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The Blackie Question

February 4, 2013

Andersens Fairy Tales Blackie 01As we have mentioned before, one of our long-term projects is a bibliography of the artist Pauline Baynes. We decided early on that it did not need to be as complex as Wayne’s J.R.R. Tolkien and Arthur Ransome bibliographies, and after much experiment, that its list of books to which Pauline contributed would be best organized by year of first publication, then within each year, in alphabetical order by title. This means, among other things, that we don’t need to determine, or try to determine, for each work an exact date of first publication (as would be needed if listing in strict chronological but not alphabetical order). But we still need to establish a year of publication for each book, and not every title – children’s books are notorious in this regard – includes a publication or printing date. For such exceptions, one must search reference sources for the answer, such as the English Catalogue series or Publishers Weekly, or refer to library copies with stamped accession dates, like those in the British Library, or with dated inscriptions. And even then, problems may remain.

We call one of these problems ‘the Blackie question’, because it concerns certain books published by Blackie & Son of Glasgow and London. Pauline Baynes’s first work for Blackie was her own rare Victoria and the Golden Bird, published in 1948. This was followed, apparently in 1949–50, by five titles in the series Blackie’s Library of Famous Books: Andersen’s Fairy Tales, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, The Pilgrim’s Progress, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-glass, and Gulliver’s Travels. Each of these includes a colour frontispiece plate and dust-jacket art by Pauline Baynes, and all but The Pilgrim’s Progress includes on the title-page a line drawing adapted from her art.

We have assigned them to 1949 and 1950 for several reasons. The British Library copies of Andersen’s Fairy Tales, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, and The Pilgrim’s Progress contain the stamped accession date 25 May 1949. The British Library copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales also contains a printed ‘War Economy Standard’ notice, indicating compliance with a Second World War paper conservation scheme which ended in 1949. The British Library copies of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-glass and Gulliver’s Travels contain the stamped accession date 25 August 1950. The English Catalogue records publication of the Blackie Alice in 1950, but does not include the other four Library of Famous Books titles to which we know Pauline Baynes contributed. There is also a visual connection between the Andersen and Grimm volumes which dates them necessarily to the same time: the line drawing on the Andersen title-page is derived from the Grimm dust-jacket art, and the line drawing on the Grimm title-page is derived from the Andersen frontispiece!

Each of the Blackie volumes had multiple printings, but as none of these is indicated by a date or printing number, we have had to turn to other features to distinguish them, the most important of which is the first address given for the publisher on the verso of the half-title leaf. To use Andersen’s Fairy Tales as an example, we have seen three copies:

1) On the verso of the half-title, the first address given for the publisher is ‘16/18 William IV Street, Charing Cross, London, W.C.2’, and on the jacket flap, the price is ‘4/6’ (4 shillings and 6 pence). (This is the artist’s copy, in the Pauline Baynes archive at Williams College.)

2) Here also on the verso of the half-title, the first address given for the publisher is ‘16/18 William IV Street, Charing Cross, London, W.C.2’. This copy (in our collection) likewise has a dust-jacket, but the front flap is price-clipped. The endpaper bears a gift inscription dated 2 July 1954, providing a terminus ante quem.

3) On the verso of the half-title, the publisher’s first address is ‘5 Fitzhardinge Street, London, W.1’. The price on the jacket flap is ‘6/-’ (6 shillings). This is a demonstrably later dust-jacket, with the original art truncated, and the address shows that the book itself is a later printing. (Example 3 is also in our collection.)

Andersens Fairy Tales Blackie 02Although Christina recorded some data for the British Library copy of Andersen’s Fairy Tales in 1993, at that time we did not yet understand the importance of the publisher’s address in distinguishing printings, and on a later visit to the British Library, when we made a point of looking at the address in Blackie volumes, the Andersen seems not to have been available. The copies of the Blackie books in the British Library presumably came from the publisher, as part of the requirement for establishing copyright by which copies of a book must be deposited in certain libraries in the U.K. But although one can infer that Blackie deposited copies at the time of publication, this is by no means certain. Nor is it necessarily true that an author or illustrator receives complimentary copies from the publisher immediately upon publication; indeed, if Pauline Baynes received her copy of Andersen’s Fairy Tales from Blackie (she could have bought it in a shop), it was probably at some time after first publication, as indicated by the publisher’s address and explained below.

According to one online account, Blackie & Son had offices at 5 Fitzhardinge Street, London, as early as 1909, but this seems to be in error: many other sources show the publisher at 50 Old Bailey, E.C., already before the turn of the twentieth century, and that they remained there until the office was destroyed by enemy bombing on 10 May 1941. Blackie’s then moved to 66 Chandos Place, ‘temporary premises’ according to Agnes A.C. Blackie in Blackie & Son, 1809–1959: A Short History of the Firm (1959), p. 18, but which served the firm until probably 1952. The Short History states that in 1952 ‘the London Office [was] now situated at 16–18 William IV Street’, but doesn’t say exactly when the move from Chandos Place occurred. The ‘5 Fitzhardinge Street’ address seems to have come into effect around 1961.

Copies (1) and (2) of Andersen’s Fairy Tales noted above, each with the publisher listed at 16–18 William IV Street, therefore must have been issued no earlier than 1952 (or possibly 1951). Since the title was certainly in print by 25 May 1949, the date stamped in the British Library copy, we would expect it originally to have had the publisher’s address as ’66 Chandos Place’, and hope one day to obtain a copy with that point.

Images: Top to bottom, the upper dust-jacket panels for copies (2) and (3) of Andersen’s Fairy Tales as described above. Copy (2) is bound in yellow-green textured paper over boards, while the artist’s personal copy (1) is bound in blue textured paper over boards. The colour difference is notable but possibly not significant: publishers during the war and postwar years used whatever binding materials were available, not necessarily with a consistent colour for the whole of a print run, and did not always bind the whole of a run all at the same time.

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2 Comments
  1. Jim Eager permalink
    April 27, 2013 4:40 pm

    I have a copy of Andersen’s Fairy Tales with the Baynes illustrations and the War Economy mark which does indeed show the first address as 66 Chandos Place. I can send you a photo if that is useful. My copy lacks a dust-jacket however.

    • May 1, 2013 7:38 pm

      Thanks very much, Jim. We would be glad to see a photo of the verso of the half-title, and also of the upper binding if you can manage it. Since writing our post, we’ve learned that in the earliest printings of this book with the frontispiece and title-page art by Pauline Baynes, the rest of the illustrations are by Helen Stratton (signed by her). It would be interesting to know if your copy has any of these, or if all of the pictures are by Baynes.

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