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1997 reprint of The Mythic Image

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    Can anyone confirm that the 1997 reprint from Fine Communications is the same as the original 1974 Princeton University edition?  In terms of size, quality of paper, layout, etc?  I already have the paperback version, but I’m dissatisfied with the image quality in that edition.  Thanks!


      Good question, Alan! The Mythic Image is one of my favorite books.

      In general, Fine (aka MJF) editions are inferior — and occasionally published without permission.

      The definitive edition, to date, is the 1974 hardcover Princeton edition, which is larger than the 1981 trade paperback that PUP put out, and includes a number of beautiful color images. It’s got the same cover image of the trimurti — the three-faced sculpture of Śiva — as the paperback, as opposed to the Fine editions’ picture of St. George and the dragon.

      The Fine editions of The Mythic Image were unlicensed. At this point, only used copies are left of both hardcover editions, so buying it isn’t necessarily funding piracy. Still…

      I haven’t seen that particular edition, but here’s what an Amazon reviewer had to say:

      While the softbound edition is quite good, if you have the room and can find it, there is a larger Princeton Polychrome Press hardbound with beautiful images that you may prefer.

      The big 9.5 by 12 inch, 2 inch thick Princeton [University] Press edition has quite a few color plates and has larger black and white images with more dynamic range than those in the softbound 7.5 by 10 edition.

      Unfortunately there are at least two hardbounds. Another one by “MJF books” which I mistakenly first bought, is the same size as the softbound, has no color plates, and is on less opaque paper. What led me and other reviewers to seek a hardbound was a note in the preface in the softbound: “In order to realize this paperback edition of The Mythic Image, in reduced format, thirty-four color plates are reproduced in black and white …”

      Unfortunately it is hard to tell which hardbound edition used sellers are actually offering, but Amazon lets you e-mail a used book’s seller. An e-mailed question about color plates and the book’s size worked for me.

      The 9.5 by 12 format [Princeton] Press hardbound is ISBN-10: 0-691-09869-7 and has a dust jacket with the same image as the cover of the softbound.

      By the way, if you’d like to read Campbell’s discussions with the editors at Princeton about both the 1974 edition and the 1981 paperback (about which he was furious), check out Correspondence: 1927–1987. The letters are… enlightening. 🙂


        By the way, there’s also a gorgeous Spanish edition published by Atalanta — which I’ve just realized needs to be added to our database!


        Hello David,

        I was a proud owner of Joe’s 1974 Hardcover Princeton Edition of the Mythic Image. I lost all my books, some  from storage, and some during other unintended, unfortunate moves. There area  few books that I grieve for, and Joe’s Mythic Image, 1974 Princeton Edition is on the top of my  unfortunate-loss-list. I have seen other editions in libraries but they do not measure up to the Princeton Edition.  Why is it so?  Of course paperbacks are inexcusable.

        “By the way, if you’d like to read Campbell’s discussions with the editors at Princeton about both the 1974 edition and the 1981 paperback (about which he was furious), check out Correspondence: 1927–1987. The letters are… enlightening” Thank you. I am looking forward to reading the letters.



        I think that actually mythology is image, and it’s only because the publication of pictures is so expensive that we don’t realize that in our reading.⁠” (Joseph Campbell in radio interview with Professor Miller)

        “Myth is expression, not just reading. The reader has to see the picture and say, ‘Aha!’, so the reference has got to be right there; the picture and text need to be on the same page.” (Campbell interview with Chris Goodrich in Publishers Weekly, referring to The Historical Atlas of World Mythology)

        Image has always been essential to Joseph Campbell’s understanding of myth – it just took technology decades to catch up to his vision.

        The original edition of  The Hero with a Thousand included multiple images, but these were expensive to reproduce and appeared on plates, an image on each side, often pages away from where Campbell discusses them. (This problem is finally fixed, thanks to the efforts of David Kudler, in the 3rd edition of The Hero with a Thousand Faces, published by New World Library in 2008)

        By the time we get to the four volumes of The Masks of God, published from 1959 through 1968, Campbell addresses this problem by using sketches of archaeological artifacts, rather than actual photographs. Though we lose some of the visual impact of viewing the object, this is not only far less expensive, but drawings appear on the same page as the text discussing each image.

        The Mythic Image, released in 1974, is an an early attempt to meld images with myths, but, in an unpublished interview, Campbell complains to John Lobell about

        . . . The Mythic Image, which is published by Princeton, and they have abandoned the book. They turned it into a smaller format paperback, black-and-white, where the pictures don’t do the communicating that they were meant to do.”

        In 1976 a large coffee table book called Myths, by Alexander Elliot, is released, with significant contributions from Joseph Campbell and Mircea Eliade. This too uses a number of pictures, but there is that same problem of linking the text to the image.

        Finally, the technology catches up to Joe with The Historical Atlas of World Mythology:

        I don’t think there has been another scholar anywhere who has had the good fortune to have a publisher who said, ‘How many pictures do you need?’ . . . So this opportunity to have hundreds and hundreds of pictures, the ones I choose—and besides, those brand new, beautiful maps—opens a whole new prospect to exposition. I can say things here you can’t say without a visual accompaniment⁠.”

        Joseph Campbell, interviewed by Joe Nigg, in The Bloomsbury Review


        I can only imagine the magic Campbell could make happen with the technology available today.



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