ROMAN BLOOD
The 20th Anniversary Pages



Scroll down to see The International Cover Gallery • Click to see How Roman Blood Came to Be WrittenThe First Chapter of the Abandoned First DraftThe First ReviewThe Map of Gordianus’s Rome • Links to buy Roman Blood in the USUKCanadaItalyFranceSpain • See all the books in the Roma Sub Rosa® series


Roman Blood by Steven Saylor was first published October 15, 1991, by St. Martin’s Press, New York. The novel has remained in print continuously ever since.

Roman Blood turned out to be the first in a long-running series featuring Gordianus the Finder, sleuth of ancient Rome. The Roma Sub Rosa series, as it is collectively known, currently comprises ten novels and two collections of short stories. The adventures of Gordianus run to over a million words.

The book’s initial success was quite modest. Steven was paid an advance of $3000 and St. Martin’s Press produced a first printing of 2000 copies, followed by a second printing of 1500 copies. Many copies of this small first edition went to libraries, making the number of pristine copies available to collectors quite small. As a result, a first edition copy of Roman Blood is rare. (One rare book dealer called Roman Blood “perhaps the least common of the modern mystery firsts,” and a seller on eBay called the first edition of Roman Blood “the holy grail of modern mystery first collectors.”)

How did Roman Blood come to be written and published? Steven tells the story here.




The International Cover Gallery

Since 1991, Roman Blood has been published in 15 languages; in some countries there have been multiple editions. Steven managed to track down all the covers for all known editions in all languages, and has reproduced them here. (In a few cases, the images were gleaned from the Internet and are small or of low quality; if you have a better or larger image, please let Steven know.) Also included are some rarities, including covers that were not used, the cover of the Advanced Reading Copy, and the Library of Congress audiotape edition recorded exclusively for use by the blind.

Roll your cursor over each image to see a larger version and more details, including Steven’s personal comments.

St. Martin’s Press Fall 1991 Catalog
United States
English
1991



Roman Blood was launched with little fanfare; it was just one of dozens of mystery titles released that season by the publisher, and was given only a half-page entry in the catalog. I was still making up my mind whether or not to use my middle initial, hence the ‘W.’ in the byline. Despite the November listing, the book actually shipped on 15 October.”

Advance Uncorrected Proofs
United States
English
1991
St. Martin’s Press
paperback

“The advance reading copy was strictly vanilla, with a plain blue wrapper.”

Roman Blood
United States
English
October 15, 1991
St. Martin’s Press
hardback

“I’m quite fond of this cover (never mind the anachronistic bust of Augustus); many a first-time author has been thrown into the cold world of publishing with a much less auspicious dust-jacket.”

Roman Blood
United States
English
1996
Blackstone Audiobooks
unabridged audiotape

”I have never listed to these tapes myself…I have a certain aversion to hearing my work read aloud, even (especially!) by myself…but I’m told the reader (Scott Harrison) is quite good.”

Roman Blood
United States
English
1992
Ivy Books
mass market paperback

”I thought this cover was a bit prosaic and naïve when it first came out, but seeing it now, I rather like the vibrant colors.”

Roman Blood
United States
English
2000
Minotaur
mass market paperback

“This was a proposed cover that was ultimately rejected and never used. I liked it, but it’s actually more evocative of ancient Crete or Etruria than of Republican Rome, and would have locked the succeeding volumes into a look which does not really suggest the sophistication which I hope the series possesses. This is the largest image I could find; if anyone out there can supply a larger one , please let me know.”

Roman Blood
United States
English
2000
Minotaur
mass market paperback

”This was the design chosen over the preceding candidate, and set the look of the series for almost a decade.”

Roman Blood
United States
English
2008
Minotaur
trade paperback

“This was a proposed cover that was ultimately rejected and never used. As the series transitioned from mass market paperback to trade paperback, the publisher wanted a more upscale look, using antique paintings. But I felt this particular image suggested a work of epic fantasy, and didn’t want readers to be misled.”

Roman Blood
United States
English
2008
Minotaur
trade paperback

“This was the design chosen over the preceding candidate. There is a fire in the novel, so it’s not entirely misleading, and the design is very good. This is the edition currently available from Amazon.com.”

Roman Blood
United States
English
Release date unknown
Library of Congress
unabridged audiotape

“This audiotape version can be heard only on a special player issued only to the sight-impaired; I believe volunteers record the text and the program is administered by the Library of Congress and the American Foundation for the Blind. The reader credited is Gordon Gould.”

Roman Blood
United Kingdom
English
1997
Robinson
paperback

“This was the uniform look of the series when first released in the UK, with lots of gold, chiseled letters, and a montage of images.”

Roman Blood
United Kingdom
English
2005
Constable Robinson
paperback

“The series was relaunched with a new look, overseen by art director Max Burnell: a central artifact with an atmospheric background and beautifully chiseled lettering. One splendid cover after another! (This art was later reused by the Swedish publisher.)”

Roman Blood
United Kingdom
English
2002
Isis
unabridged audiotape

”I have never listed to these tapes myself…I have a certain aversion to hearing my work read aloud, even (especially!) by myself…but I’m told the reader (Peter Wickham) is quite good.”

Roman Blood
United Kingdom
English
2011
Constable Robinson
paperback

“Another relaunch of the series with a new look: again, a central artifact and a highly designed background, but now with electric colors and a mix of serif and sans-serif type. Spectacular! Available from Amazon.co.uk.”

Das Lächeln des Cicero
Germany
German
1993
Blanvalet
hardback

“The novel was given a hardback release in Germany, but retitled ‘The Smile of Cicero.’ This is the only instance where the original title was changed. The anachronistic image is from Alma-Tadema’s painting of the emperor Domitian as Pontifex Maximus. Despite three subsequent paperback editions, the Roma Sub Rosa series never quite caught on with German readers.”

Das Lächeln des Cicero
Germany
German
1995
Goldmann
paperback

“Cicero kept smiling through two paperback editions from Goldmann.”

Das Lächeln des Cicero
Germany
German
1996
Goldmann
paperback

“Cicero kept smiling through two paperback editions from Goldmann.”

Das Lächeln des Cicero
Germany
German
2006
Weltbild
paperback

“Weltbild took over rights from Goldmann with this 2006 edition.”

Sangre Romana
Spain
Spanish
1991
Emecé
paperback

“Subtitled ‘El Primer Caso de Gordiano el Sabueso’—the first case of Gordianus the Bloodhound. The publication history of the Roma Sub Rosa series in Spanish has been persistent but a bit chaotic, with titles coming from different publishers and different countries (Spain and Argentina) and a couple of the novels available only in limited book-club editions. Spanish-language readers have to have a bit of the sabueso in them to seek out all the book in the series!”

Sangre Romana
Spain
Spanish
1993?
Cículo de Lectores
hardback

“Handsome small hardback book club edition. A ribbon for marking your place is sewn into the spine. I treasure this one.”

Sangre Romana
Spain
Spanish
2007?
Cículo de Lectores
hardback

“The entire series was brought out in matching book club editions in Spain. (Special thanks to Antonio Balado Pita for supplying this cover image.)”

Sangre Romana
Spain
Spanish
1998
Emecé
paperback

“The Roma Sub Rosa series was relaunched in Spain in beautiful matching editions, each with a numeral marking its place in the sequence. I love these covers.”

Sangre Romana
Spain
Spanish
2006
Booket/Planeta
paperback

“Booket took over rights from Emecé with this paperback edition, currently available from Amazon.es.”

Romeins Bloed
The Netherlands
Dutch
1993
De Boekerij
paperback

“The series look in The Netherlands used red-drenched images from Pompeii and a gold border. Very handsome.”

Romeins Bloed
The Netherlands
Dutch
1996
De Boekerij
paperback

“Small paperback edition of the novel in the publisher’s Parel Pockets format.”

Romeins Bloed
The Netherlands
Dutch
2000
De Boekerij
hardback

“This hardback omnibus edition coupled Roman Blood with the next book in the series, Dood van een Slavendrijver (Arms of Nemesis).”

Du Sang sur Rome
France
French
1997
Éditions Ramsay
paperback

“A rather large paperback edition. A French reader later complained to me that some of my books were being cut in translation, but I don’t think that was the case with Roman Blood.”

Du Sang sur Rome
France
French
1998
Club France Loisirs
hardback

“A hardback book club edition with a very striking dust-jacket.”

Du Sang sur Rome
France
French
1998
Éditions Ramsay
paperback

“Pocket paperback issued in the 10/18 Grand Détectives line.”

Du Sang sur Rome
France
French
2002
Éditions Ramsay
paperback

“I never received a copy of this edition, and I’m actually not even sure it was ever published. If you own a copy or can supply a better image, please let me know.”

Du Sang sur Rome
France
French
publication date unknown
Succès du Livre
paperback

“I know virtually nothing about this edition; I just happened to come across this image and some scant information on the Web. It appears that Succès du Livre is now defunct. If you own a copy of this edition, please let me know.”


Rimskaia krov

Russia
Russian
1996
Cron
hardback

“Like the Golden Books of my childhood, this is a small hardback with the cover art laminated onto the boards and a glossy finish; there are colored, patterned endpapers, and the paper inside is rather coarse, like newsprint. It has a cheap look but is nevertheless quite beautifully designed. The map is not included.”

Rímská Krev
The Czech Republic
Czech
1998
Baronet
hardback

“Lovely little hardback with a nice dust-jacket; a simpler version of the cover art is also printed directly onto the cover boards. The map is not included. The Latin inscription on the temple is from Seneca: ‘All things death claims: ’tis law, not punishment, to die.’”

Sangue Romano
Portugal
Portuguese
2000
Quetzal/Bertrand
paperback

“The rich Pompeian red color scheme exemplifies the look of the first release of the Roma Sub Rosa series in Portugal, where the adventures of Gordianus have found a devoted readership. (Special thanks to Carlos M Caldas for supplying this cover image.)”

Sangue Romano
Portugal
Portuguese
2008
Bertrand
paperback

“A very handsome, spare design typical of the new look for the re-release of the series in Portugal.”

Sangue Romano
Portugal
Portuguese
2010
Bertrand
paperback

“A pocket-sized edition of the book in Bertrand’s popular 11/17 Best-seller line.”

Romerblod
Norway
Norwegian
2000
Cappelen
hardback

“A chunky hardback with a very austere, even severe dust-jacket…except for those red scratches, which are part of the design.”

Romberblod
Norway
Norwegian
2001
Cappelen
paperback

“This is a smallish paperback edition; the author’s name is printed in highly reflective gold, which is hard to capture in a reproduction. The seemingly random red scratches are part of the design.”

Rzymska Krew
Poland
Polish
2001
Rebis
paperback

“The highly sophisticated design is typical of the Roma Sub Rosa series in Poland; I suspect this uniform look has contributed greatly to the fact that all the books have been issued there.”

Zagadki Gordianusa
Poland
Polish
2011
Rebis
paperback

“Titled Gordianus Mysteries, this paperback omnibus includes both Roman Blood and The House of the Vestals. It’s the first of a series of omnibus editions that will include two Gordianus titles in each book, keeping the Roma Sub Rosa series in print in Poland.”

Római Vér
Hungary
Magyar
2003
Agave
paperback

“Hungary may the country where the series is most popular; I’ve visited Budapest twice on book tour, and been delighted to meet many readers. All the covers (with a design that wraps all around the book) are quite striking.”

Romarblod
Sweden
Swedish
2005
Wahlström & Widstrand
hardback

“The first of five (so far) editions published in Sweden: two hardback and three paperback editions.”

Romarblod
Sweden
Swedish
2006
Wahlström & Widstrand
paperback

“A pocket-sized edition followed a year after the hardback.”

Romarblod
Sweden
Swedish
2007
Wahlström & Widstrand
hardback

“For the second Swedish hardback, the publisher decided to use cover art designed by UK publisher Constable.”

Romarblod
Sweden
Swedish
2007
Wahlström & Widstrand
paperback

“A larger format paperback that appears to have come out the same year as the hardback with this cover design.”

Romarblod
Sweden
Swedish
2007
Wahlström & Widstrand
paperback

“A pocket-sized edition that appears to have come out the same year as the hardback with this cover design.”

Romersk Blod
Denmark
Danish
2005
Husets
paperback

“A very sturdy paperback with covers that fold in, like the flaps of a dust-jacket.”

Sangue su Roma
Italy
Italian
2007
Editrice Nord
hardback

“In 2007, the series finally debuted in Italy with this handsome hardback edition. This reproduction does not capture the embossing on the author’s name and the jewel. Available from Amazon.it.”

Sangue su Roma
Italy
Italian
2008
TEA
paperback

“This large paperback edition followed the hardback of the previous year. Available from Amazon.it.”


Korea
Korean
2010
Chungrim
paperback

“The hefty Korean edition features lots of design elements unfamiliar to Western eyes. These have a very classy look and feel, and are elegantly designed inside as well.”





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