Sunday, March 10th marks the 50th anniversary of Puzo’s definitive masterwork.

A searing narrative of the Mafia underworld, Mario Puzo’s epic novel The Godfather made its debut on March 10th, 1969. Appearing at a time when America’s interest in organized crime was growing, the book was applauded for its authenticity and swiftly became publisher G.P. Putnam’s Sons’ single most profitable book, with over 5 million copies sold in 1970.

First edition of Mario Puzo's The Godfather; inscribed by Puzo to his editor, William Targ. By far the most desirable association copy.
First edition of Mario Puzo’s The Godfather; inscribed by Puzo to his editor, William Targ.
By far the most desirable association copy.

The Godfather introduced readers to the first family of American crime fiction, the Corleones, and the powerful legacy of tradition, blood, and honor that was passed on from father to son. Upon publication, The New York Times described the novel as “[a] voyeur’s dream, a skillful fantasy of violent personal power.” The novel became especially noteworthy for introducing Italian words and terms like consigliere, caporegime, Cosa Nostra, and omert√† to an English-speaking audience.

On March 15th, 1972 Francis Ford Coppola’s film adaptation of The Godfather was released, starring Marlon Brando and Al Pacino. Distributed by Paramount Pictures, The Godfather swiftly became the highest-grossing film of 1972 and was for a time the highest-grossing film ever made. It won the Oscars for Best Picture, Best Actor (Brando) and Best Adapted Screenplay (for Puzo and Coppola).

First edition of The Godfather; inscribed by Mario Puzo to to Hollywood screenwriter Barry Beckerman and his wife.
First edition of The Godfather; inscribed by Mario Puzo to Hollywood screenwriter Barry Beckerman and his wife.

Its seven other Oscar nominations included Pacino, James Caan, and Robert Duvall for Best Supporting Actor and Coppola for Best Director. It is widely regarded as one of the greatest films in world cinema and one of the most influential, especially in the gangster genre.

 

The film was succeeded by the Godfather II in 1974 (which has come to be viewed as perhaps the best sequel in cinematic history), and the Godfather III in 1990. View the rare first editions of this important work currently in our collection here.