The first chapter of Maus appeared in December 1980 in the second issue of Raw. A new chapter of the story appeared in every issue as a small insert in the oversized magazine until it came to an end in 1991. Every chapter except the last appeared in Raw.
Spiegelman struggled to find a publisher for Maus, but in August 1986, after a rave New York Times review of the serial, Pantheon Books published the first six chapters in one volume. The book was called Maus: A Survivor's Tale, and subtitled My Father Bleeds History. Spiegelman was relieved that the book's publication preceded the theatrical release of the animated film An American Tail by three months. He believed that the film, produced by Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment, was inspired by Maus, and in any case he wished to avoid comparisons with it.
The book found a large audience, partly because it was sold through bookstores, rather than the direct market comic shops where comic books were normally sold. However, the book was difficult for critics and reviewers to classify, and also for booksellers, who needed to know on which shelves to place it. Pantheon pushed for the term "graphic novel"; Spiegelman was not comfortable with this, as many book-length comics were being referred to as "graphic novels" whether or not they were novelistic. He also suspected the term was being used in an attempt to validate the comics form, rather than to describe the content of the books. Spiegelman later came to accept the term, and, along with Drawn and Quarterly publisher Chris Oliveros, successfully lobbied the Book Industry Study Group in the early 2000s to include "graphic novel" as a category in bookstores.
In 1991, Pantheon collected the last five chapters in the second volume, subtitled And Here My Troubles Began. Pantheon later collected the two volumes into soft– and hard-covered two-volume boxed sets and single-volume editions. In 1994, the Voyager Company released The Complete Maus on CD-ROM, a collection which, as well as the original comics, contained Vladek's taped transcripts, filmed interviews with the author, sketches, and other background material. The CD-ROM was based on HyperCard, a now-obsolete Macintosh-only application. In 2011 Pantheon Books published a companion to The Complete Maus entitled MetaMaus, with further background material, including filmed footage of Vladek. The centerpiece of the book is a Spiegelman interview conducted by Hillary Chute. It also has interviews with his wife and children, sketches, photographs, family trees, assorted artwork, and a DVD with video, audio, photos, and an interactive version of Maus.
Spiegelman dedicated Maus to his brother Richieu and his first daughter Nadja. The book's epigraph is a quote from Adolf Hitler: "The Jews are undoubtedly a race, but they are not human."
The rights to publish the initial volume in the Commonwealth were licensed to Penguin Books in 1986. In support of the African National Congress's cultural boycott in opposition to apartheid, Spiegelman refused to "compromise with fascism" by allowing publication of his work in South Africa.
By 2011, Maus had been translated into about thirty languages. Three translations were particularly important to Spiegelman: French, as his wife was French, and because of his respect for the sophisticated Franco-Belgian comics tradition; German, given the book's background; and Polish. Poland was the setting for the majority of the book, and Polish was the language of his parents. Spiegelman has said that Polish was his own mother tongue. The German reception was positive—Maus was a best-seller, and was taught in schools. The Polish translation encountered difficulties; as early as 1987, when Spiegelman planned a research visit to Poland, the Polish consulate official who approved his visa questioned him about the Poles' depiction as pigs and pointed out what a serious insult it was. Publishers and commentators refused to deal with the book for fear of protests and boycotts. In 2001, Piotr Bikont, a journalist for Gazeta Wyborcza, set up his own publishing house to publish Maus in Polish. Demonstrators protested Maus 's publication, and burned the book in front of Gazeta 's offices. Bikont's response was to don a pig mask and wave to the protesters from the office windows. The magazine-sized Japanese translation was the only authorized edition with larger pages. Long-standing plans for an Arabic translation have not yet come to fruition.
For the Hebrew edition of Maus, a few panels were changed. Based on Vladek's memory, Spiegelman portrayed one of the minor characters as a member of the Nazi-installed Jewish Police. An Israeli descendant objected and threatened to sue for libel. Spiegelman redrew the character with a fedora in place of his original police hat, but appended a note to the volume voicing his objection to this "intrusion". This version of the first volume was published in 1990. Its reception was indifferent or negative, and the publisher, Zmora Bitan, did not release the second volume. Another Israeli publisher put out both volumes, with a new translation by poet Yehuda Vizan that included Vladek's broken language, which Zmora Bitan had refused to do. Marilyn Reizbaum saw this as highlighting a difference between the self-image of the Israeli Jew as fearless defender of the homeland, and that of the American Jew as feeble victim, something that one Israeli writer disparaged as "the diaspora sickness".[e]