To describe it in one sentence, it is a big book of reprinted comic book stories from 1938 to 1955.
It was first published in 1981. It couldn't have been too long after that when I first found it at the public library.
To put it into perspective, this was years before graphic novels, particularly reprint collections, became a thing, let alone an industry standard. Coming across A Smithsonian Book of Comic Book Comics was a big thing for me at a young age. I'd never seen anything like it.
More than that, it is a fascinating selection of comics, along with some handy introductions. In fact, these days, the choices that the editor made her even more interesting.
While there are some superhero comics in the collection, including the first appearances of Superman and Batman, a hefty chunk of the book is made up of comedy stories and drama. Stuff that you still don't see reprinted all that much.
This was my introduction to the original Red Tornado and Jingle Jangle Tales and Pogo Possum and EC Comics, among other things. Bernie Krigstein's Master Race which ends the book has stuck with me with years. And, yes, I am sure I would've eventually learned about all of those but this gave me one heck of a head start.
What I am really curious about is how many other people did this book effect or influence? I know that it had an impact on me, being, like I said, one of the only examples of reprints at the time. What kind of impact did it have on other people, possibly including people who would go on to make comic books themselves?