Chronicle Books released Playboy: The Complete Centerfolds 1953-2016 in September. With Hugh Hefner’s death last week, the collection now contains the last foreword the Playboy founder will ever write for a book. “These women are what makes the magazine special, which makes them truly special to me. I dedicate this book to them,” Hefner wrote in his preface.
Hefner's death lead Chronicle to go back to press for the collection, which contains photographs of 734 nude centerfolds. By mid-November, there will be around 25-30,000 copies of the title in print.
Chronicle's partnership with Playboy Publishing began in 2001 when the publisher’s current editorial director Sarah Malarkey signed two books to celebrate the publisher’s 50th anniversary: Playboy: 50 Years of Cartoons and Playboy: 50 Years of Photography. “He was a real publisher as well as a playboy,” says Malarkey, recalling Hefner’s meticulous attention to detail on every publishing project, from centerfolds to cartoons. Chronicle has now released 12 titles with Playboy Publishing.
Playboy: The Complete Centerfolds has a long history at Chronicle. The $500 first edition was released in 2007, a 32-pound 11" x 23" tome that came complete with its own briefcase. One year later, Chronicle published a 6 x 12" edition for $50. This year’s mid-sized version is 8 x 13" and carries a $75 price-tag. For all three iterations (including the latest one), there are about 75-80,000 copies now in print.
For many years, Hefner's magazine was an incubator for literary talent. Previous editions of Playboy: The Complete Centerfolds featured decade-specific essays from literary luminaries from every era of the magazine: Robert Coover on the 1950s, Paul Theroux on the 1960s, and Jay McInerney on the 1980s. These are all included in the new edition, along with a new essay about the 2010s from Elizabeth Wurtzel.
“The quickest way to understand a nation's culture is through its sexual fantasies,” writes novelist and journalist Theroux in his essay—describing how Hefner’s work with both great centerfolds and great authors reshaped our world.