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Later Pocket Books
Pocket Books were the first true mass market-sized paperback books in the United States. Robert DeGraff almost called the company 20th Century Books and wanted to sell the works for 20¢. But in the end, he settled on the historic name because he wanted to emphasize the fact that the books would fit into a man's jacket pocket; and the 25¢ price would become a benchmark that would stand for the next 20 years.
In 1938, he printed one test book, Pearl Buck's The Good Earth, which had just won the Nobel Prize. 2,000 copies sold in Manhattan very quickly (it would be reprinted the following year as Pocket Book #11). That set the stage for the first ten production books in 1939, which were also distributed only in New York.
As his colophon, DeGraff paid Frank Lieberman $50 to produce a suitable symbol for the company. Lieberman named the little kangaroo "Gertrude," after his mother-in-law, and though it's changed quite a bit over the years, she still graces the covers of Pocket Books today. There were at least five versions of Gertrude used during the vintage paperback period (my own personal favorite was drawn by Walt Disney, featuring a baby kangaroo holding the book, used extensively during the war years).
Pocket Book's cover art varied widely. While it was considered very good, it generally never got as "artsy" as many of the other paperback houses, such as NAL, Popular Library, or Gold Medal. Still, they certainly set the standard for the early publishers, such as Dell and Avon.
Often, a work was reprinted many times, and the cover sometimes changed with later works, though the edition numbers generally remained unchanged. The exception to this rule was the 2,000 series (so number 2283 was a later printing of number 283). Fortunately, Pocket Book always displayed printing data, so it's relatively easy to keep track.
The 6,000 series consisted of 35¢ books printed after 1960. Earlier, Cardinal was Pocket Book's 35¢ label. After 1954, Pocket Book also printed both 25¢ and 35¢ books under their newly-acquired Perma label, using M-3000 and M-4000 numbering, respectively (see the Perma section).
I have included printing numbers along with the book numbers for the earlier books in this section. (If you're downloading my pictures, you'll notice a letter designation at the end of the file name. It corresponds to its place in the alphabet. "d" is a 4th printing, "e" is a 5th, etc).
Several books have two different covers for stated first printings. I've listed several of these and other strange Pocket Book techniques in the "Oddities" section.
Finally, I've also included some Pocket Book Junior's. Pocket Book had published Comet Books, digest-format books for kids, since 1948, and switched to the new format in 1951. The Comet series ended with #34 (see the "Digest" section); the Pocket Book Junior series started with #35. There were 77 titles in all.
This page was updated in August, 2017