography (that I'm aware of), Ballantine Books: The First Decade, by David Aronovitz, Baliwick Books, Rochester, MI, 1987, is exactly the same size as those other books I had collected.

The problem with a bibliography is that no matter how much sweat, toil and attention to detail a bibliographer gives his work, the ungrateful reader wishes there was more. In my case, I wish Mr. Aronovitz had addressed the books' sizes. They are WIDELY disparate. The top three books shown on this page measure approximately 4 X 7 inches (11 X 18.5 cm), and had a $2 cover price. H-32 measures approximately 5 X 8 inches (13.5 X 20.4 cm), and also sold for $2.  The Burl Ives Song Book, which has no book number listed (but corresponds with Ballantine #48) measures 8 X 11 inches (21 X 28.5 cm) and had a $5 cover price.

Our Kind of People, by Jack Dillon (1958), had no corresponding paperback release, and sold for $3.95. It is slightly taller (8") than H-32 ... roughly the same size as most hardcover books of the day.

Even the books' construction varied to a great extent. While almost all used cloth-on-board format, some were quarterbound (a different colored strip of cloth binding along the spine) and some were not. Some were embossed with the title and some were not.

The bottom line here is that if you want to collect these increasingly valuable books, you need to keep your eye peeled for volumes of just about any size and variety of construction.