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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Hillerman's "The Great Taos Bank Robbery" - The Mystery Of Its Two States

The Great Taos Bank Robbery – The Mystery of its Two States

by       Bob Maddox
           Squid Ink Books
           Tucson, Arizona


Tony Hillerman’s book, The Great Taos Bank Robbery and Other Indian Country Affairs, was first published, in hard cover, by the University of New Mexico Press in 1973. It consists of nine essays written by Hillerman about incidents, characters, and places in New Mexico. This was Hillerman’s first non-fiction book and it followed two mysteries and a childrens’ book. A third mystery, Dance Hall of the Dead, was also published in 1973, but apparently after the non-fiction title.

Over the years Hillerman’s books have become very collectible in their first editions. Louis A. Hieb published a bibliography of Hillerman writing titled, Tony Hillerman: From The Blessing Way to Talking God A Bibliography (Press of the Gigantic Hound, Tucson, 1990). This book has become the definitive reference regarding Hillerman books published from 1970 through 1989. Hieb (p.59-60) describes the two states of  The Great Taos Bank Robbery as follows:

“Binding: Two issues exist which have identical cover and spine lettering but differ with regard to cloth and end-paper colors and dust jackets.  Cover lettering: [decorative band]/The. Great/Taos/Bank Robbery/[two rules]/ And Other Indian Country Affairs / [decorative band]. Spine lettering: [vertically] HILLERMAN / [horizontally, decorative device]/ [vertically] THE GREAT TAOS BANK ROBBERY/ [horizontally, decorative device]/ [vertically] NEW MEXICO.

1. Yellowish gray (93) cloth lettered in black (267) . Light yellowish brown (near 76) endpapers.  Illustrated paper jacket printed in grayish brown (61) with single illustration (Shiprock) on back panel.

2. Grayish yellow (90) cloth lettered in black (267). Yellowish white (92) endpapers.  Illustrated paper jacket printed in medium purplish blue (200) with two illustrations on back panel.

Jacket design[s] by Dan Stouffer.  Price $5.95.

Hieb refers to a state one book and jacket that is bound in gray cloth , with a yellow tint, having a jacket with a single drawing of Shiprock on the back panel. The second state of the book is described as being bound in yellow cloth, with a gray tint, having a jacket with two illustrations on the back. These are a photograph of the Church of San Jose de Gracia, Las Trampas, New Mexico, above the drawing of Shiprock.

The book notes, in both states, on the copyright page, “Designed by Dan Stouffer.” The jacket design is credited to Dan Stouffer on the back flap of both states. Dan is an artist who worked for the University of New Mexico Press until 1979 and several of the illustrations are also by him. The jackets are distinctly different, more so than one would think given Hieb’s bibliographic descriptions. The jacket referred to as state 1 is on textured stock that is of a light yellow color. The jacket referred to as state 2 is on heavier, non-textured stock that is of a light orange color.

Today in the book collectors’ market the book in grey cloth which has the single drawing on the rear dust jacket panel is usually referred to as the first state book and jacket, which commands slightly higher prices than the second state variant. Ernie Bulow (writer, bookseller, and publisher) had written in an article in Firsts Collecting Modern First Editions magazine (“Collecting Tony Hillerman”, June issue of 1994) that Hillerman and people at the University of New Mexico Press did not know which variant came first, but that he had no reason to question Hieb’s bibliography. However, in a NOTE added to a Hillerman price list that Bulow distributed by mail to his customers during the summer of 2007, he wrote:

“When Louis Hieb published his bibliography of Hillerman in 1990 he noted two states of this publication. One dust jacket had a single photo on the back, the other had two photos. Since Hieb listed the books in that order, it was assumed that was the first and second state and everyone has held to that order ever since. I asked Tony at the time and he couldn’t remember. I asked Jack Rittenhouse who had been the director of the press at the time and he couldn’t remember either. Since I found the single photo version more aesthetic than the other, I felt it had to be the second state, since it didn’t make sense to make the jacket less attractive. A few years later a noted book dealer from Southern California gave me a copy for Tony to sign. It was the version with two photos. It had all the review material laid in the front and every indication showed they had been there all along. As far as I am concerned that settled the issue once and for all. The other order persists.”

Bulow had ended up questioning the sequence of the two versions reported by Hieb, but to a limited audience. Currently (early November, 2013) there are 42 first editions listed for sale on ABE Books. Fifteen are indentified as 1st state, 11 are identified as 2nd state, and 14 listings do not mention states of the book. There are two listings that question the validity of the states noted by Hieb. So, the current situation is muddled, but most booksellers follow Hieb’s bibliography.

A visit from Marvin McIntyre

Last spring Marvin McIntyre and his wife visited me here at Squid Ink Books. They were in town for the Tucson Festival of Books. Marvin is an internet book dealer (McInBooks) from Farmington, New Mexico. He noticed a copy of The Great Taos Bank Robbery on my shelves and mentioned that the states of this book were different than had been reported by Hieb. He said that he knew this because they were friends with Dan Stouffer, who had designed the book and jacket back in 1973.

Marvin had mentioned to Dan at an art show (a year or so ago) that there were two states of the book that he (Dan) had designed. Dan was not aware of this and checked the copy that he had when he returned home. He wrote the following noted to Marvin:

“You had asked about the first edition of The Great Taos Bank Robbery, so I checked mine and there are two illustrations on the back of the jacket. A photo of Las Trampas (I think) and my Shiprock illustration below. I know this is the first one, because the bindery foreman always called me down to the printing plant to inspect the first one off the line. I gave my approval and took it upstairs for Tony to sign and he wrote a very complimentary note to me, which I treasure.”

Below are photos of Dan Stouffer holding the first bound copy of The Great Taos Bank Robbery.

The following photos illustrate the dramatic differences between the two states of both the book and the dust jacket (the true 1st state is shown at left or on top).

Louis Hieb had apparently discussed the two states of this book in reverse chronological order when he prepared his Hillerman bibliography. So, part of this mystery has been solved by Dan Stouffer, former employee of the University of New Mexico Press.

The rest of the mystery

I exchanged emails with Dan, hoping to find out when the book and jacket were redone in the second state. He responded that he was never aware of any changes to the book while he was at the Press – i.e., up to 1979. Current staff at the Press were also unaware that there had been changes to the book and jacket. An important question remains: When and why was the book modified? The changes were not subtle or minor changes and the two variants of the book and jacket are quite different. However, the page blocks are identical and the price is the same on both variants.

I have a hypothesis regarding what may have transpired. The Press issued its first trade paperback edition of The Great Taos Bank Robbery in 1980. I think that someone at the Press decided to do a new printing of the hardback version at this time, making changes to the binding and jacket (the second state jacket is clearly more simple, printed on lighter weight stock, and probably more economical). However, the plates were apparently used without making any changes or adding a second printing statement. This makes some sense, since Hillerman’s popularity had increased rapidly as his Navajo mysteries drew greater and greater attention.

Similar things have happened at other University Presses. The example I am most familiar with is that of Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac from Oxford University Press. An edition was printed several years after the First Edition had come out. This edition had a slightly modified binding and a jacket with a new price and blurbs on the back panel that clearly show that it was printed several years after the original printing. Some think that this particular edition used left over pages from the original first printing.