While out searching for books this week I went into a used bookstore owned by a friend of mine. I’m not one to buy NCL books from these establishments since titles are usually sold in the $4.00 to $8.00 range and I can find them elsewhere for between twenty-five cents and a dollar. But while talking to my friend I noticed an NCL book that looked quite interesting and would shed some light on the inner-printing world of the NCL.
When the NCL first started Malcolm Ross and Jack McClelland wanted a quality paperback rather than the usual cheap paperbacks you found in airports and book stands across Canada and the U.S. They wanted higher stock paper and better glue so the books would stand out on the shelves of book dealers. They decided to employ Hazell, Watson and Viney, a printing and publishing company from England, to do the printing for the Series One books.
When the redesign for Series Two began, M&S went in a different direction. To save money they hired a Canadian firm, T.H. Best from Toronto, and the paper stock and quality of the books fell.
For Series Three, M&S stopped using T.H. Best, and employed the service of Webcom Limited, a firm also from Toronto, and the quality of the books fell even more. The Series Two books looked ugly, the paper yellowed quickly, the covers chipped easily, but the gluing process was good enough that thousands of the books remain in circulation. With Series Three the same yellowing occurred but the gluing process was inferior. The glue dried-out quickly, became brittle and lost its adhesiveness. The covers detached from their spines and many of the books, if my difficulty in finding many of the titles is any indication, ended up in the trash.
During the transition from T.H. Best to Webcom, it seems that the latter company had a hand in the printing of some of the Series Two books. M&S changed the NCL logo from what it used for the Series One and Series Two books (a rectangular image with a white background and left-sided black border and right-sided coloured border (in red or beige or gold etc.) with a black “NC” inside) to a three-lettered black design with “NC” on top and “L” centered below.
I found, in my friend’s bookstore an NCL book with the overall Series Two design but with Series Three elements, especially on the spine. Here is an image of the variant, and its normal looking counterpart:
As you can see the Series Two design was still used for the Webcom variant but the spine has the Series Three design with the Series Three logo. It also has the M&S logo at the bottom of the spine instead of the usual numbering that you see with the normal Series Two books. The back cover kept the numbering at the top as per Series Two, but added the Series Three M&S logo at the bottom. You also see the use of ISBN numbering on the variant.
What all this tells us is that when M&S changed printing companies, they were still in the process of designing the Series Three books. The variant was printed mid-design change. Soon after, the regular Series Three books would be printed by Webcom and the Series Two design would be a thing of the past. Since we know Series Two numbered to 152, it wouldn’t be too surprising if we see some more of these variants out there especially in the later-numbered Series Two books that sold-out of the T.H. Best prints at around the same time as The Manawaka World of Margaret Laurence.