The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, 1906 – First Edition

As booksellers, ISBNs are invaluable. As are (mostly, sorta) standardized ways of indicating a first edition, first printing, and so forth. Not so with books pre-ISBN (pre-1970ish)! and even less so when we get into the turn of the 20th century and earlier. In the 19th centuries and earlier copyright laws were pretty lax, so there were a lot of pirated editions of popular books. With some books you’re lucky to find a year, let alone any information on edition! The little details can make all the difference, and may be all you have to go on to determine whether a book is a first edition, first printing, or seventh edition and eightieth printing.

{{ Click here to see our listing on eBay }} If there isn’t anything listed on that page, that means the book has sold, or is yet to be re-listed.

Take The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, for example (read the wiki). Note the difference in printing of the 1 in “February, 1906”; the broken versus unbroken type. I can only imagine the bafflement of non-book collectors over such niggling things. It’s worse than numismatics –  at least there can only be so many coin variations! There may be other subtle differences in editions of The Jungle – one seller noted certain words on certain pages, but neglected to mention what the difference actually was between the editions.

The first photo is of our copy, the other two are taken from other ebay listings. This is what makes book collecting fascinating and just a little frustrating!


From what I have gleaned, Upton Sinclair originally had The Jungle serialized in the socialist magazine, Appeal to Reason. The big publishers rejected publishing it in book form because it was so graphic and disturbing (as it was a novel rather than straight-up investigative journalism, certain liberties were taken – such as workers falling into the machines and being ground up with the rest of the meat!). So Upton went ahead and financed a 5,000 print run, with a “Sustainer’s Edition” label on the front page, an added graphic on the front cover board of clasped hands, and the publisher is “Jungle Publishing”. Definitely an historically important book!

Check out the photos below, and go see our eBay listing.