Publication History of the Foundation Series by Isaac Asimov

Foundation and it's immediate sequels Foundation and Empire and Second Foundation were originally published as connected episodic stories in Astounding Science Fiction, at the behest of the magazine's editor John W. Campbell, Jr. The issues in which the original stories appeared and the eventual writing and publication of further sequels and prequels are featured here.

Foundation (1951)

Book publication of F oundation comprised a new introductory framing story The Psychohistorians, followed by 4 stories that appeared in Astounding under different names in two issues in 1942 and a further two issues in 1944. Clearly, Asimov didn't immediately envisage more than the two stories, or that they would eventually become a celebrated SF series. He went back to the same universe and idea in 1944 at Campbell's request.

Interestingly, in their original publication in the magazine, the final two stories were reversed as chapters upon the publication of Foundation as a cohesive book. The first edition was published in August 1951 by Gnome Press, with a dust-jacket illustration by David A. Kyle.  Weidenfeld & Nicolson republished the book in '53, as part of their "Science Fiction Shelf" collection, under rights from Gnome. The very first paperback appearance of Foundation was in a slightly abridged form (160 pp) as part of an 'Ace Double' in 1955 (paired with No World of Their Own by Poul Anderson). Ace republished the abridged version in 1960's as a standalone, with the same cover art. The first unabridged PB edition in English was published in Britain in 1960 (Panther) for 2/6. In 1962 Doubleday (who were by then publishing all of Asimov's fiction) acquired the rights from Gnome Press, and subsequently published their own edition for the first time in 1963.

Foundation and Empire (1952)

The book publication of F oundation and Empire comprised 2 novellas that appeared in Astounding Science Fiction in 1945. "Dead Hand" came second in the Retro Hugo Awards for 1945 for best novella - it was beaten to the win by "The Mule"! These were voted for in the 1996 Retro Awards ceremony.

As with Foundation, the second book in the trilogy, Foundation and Empire, was first published by Gnome Press in two editions in 1952. A paperback followed in 1955, again from Ace (as for Foundation), though this time it was not abridged into an 'Ace-Double' but was complete and a standalone. The title was changed for the Ace release, interestingly. The first UK publication was again a PB from Panther, who would go on to publish numerous editions with well known art throughout the following decades. As with Foundation, Doubleday published a HB edition of Foundation and Empire after they acquired the rights from Gnome in '62. 

Second Foundation (1953)

Novel publication of Second  F oundation again  comprised 2 novellas, which first appeared in Astounding Science Fiction in 1948 ("Now You See It...") and 1949 ("...And Now You Don't"). It's interesting to see how long it took Asimov to pen the stories that comprise the original trilogy of books. A very fast writer, and not lacking in imagination, one can only suppose that these stories were not planned as books, and that Asimov had other writing priorities. Given how important and successful they became, this is an interesting perspective.

The final book in the original trilogy, Second Foundation, was first published by Gnome Press in 1953, with rather snazzy cover art by Ric Brinkley. Two paperbacks came out in 1958 in the US and UK. In the US, the PB was not published by Ace this time, but by Avon, who went on to publish all the trilogy books over the next couple of decades (see further down). In the UK, initial publication was by  Digit Books at a cost of 2/-. Panther, who went on to publish the Foundation novels for 3 decades did not publish Second Foundation until 1964. Of course, this was in line with their publication of the first two books in 1960 and 1962, respectively. The publication of Second Foundation in the UK by Digit in '58 was rather odd in retrospect - the prior two books would not published in the country for several years, meaning UK readers had only the third book available for them. As with the first two books, Doubleday republished a HB edition in '63, following their acquisition of the publishing rights.

Publication of the Original Trilogy - 1964 to 1983

Following Doubleday's publication of the original trilogy of books in 1963, the series was much more widely available and gained a significant reputation. Starting to be recognised as one of the great works of SF, publishers from hereon started to publish the trilogy with matching covers and designs. Many of these are covered below in chronological order of publication.  

Panther (UK) - 1964
The first cohesive publication of the trilogy of books in PB

Panther (UK) - 1965
Only a year later and a second edition of the trilogy was published by Panther

Avon - 1966
The first matching PB publication of the trilogy in the USA. These editions ran for 10 years in the US, with the same cover art.

Panther (UK) - 1969
This popular UK publisher (an imprint of Granada Publishing) was leading the charge in popularising Asimov. 

Panther (UK) - 1973
These popular covers, by Chris Foss, graced the Foundation paperback books published in the UK by Panther for a decade.

Del Rey Ballantine - 1983
A new publisher in the US after a decade of Avon, the Ballentine's sported art by Darrell K. Sweet. 

Foundations Edge (1982) & Foundation and Earth (1986)

1982 saw the publication of a new Foundation novel: Foundations Edge

From hereon, Asimov wrote novels of greater length and the books are not collections of stories, but complete works. The initial HB publication of Foundations Edge came from Doubleday, after which the novel quickly came to be incorporated into the series produced by PB publishers (see below). 

In 1986, a fifth and final book in the story arc was published: Foundation and Earth. Subsequent Foundation novels from Asimov would be prequels. From 1986 onwards, Foundation and Earth also found its way into matching PB series.

Publication of the Expanded Series - 1983 to 1988

Granada (UK) - 1984
The first four books were published in 1984, with the final book added in the same style in 1987. Artwork by Tim White.

Del Rey Ballantine - 1986
Most of the UK covers, although appealing and memorable, never really showcased the storyline. Indeed, most UK covers had nothing to do with Asimov's tale. The covers of the Del Rey's from the mid-late 1980's, by the great Michael Whelan, were excellent and representative.

Prelude to Foundation (1988) & Forward the Foundation (1993)

Isaac Asimov's last novels were the prequels to the Foundation story. While some feel they were not as good as the originals and Foundation's Edge, I might disagree. They are exceedingly readable and the final story, although only written to a late draft by the time of Asimov's death on April 6th 1992, is in some ways his most personal and affecting book. The first editions of Prelude to Foundation and Forward the Foundation came out in 1988 and 1993 (posthumously) respectively.  

Publication of the Complete Series - 1988 to Current Editions

Bantam Spectra - 1991
This PB edition was the first to incorporate the first prequel novel, but strangely didn't seem to include the final novel Foundation and Earth. Which was odd.

Note: Bantam and Del Rey are PB imprints of the Doubleday Publishing House.

Harper-Collins (UK) - 1994
A nice matching edition, but again, the UK covers bear little relation to the story. Fo rward the Foundation still not included.

Bantam-Spectra - 2004
These reused art, mainly from the '94 Bantam edition, but with smaller use of the art (which is a shame as it's super artwork). All seven books are included, however.
(I have these)

Harper-Voyager (UK) - 2016 
The current UK edition of the Foundation saga misses out Forward the Foundation, which is a strange shame. In keeping with prior UK releases, the artwork is of generic SF images largely unrelated to the storyline. 

Del Rey - 2021
A new US edition published as a tie-in the the new/upcoming Apple TV series. Will contain all seven books, though Foundation itself is not yet published, strangely.

Foundation Original Trilogy Omnibus Editions  

Publishers started to group the original trilogy into omnibus editions, after Doubleday acquired the rights from Gnome, starting with a Doubleday HB in 1963, which was republished on several occasions over the next decade or so. The SFBC published several editions with other publishers. A recent edition offered by Barnes and Noble is the same edition as published in 2004 by the SFBC. Panther (UK) and Avon (US) offered the original trilogy in boxed sets of the PB books in the 1970's, but these were not omnibus editions and carried versions of the same artwork found on the 70's PB releases from these publishers (see above). A new collection of previously unpublished books, by the quality book publisher The Folio Society, was published in 2012.