Friday, September 11, 2009

Printing Guides... You Either Love 'Em or Hate 'Em!!

Series book collectors have long lamented the fact that the copyright page of a Grosset and Dunlap book has little to no information to help identify a printing of the volume they are looking at. It is often a guessing game as to what you are holding in your hands when you stumble across a title at your local antique store. In the last several years, many collectors have tried to help this process out by publishing guides to help identify a printing. These guides are often helpful, as they can help a collector determine a first printing (a prize for everyone, and highly sought after) versus a much later printing of the same title.

When you surf Ebay, you will see many books identified as first editions. They cite the copyright page as their proof, and in reality they have no idea what they are talking about. Thus, collectors are more and more relying on printing guides to help determine the age of a book in their collection. I am aware of a few guides for different series and they are the following:

1. Hardy and Hardy Investigations- Carpentieri and Mular- Hardy Boys series

2. Farah's Guide- David Farah- Nancy Drew series

3. Rick Brant Checklist- James Ogden- Rick Brant series

4. Ken Holt Mysteries Guide- Sevello, Ogden, and Towey- Ken Holt series

In addition, the late John Axe's excellent books All About Collecting Girls Series Books and All About Collecting Boys Series Books give a lot of information on the major players as well as less polular series like Ruth Fielding, Connie Blair, Ted Scott and Hal Keen. John shares a lot of great collecting information, as well a beautiful color photos of the books and ephemera assosciated with the hobby.

I use all of these guides and find them quite useful. Some are a little cumbersome mainly because there are so many printings of some titles. I find that with the Farah's Guide and Hardy and Hardy Investigstions, I have to keep reminding myself what each section of the entry I am identifying means, but they are still useful once I decipher the code!

Some collectors really hate the science of identifying the printings that some of these guide authors use. They seem to feel that it is wrong to try and identify the printing for some reason. Perhaps it is because the authors of thses guides set themselves up as experts, and the critics feel that this isn't so. Regardless, I like to try and find out how old the book is I have, and the guides are a great source to use when trying to accomplish the task.

I'll talk some more in future posts about the ones I use, but I would be interested what other guides are out there. I know they exist, and I know specifically of some others, but thought I should focus on the ones I use frequently.


  1. The main other guide that comes to mind is Clarke's Guide to the Judy Bolton books. I have a copy of it. It has been in print twice, and I bought a used copy many years ago. It is very hard to find. It just identifies the first printings in the same style as Farah's Guide, and it has a few mistakes. It is still useful, though.

    I find the guides to be a great resource towards identifying how early of a printing a book is. All of the guides have some inaccuracies and some guesswork is involved. I think that some collectors hate the guides because of the guesswork involved. I mentioned how Farah made educated guesses about the books in this post in my blog.

    We really can't know for sure whether Farah is right on some of the first printing identifications. Also, in some of the cases in which Farah states that a book with certain characteristics is a separate printing, it might just be a subset of another printing.

    I suspect that the third printing picture cover of Broken Locket with the "man with pipe" cover art and the 1965 text is a subset of the second picture cover printing. That third printing is extremely scarce, much scarcer than the 1932 text PC of Diary. I think it is just an example of a printing anomaly in which the 1965 text was used on a few remaining "man with pipe" covers. There are way too few of the 1965 text "man with pipe" books for it to be an entire print run of at least 10,000 books. There were probably only a handful of them (like maybe 100 or so) that ever existed. So I think this is a big reason why some collectors take great offense towards Farah's Guide. I can see where they are coming from, although I personally have no problem with the guide.

  2. Thanks Jennifer for the info on the Clarke's Guide for Judy Bolton books. I have never found one in my travels. Synsine will print on demand the Judy Bolton Country book, but this is different than the Clarke's guide, correct?

    Thanks for clarification regarding the "guesswork" that is undoubtedly involved. If we look at these guides as a work "in progress", we can appreciate the books and forgive any errors. I agree with you. The good outweighs the bad, in my opinion!

  3. Clarke's Guide is different from Judy Bolton Country. I don't know why Clarke's Guide stays out of print. Maybe the author is no longer interested in having Synsine reprint it? Sometimes people do lose interest as the years pass, and it is for this reason that the Dana Girls guide will probably never be printed. It is a shame.

  4. I definitely need to get a copy of Clarke's Guide... Any ideas?

  5. You could enter it in as a want on the Advanced Book Exchange and as a saved search on eBay. Aside from that, just search Google regularly. It does not look like any are available right now, but I did not check Google carefully.

    I got lucky years ago and found one on ABE for around the original cover price. Otherwise, I probably would not have one. Like with Farah's Guide, people tend not to sell them.

  6. I never had any objection to the guides, in fact I helped put together the early ones in the 1980s. They are excellent reference volumes. But there are bibliographical standards that have been around for ages and are the norm for publishing and bookselling. I started listing these on eBay, along with the guide information, because most eBay buyers did not know about the guide and, as discussed, a lot of the guide listings are incorrect, just guesses.

    One of the guide makers, and his wife, started harassing me by email about this, insisting that only the guide listings were correct. Every listing I made got an harassing email, even books that were not of the series their guide covered. I had to block their emails and then they started through the eBay member-to-member email service, which cannot be blocked.

    It is absurd to me that these people who have created guides out of a lot of speculation can actually expect the entire book world to go along with them, especially when most of it doesn't even know about their guides and/or how to get them.

    On eBay they got friends to buy books from me and then give me negative feedbacks, in addition to the email harassment. eBay, of course, won't do anything about it because they just don't pay attention to the antics of buyers who cause trouble for sellers. To stop all this nonsense I have actually had to capitulate to them and start using only guide descriptions in my listings. Either that or continue to get harassed and hit with negatives from their minions who will gladly do it for a free book they want.

    However, it seems someone else who had gotten this same treatment for a long time found a way to get back at them. The guides, which are very expensive, are now available for free on many torrent download sites.