Binding Characteristics of the
Two Known States of The Last Unicorn
(1st US Edition, 1st Printing)


Copies Surveyed: 22
1st State Copies: 3 (all ex lib)
2nd state copies: 14
Unknown: 5

Unknown copies are those which sold before data could be obtained or in which the owners/sellers have not responded to inquiries. All contributions of information will be greatly appreciated and kept strictly confidential.

This text is copyright 2006, but may be reproduced for any non-profit purpose without cost so long as credit is given and no changes are made. Written permission must be obtained before citing portions of this text in any for-profit document, electronic or otherwise.

Peter Beagle's now-classic fantasy, The Last Unicorn, was first published as a hardcover by Viking Press in 1968. Since then, it has been translated into 15 languages and has never gone out of print. While Beagle has written a host of other works equally deserving of praise, none of them have succeeded quite so well as The Last Unicorn. Those interested in reading other Beagle works can start by picking up The Rhinoceros Who Quoted Nietzsche, a collection of short fiction written at various times in his career. Recently, Peter Beagle won the Hugo Award for Best Novelette for "Two Hearts."

We surveyed twenty-two 1st edition copies of The Last Unicorn (Viking, 1968), all first printings by virtue of the "First published in 1968 . . . " on the verso/copyright page. Both states have red and yellow headbands and dust jackets with $4.95 price tags. No US, Canadian, or UK book-club edition of just this title has ever been produced.

The jackets appear identical except for slight differences in length, width, and corresponding spacing for the title and author's name, but the bindings are notably different in many respects.

The scan below shows the two bindings side-by-side. On the left is the first state; on the right is the second. The colors are not accurate, but the textures are. The second and third printing copies examined all have the same binding as the second state of the first printing.

First State

· Black cloth spine with boards bound in a light blue cloth with spine lettering as follows:

· "The Last Unicorn" in gold.

· "VIKING" in a rich blue.

· "Peter S. Beagle" in gold.

· Boards measure 13.2 mm wide by 21.5 mm in height (measuring just the board)

· Endpapers are medium-fuchsia, non-textured paper.
(These scans are for rough comparison only. They are not color-corrected.)

· Page-ends trimmed

· Top-stain light salmon pink

· Jacket dimensions: 50.6 mm by 21.95 mm
('Last' is slightly lighter pink color on back panel and spine)

Second State

· Black cloth spine with boards covered in textured robin's-egg blue paper and spine lettering as follows:

· "The Last Unicorn" in powder blue.

· "VIKING" in a slightly orange yellow.

· "Peter S. Beagle" in violet.

· Boards measure 13.8 mm wide by 21.2 mm in height
(again, measuring just the board, not the spine)

· Endpapers are dark purple textured paper

· Page-ends not trimmed

· Jacket dimensions: 51.1 mm by 21.1 mm
('Last' is slightly darker pink color on back panel and spine)

One question I have been unable to answer or even make an educated guess about is if this is a 'library binding' produced by Viking Press. Using gold foil titles on the spine and all cloth over the boards makes the book a little more expensive to produce, as opposed to colored titles and paper over boards. Why Viking would make a library binding fancier than the 'trade' edition, I am not certain.

Without any dates for production or notes from the Viking Press archive, which may not even exist any longer, the need to survey dated and signed copies of both states from early in its production history is critical to resolving any doubts as to priority.

The bindings of the 2nd and 3rd printings of this title match the binding of the presumed second state. All three copies of the 1st state which I have surveyed are ex lib and they appear identical in all pertinent respects. This supports my conjecture as to the priority of the two states, but I am attempting to verify this by other methods (i.e. dated signed copies, author and reviewer copies, publisher records, etc.)

I have contacted two people at Penguin to see if they had any idea of the whereabouts of the production records of Viking, which Penguin acquired in 1978, but the only response I received said that they didn't know if the records still existed.

I am particularly interested in hearing from anyone who has a signed (or inscribed) and dated 1st edition (any printing) copy of The Last Unicorn dated in 1968 or 1969. Anyone wishing to contribute information about this title is encouraged to email me using the envelope link below. Questions and comments can be addressed to the same account.

Karl E. Ziellenbach - last revised 03/09/2009