Saturday, March 20, 2010

Minor and Major Arrives via Royal Mail!

Many thanks to Heather at Peakirk Books in Nr Fakenham, Norfolk, not only for the information she provided me earlier via e-mail, but for the edition of Minor and Major by George Mills that arrived today!

While the first edition, illustrated by John Harris, in the British Library is dated 1939, this edition predictably carries no date nor the name of the illustrator(s). Once again, exactly as in my edition of King Willow by Mills, we find it was published by Spring Books, Spring House, Spring Place, London NW5, and printed in Czechoslovakia.

The title page and dust jacket proclaim it to be part of the "Fanfare Series", and many other titles in the series—including King Willow—are listed. Among them are: The Clue in the Castle, The Missing Speed Ace, Backstage with Peggy, The Rawhide Kid, The Savages on Gale Island, The Rivals of Rookwood, The Island Mystery, The Secret of the Study, Holiday Adventure, The Riddle of the Blue Moon, and Speed Dermot.

This edition has 240 pages, a full-colour, unsigned frontispiece [the lustre of which is diminished by having been printed on matte paper] and four black-and-white illustrations throughout. The unsigned full-colour illustration on the dust jacket is not the same one found inside the text.

The dimensions of the book, exactly the same as Fanfare Series companion King Willow, may have been conceived by one Benedict Thomas—something we'll examine in a subsequent post!

I have a copy of Meredith and Co., already noted as being part of something called the "Viscount Series" and having been published by a house suspiciously similar in all ways to "Spring Books". That edition is also undated, but has a gift inscription written by the original owner apparently dating it as at least having been purchased 1957.

The other two nearly identical editions suggest they have been modified from Meredith's slightly larger format. That also suggests they are both more recent than 1957—moving their publication dates into my own lifetime, having been born in 1958.

King Willow and Minor and Major, even more so than Meredith and Co., have an appearance similar to vintage 1946-1965 [5th format] editions of the Hardy Boys mystery series I'd seen and read in the 1960s.

Using 1958 as a target date, selected for both its proximity to 1957's Meredith and Co. reprint and it being the year of my birth, let's say Mills was paid directly for the rights to also reprint King Willow and Minor and Major. Unless the books were published posthumously, he'd have been earning an income from his 1930's written work virtually through 1960—assuming they had stayed available on booksellers' shelves for a year or two.

This is all suppostion, but we'd have to imagine George Mills, at this point in our investigation still a self-proclaimed Preparatory School Master, likely living somewhere in the U.K., in his early sixties [61 years old on 18 August, 1958, my own birth date] and still trading on his years teaching at prep schools during the worldwide Great Depression.

Or is it merely the heirs of George Mills who're reaping the benefits from these reprints, or perhaps his wife, Vera?

New information that was delayed by an incorrect spelling provides more insight into the answer to the above question…

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