• This series did not conform to the standard Harper & Brothers dual letter copyright code to denote year and month.
• Harper and Brothers began production of the I Can Read series books in 1957. Probably in an effort to combat the rivaling Random House Beginner Books as they emerged at the same time. In 1962 Harper & Brothers merged with Row, Peterson & Company to become Harper & Row. This is the first vital piece of information needed in identifying first editions around this date.
• Additionally, Harper - during the years that it created the series - changed the parameters for which a new book was printed and how a first edition was denoted, if at all. This led to such occurences as First Edition statements, Numberlines, price points, rear dust jacket configurations etc.
• So let's divulge further. It is important to note the different bindings available for the "I Can Read" book series. This guide pertains only to the TRADE editions which were issued with dust jackets with a price point on the top right hand corner of the dust jacket flap.
Other bindings include:
- The Weekly Reader (Matte finish - issued without a dust jacket).
- The Harper Crest Bindings (also matte cover) have a Harper Crest seal to rear board.
These bindings were issued with dust jackets, however, the majority of these bindings were destined as library copies, thus the dust jacket removed in most cases. The dust jackets can be identified by two means. They have the Harper Crest seal affixed to the spine and the dust jacket contains two prices. A trade price (usual spot on the top right hand corner of the front dust jacket flap) and a library book club price (the bottom right of the front dust jacket flap. Sometimes "$2.19 net" for a $1.95 trade price). Usually for these Harper Crest bindings with dust jackets, the top price (trade price) was clipped. Now, what makes things even more confusing is that sometimes the trade boards were substituted for the Harper Crest boards.
- In addition to this, there are some titles that have a "Book Club" only version. This version was identical to the Harper Crest version although it omitted the price on the front dust jacket flap. Instead, it contained only an "Age Range" such as Ages 4-8 in the upper right hand corner of the front dust jacket flap. The "Reader Level" is also on the base of the front dust jacket flap. An example of this is seen on "A Kiss for Little Bear". In cases such as this, a price is necessary to determine a first edition jacket. PIC
• You will notice a reference to the "Harper and Brothers" imprint to the bottom rear of the dust jacket and boards. Up until and including 1961, the Harper and Brothers imprint was large and spanned most of the page, always with a code to the left hand side. This changed in 1962 when the imprint became smaller and the code may or may not have been removed depending on the title. Hence, this is what we are referring to when we cite a "Large Imprint" or "Small Imprint".
• You may have noticed some books have a Harper Blue Ribbon seal across the spine of the dust jacket. Essentially this is just a trade edition, but certain books were given this Blue Ribbon Seal to distinguish these as quality/popular titles. Such titles include the early Syd Hoff books (like Sammy the Seal) and the Little Bear series by Else Minarik and Maurice Sendak. So essentially, a book that has the Blue Ribbon seal has to be a later or early printing of the title, not a first.
• Harper used dust jacket codes to establish the original printing date which prior to the Row merger was a non-descript sequential code (such as 7690A for the front flap and a different code for the rear flap and the back of the dust jacket). Once the company became Harper & Row the nomenclature changed to become a 4 digit code representing the month and year of ORIGINAL publication. For example, for the title "Mouse Tales" by Arnold Lobel, this would have been 0972 (September 1972). This is located on the bottom left of the front dust jacket flap. However, coming back to the capitalized "ORIGINAL". This code, was consistent between different years of printings of the same title. Therefore, having the code DOES NOT consitute a first edition identification point, although it certainly is present on First Editions. Titles such as "The Happy Birthday Present" actually listed boths codes during the merger transition period. PIC
• While we are on the topic of the title "The Happy Birthday Present", it can be deduced that this was the last Harper title to be listed under the Harper and Brothers mark. In fact, it seems as though it's scheduled release date must have been 1961 and not 1962. This is evident in the "Happy Birthday Present" being listed on First Editions of the 1961 titles "Little Bear's Visit" and "Greg's Microscope".
• Beginning at the end of 1969, Harper & Row sporadically introduced a numberline system such as that in the title "Morris Goes to School" by Bernard Wiseman printed in 1970. The first noted title that contains a numberline in this format is "The Penguins are Coming". On the copyright page, the numberline reads 70 71 72 73 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1.
• Some anomalies to the traditional number line stated above (being present as part of the copyright information) occurred in three titles that we have been able to identify so far. These are "Alligator", "Hidden Animals" and "Small Wolf". Alligator and Hidden Animals both have the complete numberline to the bottom left of the rear page. Small wolf has the numberline on the copyright page, however it is positioned vertically at the top right hand corner of the page.
• To complicate things further, during the early part of 1972 First Edition statements were added in addition to the numberline. Bargain for Frances PIC The numberline was removed from the copyright page from 1973 onward leaving only the First Edition statements on the copyright page. This continued from 1973-1979 (this guide only pertains to titles up until 1979). Beyond that, at some point in the 80's, Harper joined most other companies in using the nomenclature 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 to denote a first edition, used widely still to this day.
• One other anomoly that should be mentioned, is the title "What Spot?" by Crosby Bonsall published in 1963. It seems that with this title, the first edition plates used for the trade edition were also used for the other bindings (Harper Crest, Weekly Reader etc). For this title, the fact that the book states "First Edition" does not constitute it being a first edition and the other identying points must be considered.
There is a lot of information to take in here, but we have made it easy for you. Just click on the link below to access the list of I Can Read books, find the one that you are interested in, then a summary will be displayed with information on how to identify a first edition.