The first chapter of Maus appeared in December 1980 in the second issue of Raw as a small insert; a new chapter appeared in each issue until the magazine came to an end in 1991. Every chapter but the last appeared in Raw.
Spiegelman struggled to find a publisher for a book edition of Maus, but after a rave New York Times review of the serial in August 1986, Pantheon Books published the first six chapters in a volume 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, as he believed that the film, produced by Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment, was inspired by Maus and wished to avoid comparisons with it.
The book found a large audience, partly because of its distribution through bookstores rather than the direct market comic shops where comic books were normally sold. Maus was difficult for critics and reviewers to classify, and also for booksellers, who needed to know on which shelves to place it. Though 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 had novelistic qualities. He suspected the term's use was an attempt to validate the comics form, rather than to describe the content of the books. Spiegelman later came to accept the term, and 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.
Pantheon collected the last five chapters in 1991 in a second volume subtitled And Here My Troubles Began. Pantheon later collected the two volumes into soft- and hardcover two-volume boxed sets and single-volume editions. In 1994 the Voyager Company released The Complete Maus on CD-ROM, a collection which contained the original comics, Vladek's taped transcripts, filmed interviews, sketches, and other background material. The CD-ROM was based on HyperCard, a Macintosh-only application that has since become obsolete. 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 Spiegelman's 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."
Penguin Books obtained the rights to publish the initial volume in the Commonwealth 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 most of the book and Polish was the language of his parents and his own mother tongue. The publishers of the German edition had to convince the German culture ministry of the work's serious intent to have the swastika appear on the cover, per laws prohibiting the display of Nazi symbolism. Reception in Germany 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 how serious an insult it was. Publishers and commentators refused to deal with the book for fear of protests and boycotts. Piotr Bikont, a journalist for Gazeta Wyborcza, set up his own publishing house to publish Maus in Polish in 2001. 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 yet to come to fruition. A Russian law passed in December 2014 prohibiting the display of Nazi propaganda led to the removal of Maus from Russian bookstores leading up to Victory Day due to the swastika appearing on the book's cover.
A few panels were changed for the Hebrew edition of Maus. 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 appeared in 1990 from the publishing house Zmora Bitan. It had an indifferent or negative reception, and the publisher 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 a fearless defender of the homeland, and that of the American Jew as a feeble victim, something that one Israeli writer disparaged as "the diaspora sickness".[f]