Saturday, March 13, 2010

Meredith and Co. Arrives Par Avion!

Meredith and Co. by George Mills arrived today via Royal Mail [par avion] from Chapter House Books in Shelbourne, Dorset, in the U.K. Here are the details on this edition:

Sales Order No.: 68472860

Bookseller: Chapter House Books (Member of the PBFA)

Payment Processed By: Abebooks

Estimated Delivery Date: May 26, 2010

Author: George Mills

Title: Meredith and Co

Bookseller Book No.: 5685

Book Description: The Viscount Series. Fair in fair, well worn, torn and plastic protected d/w. Spine cocked, cloth crinkled, edge of boards faded and bumped, corners bumped, owner's inscription (dated 1957) on fep, front hinge weak, pages browned, spotting to endpapers, gatherings strained.

Date Processed: March 3, 2010

*** Your special instructions to the bookseller:
Thank you! Also, if there is anything you can tell me about the author, George Mills, I would very much appreciate knowing it. Biographical information on the internet has been difficult to find.

In an email time-stamped that same day, Wednesday, March 03, 2010, 4:15 PM, Claire Porter of Chapter House Books [pictured, right] responded to my request for info, and flatlined my search for information about G.M., at least from her direction:


Thank you for your prompt response, the book went in the post today. I am afraid that I haven't been able to find anything out about the author, sorry.

Many thanks for the order


That's okay, Claire. It can't always be 84 Charing Cross Road, you know. The book you've sold me itself has some peculiar clues in it that I'll try to unravel in another posting here.

Meanwhile, let's look at some basics. This edition is from the "Viscount Series" intended "For Boys and Girls", published by Andrew Dakers Ltd., Spring House, Spring Place, London NW5, although it was "Printed in Czechoslovakia". Other titles in the series are listed as Ace Carew, The Black Ghost, Dangerous Road, Mystery at Gull's Nest, Shy Girl at Southdown, Jenny's Exciting Term, and Jenny of the Fourth. It has 232 pages, one full-color frontispiece printed on glossy paper opposite the title page, and three black & white illustrations.

My undated edition of King Willow was published by Spring Books, Spring House, Spring Place, London NW5, and also printed in Czechoslovakia. King Willow is listed as part of the "Fanfare Series" intended "for boys and girls". Other titles in the series include The Kestrels Plot Adventure, Tom Merry & Co. of St. Jim's, The Hoax of a Lifetime, The Mysterious Orchard, Judy's Triumph, The Secret of the Red Mill, and The Unknown Adventurer. It has 256 pages, one full-color plate opposite the title page, and three black & white illustrations. King Willow is ostensibly a sequel to Meredith and Co., with many of the same characters.

The overall quality of the printing is much better in King Willow than Meredith and Co., despite the fact that what appears to have been the same publisher printed both books in post-war Czechoslovakia.

The dust-jacket art for Meredith is simply a very poorly registered four-color copy of the color plate found inside the book. Willow features a full-color dust jacket with original art that is not found anywhere within the text.

The full-color art in King Willow is signed "Tom Thursby". The single full-color plate in Meredith and Co. is simply signed "Vernon". None of the black & white illustrations from either book are signed by the pen-and-ink artist.

It's difficult to tell if the total six B&W illustrations in both books were drawn by the same hand. The art in Meredith seems to be highly stylized to resemble woodcuts, while in Willow, the drawings are executed with far more modern and organic brush work executed along with the pen.

This 1957 edition of Meredith and Co. appears to be the same as that found in the collection of the British Library: Meredith and Co.; Andrew Dakers: London; printed in Czechoslovakia, 1957. Although there is no publication date, an owner's inscription reads: "to Mark with love from Paul. Xmas 1957". Or is that "7" perhaps a "4"...?

The most recent edition of King Willow on the shelves of the British Library is: King Willow (New edition); Oxford University Press: London, 1951. My copy is clearly not that edition, probably being an even newer "New edition".

So, circumstantial evidence seems to point to the fact that Andrew Dakers Ltd. and Spring Books may be the same publisher, sharing the same address in London and outsourcing printing to Czechoslovakia. Each sold a series of books "for boys and girls" by an array of authors, one called "Viscount" [emblazoned upon a crown], the other "Fanfare" [displayon a banner hanging from heraldic trumpets]. Both publishers neglected to date their publications. Are these publishers truly one and the same? If you have any information, I'd love to have it as well, please!

Regarding the illustrations, "Tom Thursby" handled color art for King Willow, and someone named "Vernon" did the color plate for the 1957 edition of Meredith and Co. Who, though, is "Vernon", and who did the six B&W illustrations for these texts? Have the B&W and/or color plates simply been re-used exactly as they were in the original editions of the two books, first published in the 1930s, or were they newly commisioned for these reprinted editions?

As always, if you have any information on "Vernon", or anything else, please leave it in the "comments" section of this entry, or e-mail it to me—and thanks!

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