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first edition

John Steinbeck

Tortilla Flat

Covici Friede Publishers


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First edition of this oft-comical tale of post-World War I Monterey, following the exploits of a wine-loving and vaguely Arthurian group of paisanos, a beautiful copy in the scarce original dust jacket.

  • John Steinbeck (American).
  • Illustrated by Ruth Gannett (American).
  • New York: Covici Friede Publishers, [1935].
  • 318 pages.
  • Illustrated throughout in black and white.
  • Original unclipped ($2.50) pictorial dust jacket in blue and black.
  • Bound in original tan cloth binding with blue spine lettering, blue topstain, fore-edge machine deckle.
  • Housed in custom blue leather-backed clamshell box.

The lighthearted tone of Tortilla Flat lifted the spirits of Americans during the Great Depression, for whom “reading and the movies were escape... escape from grinding poverty, escape from worrying about how to pay the rent, escape from worrying about how to find a job” (San Jose). Danny and his round table of friends are rarely concerned with any of those issues as they meander through life in Monterey, undeniably poor, but not experiencing the tragedy of poverty in the same way as many of Steinbeck’s later characters. Steinbeck even drew joy from writing the work: “it is light and I think amusing... I don’t care whether it amounts to anything. I am enjoying it and I need something to help me over this last ditch” (Steinbeck and Wallsten).

Tortilla Flat did, of course, amount to something, earning the California Commonwealth Club’s Gold Medal and a mention in the justification for Steinbeck’s 1962 Nobel Prize. It was also made into a 1942 film starring Spencer Tracy and Hedy Lamarr, and was one of the top box office grossers of the year.

This first edition is a crystallization of the beginning of Steinbeck’s career, before his works were required reading in classrooms across America. With Ruth Gannett’s illustrations nestled throughout the text,Tortilla Flat is a refreshingly light title in a broad oeuvre.


Adrian H. Goldstone and John R. Payne, John Steinbeck: A Bibliographical Catalogue, item A4b.

Elaine Steinbeck and Robert Wallsten, Steinbeck: A Life in Letters, page 88.

Condition Report

Star iconVery Good
Like New

Jacket with some edgewear, mild chipping to spine ends; spine sunned.

Binding corners and spine ends lightly bumped, topstain a bit faded; tiny creases to lower margins of pages 316-318.

A clean, sound copy.


Height: 7.5 inches / 19.05 cm
Width: 5 inches / 12.7 cm


Dust Jacket, First Edition




Americana, Novels, Illustrated, Modern first editions

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