Friday, December 11, 2009

A Very Unusual Nancy Drew Book

I bought a very interesting book last week. It is one of the most interesting purchases I have made in the last couple of years. I believe it is a printing anomaly, and a rather bizarre one at that. In the past, I have referred to several Nancy Drew printing anomalies as "bizarre," but this one trumps them all. This book is a thousand times more bizarre. If I did not have it in my possession, I would think it was a scam. In fact, when I viewed the seller's auction, I was concerned that the book was not what it appeared to be.

For those of you who have Farah's Guide, I have a book with boards that match that of Format #13. The boards are Cover Stock #6. The book is Format #13 in every way except for one thing: The book has digger endpapers. No one has ever mentioned seeing digger endpapers on any book from Format #13.

Nancy Drew books in Format #13 were printed during 1949 and 1950. Format #13 books are commonly called "solid blue" books. These are the books that came right before the tweed format. The Format #13 books all have blue silhouette endpapers—or so we thought. The tweed format began in 1951, and for a short time, the early tweed books were printed with blue silhouette endpapers. The digger endpapers were not introduced until 1953, two years later.

It does not make sense for a Format #13 book to have digger endpapers, since Format #13 ended two years before the introduction of the digger endpapers. As soon as I had the book in my possession, I carefully looked it over to see if it could be some kind of scam. It does not look like the book has been tampered with, except for the unfortunate fact that someone took black ink or marker and heavily darkened the top edge of the text block. Aside from that, the book looks fine to me.

I decided that the book is not a hoax. My other thought was that the book could be some kind of international edition. We have discussed the "blue velvet" Dana Girls books recently in one of the Yahoo! Groups, but I see nothing to indicate that this book is something similar to that. The dust jacket has no special codes, nor does the book have any special markings that I can find. Besides, if the book were an international edition, it seems we would have seen some of these already.

If the book is not a hoax or an international edition, then it must be a very strange misprint variant. But how? How would digger endpapers end up on a book that is in an earlier format?

The dust jacket meets all of the points for the 1955C-34 printing according to Farah's 12th edition. The book seems to be Format #13 from 1949-1950 except for the digger endpapers. After closely examining the book against Farah's Guide, I determined that the inside of the book cannot be from before 1953. The first page of the story does not have the title of the book present on that page. Printings from 1953 on did not have the title on the first page of the story. Books in Format #13 are supposed to have the title present on the first page of the story. Therefore, this book that appears to be in Format #13 is from 1953 or later.

It could be that a 1955 dust jacket is on a 1953 book, or it could be that the book and jacket are from 1955. I have checked the book and the jacket, and I can find nothing about the wear to the jacket that is obviously different than that of the book. This does not prove that the jacket is original to the book, but no evidence exists to disprove it. If we assume that the book and jacket are from 1955, then we have a very bizarre variant book.

Both Jenn Fisher and David Farah agree that this is a very unusual book. David Farah wrote:
"It seems strange to me that this hasn't come up before. Not on any volume where there were several years between cover stocks rather than just being used near the time they were discontinued.

I get lots of potential listings which turn out to be incorrect, which is why I usually don't list anything remotely controversial unless I get two confirmations.

I trust that Jennifer knows what she is looking at, but I still find it unusual.
I have to agree. Consider that in decades of gathering data about the Nancy Drew series that David Farah has never run across a book like this one. Exactly what do I have here? How did it happen?

I have one theory, which is that solid blue boards from another series ended up on a Nancy Drew book. I have always assumed that all of the Grosset and Dunlap books switched from this format to tweed at about the same time. I know that the Judy Bolton books remained in the tweed format during the early 1960s longer than other series. For that reason, I wondered whether any Grosset and Dunlap books remained in this format longer before going to the tweed format.

If so, the books that would be of interest would be ones that are solid blue. Vicki Barr and Beverly Gray are the two series that come to mind. If anyone can think of others, please let me know. I checked my Beverly Gray books, and it appears that Beverly Gray went to the tweed format at least a year later than Nancy Drew, but likely not as late as 1953. I have never paid enough attention to Vicki Barr to know exactly what happened with the Vicki Barr series.

I will have additional comments to make about this book and related topics in the coming days.


Lynn said...

I agree that it does indeed seem to be an anomoly. It would make me wonder if as one of the middle texts that allegedly had less sales volume if some old cover stock just showed up at the binders accidentally. It does look rare. I am curious as to whether anyone ever finds a couple of anomolies I have in my collection. One is the early version of BMEP in books printed after 1959. The other is the mirror image BMEP which seems to have occurred in 1963. I have a couple examples of this in early. YSPC from about this era. In one book it is only the back and in the other both front and back.

Luc said...

To address the last portion of your post, the last Beverly Gray book with the same cover stock as this copy of Brass Bound Trunk, as far as I can tell, was Secret. The first tweed book by my notes was Island Mystery. Secret was copyrighted on 9th February 1951, Island Mystery on 2nd May 1952. The switch to tweed boards appears to have happened a year following the Nancy Drew switch.

I've always got the impression that the Beverly Gray series got whatever cover stock was available/left over at the time: think of the red Orient format, maroon Challenge and that slew of formats unleashed in 1944-45. I would assume that a concerted effort was made to maintain a certain constancy in Nancy Drew formats, considering it was the top selling G&D series at the time (unless the Hardys were?), and that other series like BG often got the castoffs. This would account for the fact that the Beverly Gray series was a year behind the curve in switching to tweed boards; in 1951, they were probably given the remainders of the Nancy Drew stock, and, when those boards were mostly used up, they switched to tweed in 1952.

If the Nancy Drew series was, indeed, leading the curve in terms of cover stock, it would seem that when CS 6 was discontinued, other series would use those boards for another year or two, before moving onto the tweed boards. I wouldn't necessarily say that "solid blue boards from another series ended up on [this particular] Nancy Drew book", because I think the boards are generic before titles, figures, cameos etc. are printed onto them. Rather, I would think that there were just extra boards lying around, and somehow they got amalgamated into a Nancy Drew print run. Since everything about the book and jacket except the cover stock work with a 1955 printing, I would assume said print run to have been the 1955C-34 one (+/- a couple, as can often be the case), just with outmoded boards somebody dug up and decided to get rid of.

Jennifer said...

I am curious as to whether anyone ever finds a couple of anomolies I have in my collection.

I do not believe I have seen either of those, but I will definitely keep an eye out for them.

Luc, thanks for verifying what my cursory examination of my Beverly Gray books told me. I glanced at my first printings, with the result that I thought that the Beverly Gray books were delayed by one year going into the tweed format.

I think the boards are generic before titles, figures, cameos etc. are printed onto them. Rather, I would think that there were just extra boards lying around, and somehow they got amalgamated into a Nancy Drew print run.

You put this so much better than I did. I do think that something like this explains what happened with my book.

By the way, when I first received the book, I immediately pulled my first printing of Wooden Lady off the shelf, removed the jacket from both books, and placed them side by side. Both books are identical on the outside. I compared the two books to make sure that the book was just like any other Format #13 book on the outside.

Lynn said...

I read an article for collectors some time ago that said Nancy Drew not only led the sales for the series books division, but also that this series was the one that format changes were usually implemented or tried first, meaning there were more oddball printings than other series. However, the argument that Nancy Drew series should be the most uniform makes sense. Is it possible that they were printing the information on the boards for this book, and ran out of cover stock, and just took something similar that was on hand?

Gina said...

Hi Jennifer,

Thanks for this exhaustive Web site! I have gone through your main web site looking for information on a 1970 reprint by Grosset and Dunlap in which the Nancy Drew books were combined in pairs and printed with a grey pictorial cover. Each copy has two of the original Nancy Drew books in it. I have been all over the Internet and finally I found some of them on Abe's books, but they don't provide any information. Are these a rare printing or unusual? Is that why I can't find them mentioned with all the other printings of Nancy Drew? I have 19 of these books. Would there have been more in the collection?

Jennifer said...

Those books are known as the "twin thriller" editions. They are a book club edition from the 1970s. I don't have a page on them, but here is one from another site:

Twin Thriller Editions

There are 27 books in the set of the smaller sized ones. There is a smaller set of 8 books in which the books are slightly taller and thicker.

The books are harder to find than the regular editions, but they are not that scarce.

stratomiker said...

Having known people who worked at G&D in the 1960s when I lived there in Manhattan, I have a different outlook on the books and formats and printings.

To me this book is just a mid-fifties Drew with maybe a slightly mis-matched DJ that got slapped in leftover format 13 boards. The fallacy that books were actually all made as 'they're all the same' printings will one day be recognized. I mentioned before on this board that I have many oddball variations and 'printings' that have never been put in the guides, even when I sent them to the guide makers who sent them back not wanting to use them because they didn't fit in.

I recently found two hole-in-the-DJs Mysterious Letters, both on blue multipicture 1960 books. Both 1950 DJs on identical 1960s books! So who knows how that happened. Somehow, those DJs were found left over in the warehouse and slapped on 1960 books.

Guide makers don't like these variations because it challenges their theory that all the books from a 'printing' need to be the same. Which is not the way it goes in the real biblio world. 'Variations' are accepted within a 'printing' because things like this are common and do happen.


Series Books said...

First, congrats Jennifer on finding something new and exciting.

I think that Mike has several valid points. The process of matching up cloth bindings with endpages, then collating of octavo signatures (16 pp) & rear publisher ads and finally binding them all together, I'm sure led to more frequent mishaps than we may all have thought. My guess is that they often ended up in the scrap heap and, unless they could be repaired, never made it out of the door.

I do have several unusual "anomalies" in my collection. Has anyone else ever found a series book with double endpages (two sets)??