James Branch Cabell : An Illustrated Bibliography

JURGEN: A Comedy of Justice
McBride Printings

Hall Code
First Printing, Variant Binding 1919















Full Title:

Title page recto: Jurgen | [rule broken by the lower portion of the "g"] | [in italic] A Comedy of Justice | [rule] | By | James Branch Cabell | [in italic]"Of JURGEN eke they maken mencioun | That of an old wyf gat his youthe agoon, | And gat himselfe a shirte as bright as fyre | Wherein to jape, yet gat not his desire | In any countrie ne condicioun." | NEW YORK | ROBERT M. McBRIDE & CO. | 1919 (see image above).

Title page verso: Copyright, 1919, by | Robert M. McBride & Co. | [rule] | [in italic]Printed in | The United States of America | [rule] | Published August, 1919 (see image above).


New York: Robert M. Mc Bride & Co., September, 1919


Crown octavo [20 cm. (7⅞ in.) x 14 cm. (5½ in.)]; pp. (viii) + 368; P. (i) half-title; (ii) [all enclosed in single rule box] Books by Mr. Cabell ; (iii) title-page; (iv) publication data; (v) dedication; (vi) three quotations attributed to Philip Borsdale, E. Noel Codman, and John Frederick Lewistam); (vii-viii) Contents; (1) Fly-title (verso blank); (3-5) text of A Foreword;(6) blank; (7) fly-title (verso blank); followed by text pp. 9-368.


Red-brown cloth; top edge trimmed, otherwise uncut; gilt lettering and decorations on front cover and spine. Spine: Jurgen | [rule] | Cabell | McBride. Front cover: Jurgen | [within the lower portion of the "g"] James | Branch | Cabell (see image above).


TO | BURTON RASCOE; followed by dedication in acrostic verse of three quatrains (see image above).

Dust jacket:

The copy shown here is missing its dust jacket, but only one jacket has been reported for the first printing. See Jur-A1.


blanckFifteen hundred copies of the first printing were issued in September, 1919 (not August as stated in the verso of the title page). The second printing (Jur-A2, issued November, 1919) is textually identical and has the same printed August publication date. Because of this, it is almost universally referred to in the trade as the "second state" of the first printing, but all previous bibliographers agree it is actually a separate second printing. The two printings can be distinguished by the width of the binding [~3.5 cm. (1 3/8-in.) in the first binding, ~4.1 cm. (1 5/8-in.) in the second], and by the broken rule at the top of p. 144 in the second printing (it is intact in the first).

The cloth used on this copy is different from that we have observed on other copies of the first printing. Hall does not list this binding variant, but Matthew Bruccoli does, in his James Branch Cabell - A Bibliography, Part II: Notes on the Cabell Collections at the University of Virginia, Hall F5 (& A31). On page 33:

(4) Massey copy. This is a binding variant, as it is bound in FL cloth, whereas the other copies are bound in B cloth.

The "FL" and "B" cloth types refer to the binding cloth designation system developed by Jacob Blanck for his monumental Bibliography of American Literature, Yale University Press, nine volumes, issued variously between 1955 and 1973 (commonly referred to as the BAL). This system is nothing if not non-intuitive, but it does have a logical basis, as it stems from commercial cloth pattern codes used by American producers of binding cloth in the 19th century (and still in limited use today). The Blanck system has never garnered wide recognition or usage, but it is not surprising that Bruccoli used it - he was a contributor and editor of the BAL.

The illustrations of Cloth Grains and Designations (4 pages total, see the B and FL types excerpted above left) are shown as the first illustration, preceding page 1, in each of the nine volumes of the BAL. The system is discussed in detail on pp. xxx - xxxiii of the preface to Volume I. For comparisons of the B and FL cloths used for the first printing of Jurgen, see the comparative illustrations above.

Bruccoli also notes (p.34) that the copy of the third printing, Jur-A3, that he examined is in the same FL cloth as this variant. The Silver Stallion's observations match Mr. Bruccoli's - every copy of Jur-A3 we've seen has been bound in FL cloth. The most common cloth type used in the Kalki bindings is B cloth, although Bruccoli did encounter a few more exceptions, which will be noted in our descriptions.

jur fhw compWe don't know why Hall did not mention this binding variation in his bibliography as published. Perhaps he felt that the difference in cloth was not in itself sufficient to warrant its recognition as a separate variation (although we would disagree). We can confirm he knew about it. He notes that the same FL cloth was used for the fourth issue of the first printing of From the Hidden Way, Hall FHW-A1c (K):

the cloth used is also unusual, being an entirely different texture than that used in the Kalki bindings; this cloth is closer in texture to that of the first printing of BEYOND LIFE than it is to the other bindings of FROM THE HIDDEN WAY.¹


In an unpublished draft of the bibliography, though, the same passage reads:

the cloth used is also unusual, being an entirely different texture than that used in the Kalki bindings. This cloth is quite similar to that described by Bruccoli as FL cloth in reference to the unusual bind-ing variant of the first printing of JURGEN.²

Why did he make this change? We can only speculate. The first printing of Beyond Life, BL-A1, is in BF cloth, which is indeed much closer to FL than B cloth. At the same time, though, the cloth used for this variation of Jurgen is not just "quite similar" to that used for FHW-A1c. Holding copies of both side-by-side, it is clear that they are identical in cloth type and texture, although not in color. Our guess is that since he decided not to list this variation as a separate binding state (or issue?), he did not want to muddy the waters by mentioning it at all.

1. Hall, James. JAMES BRANCH CABELL: A Complete Bibliography; New York; Revisionist Press; 1974; pp. 53-54.
2. Hall, James. JAMES BRANCH CABELL: A COLLECTOR'S CHECKLIST; New York; Revisionist Press; 1974; pp. 49-50. This is an unpublished typescript draft of the bibliography, with numerous corrections, formerly in the collection of scholar and Kalki editor Paul Spencer.