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Searching Reference Works

There are two main reference works that I consult for SF and Fantasy bibliographic questions. The first is Lloyd Currey's Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors: A Bibliography of First Printings of their Fiction and Selected Nonfiction. For The Menace From Earth, Currey simply says "First edition so stated on copyright page." The second source is Donald H Tuck's The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy (Chicago: Advent Publishers, 1974). Tuck states: "Gnome, New York, 1959, 255 pp., $3.50)." The latter would seem to be proof that there should be a price of $3.50 on the jacket, but when one source states something and no other source is forthcoming with supporting evidence, then you have to question the statement.

At this point, I had a strong feeling that there was no price printed on the Gnome trade edition of The Menace From Earth. My main reasoning was that if Gnome had issued a trade edition with a price and a book club edition with no price, then for an extremely collectible author like Heinlein there would be some mention of that fact somewhere. Remember, this is not an obscure work by an obscure author that no ones knows of or cares about. This is Robert Heinlein, arguably the father of modern science fiction - or as Gary K. Wolfe (professor, critic, and Locus book reviewer) says, "[He] invented the language of modern science fiction." But there was enough doubt - the reference on AbeBooks to a DJ that was "not price clipped" and Tuck's citation of a $3.50 price - that I just wasn't sure.

When All Else Fails, Ask For Help!

It so happened that I needed to email Lloyd Currey on another matter, so I took the opportunity to ask his opinion on the whole Menace From Earth price question. Coincidentally, someone had recently asked him the exact same question. Currey's answer was that no price on the jacket is "probably correct." He notes that there were a couple of Gnome titles that came out in that period with no price and that there was no SFBC edition of Menace.

As to Tuck's citing a price of $3.50 for The Menace From Earth, Currey speculates that he may have gotten that from a rear panel advertisement on a later Gnome title (EB Cole's The Philosophical Corps, Gnome, 1961).


No one can expect to know everything there is to know about a subject. Specializing helps somewhat - limiting the width makes it easier to increase the depth of knowledge. A great memory certainly helps; some people are better at remembering facts, while some have terrific visual memory. And years of experience will increase your store of knowledge. I can only hope in time to have a fraction of the ready knowledge of someone like Lloyd Currey, who has been involved in the book trade since his mid-teens. But educators will tell you that the education process is only partially about filling a student's head with facts and figures. A well-educated person develops a love of learning, so that the process never stops. And most important, s/he learns how to learn. Learn how to ask questions, surround yourself with the tools to access information, learn how to use those tools, and develop the critical and intuitive faculties that will lead you to the answers you need as well as help you to identify and avoid incorrect information. And finally, cultivate relationships with colleagues so that you can help and be helped by them.

It is also important to realize that sometimes, despite your best efforts, you simply don't find a definitive answer. This is somewhat the case with the question regarding the presence of a price printed on the dust jacket of the Gnome edition of Heinlein's The Menace From Earth. My research led me to conclude that Gnome did not put a price on the trade edition, and this was confirmed as "probably correct" by Lloyd Currey. But one day I may come across an example of this book with the $3.50 price printed on the DJ, and all the careful reasoning will be thrown out. Which is fine, because on that day I will have learned something new.

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