Notes: Contract with God is not, as it is sometimes described, the first (American) graphic novel. It is rather the first such book to find commercial and critical success. The publisher's marketing of it as a "graphic novel" brought the term into common use and the book's influence gave a new impetus to this nascent genre of American fiction. Contract with God does not just bring together words and pictures with a new level of mastery, Eisner tells an autobiographical story set in the Jewish tenements of New York in the early 20th century. Here was the comic format telling an American origin story rather than narrating the creation of some new superhero.
In the introduction to this book, Eisner struggles to describe his artistic purpose for Contract with God because there wasn't really a word for it (although the term graphic novel had been coined in the 1960s, it was not in common use). "I must confess to a certain sense of uneasiness at trying to explain what I am about to present," Eisner writes. "If I have been successful at this, there will be no interruptions in the flow of narrative because the picture and the text are so totally dependent on each other as to be inseparable for even a moment."
This small press edition of 1500 signed and numbered hardcovers and an unspecified number of paperbacks sold slowly but surely. A new publisher took it over in 1985 and it has been reissued many times since.
Edition + Condition: First edition (states "First printing, October 1978"), hardcover issue. This is one of 1500 signed and numbered on the front free endpaper. A fine copy (corners slightly bumped) in black cloth stamped in gilt; issued without a dust jacket. Despite the comparatively large print run, the book is scarce.
Publication: New York: Baronet, 1978.
Item No: #360827