On Oct. 3rd, 2013, I made my first purchase of NCL books for this blog (see the blog post Updates and Purchases for more details). One of these books, NCL 2 – Such Is My Beloved by Morley Callaghan, from Series Two, I noticed differed from the usual design in the series. Here is an image comparison between this book and its more popular, easier-found counterpart:
The most obvious deviation is on the back cover. The one on the left (subsequently the Variant), copies the front design of the book more closely than its counterpart (subsequently the Common). Rather than have a portrait of the author in the middle of the back cover, the Variant repeats the author name and book title as it is shown on the front cover. But that is not the only difference, there are others. In the image below, I circled the differences in red:
If you look closely you will see three circles on both books, the first is at the top of the front cover, the second is in the middle of the front cover, and the third is at the bottom of the spine. The top and middle show the difference in font, the Variant uses an Italian Renaissance-styled font unlike the Common. The spine shows that the Variant does not use an N when displaying the number of the title in the series. Here are closer looks:
When you come across a variant, the first question you always ask is why. Why is this copy different from all the others I have come across? On the subject of paperback books the answer is usually that something changed at the publishing company; that the editors and designers decided a small change was in order. Perhaps someone left and his replacement wanted a change. Perhaps sales were lagging and they thought a minor alteration in design was warranted. Whatever the reason, the best place to find out, if you don’t have access to company documents or the people who were there making the decisions, is inside the book itself.
We might not ever find out the exact reasons why, but we can figure out why this Variant exists. First we need to know when the book was published. That way we know whether this Variant came before or after its more common counterpart. My guess is that the Variant was published first. Using some simple reasoning, the Variant looks like it would be the first one published as the back cover has the same design as the front cover. The Common book was altered, adding the author portrait, which made the back cover dissimilar to the front. When making a design you don’t start different then change back to similar. It’s quite the opposite. Therefore you can easily imagine that the Variant was the earlier design and the Common was when the alteration occurred.
Another indication that the Variant was published first is that the spine on the Variant has the series number without the N added, which mimics the Series One design. Why would this be a hint? Because Series Two was redesigned (not started from scratch) and the designers would have copies of the first design to work from. Therefore, which is more likely, having no N in Series One, then adding the N in Series Two only to remove it again in a later printing, or, having no N in Series One, then continuing that decision in Series Two, then adding the N during the minor design change in later printings? The latter seems more plausible.
A third reason to think the Variant was published first is its scarcity. When a book is published, the first print run is usually smaller than the print runs that follow. The reason for this is because the publisher wants to judge the reaction of the public (usually with sales figures) before he commits to a large output of books that might not be sold. Over the years, I have purchased multiple copies of the Callaghan book, and have seen many more that I didn’t buy, but this is the only time I have come across the Variant design. I can only conclude that the Variant is rarer and therefore was published first.
But let’s stop the speculation and see what transpires when we look at the copyright page. Here is the copyright page of the Variant:
The copyright page has the important dates we are searching for. The first information we see is the original copyright owner and year the copyright was issued. It states that the first edition of the book was copyrighted in 1934 by Charles Scribner Son’s. This tells us that the original book was printed back in 1934. Since we know the NCL are mostly reprints and started publishing in 1958, we must look further for the information we want. Below we see that the copyright in Canada is held by Morley Callaghan, the author of the book, and that the NCL (or more particularly McClelland and Stewart, the publisher of the NCL) received permission from him to publish the book. This occurred in 1957. We also see that the Introduction to the book, written by the editor of the NCL at the time, Malcolm Ross, was copyrighted in 1957 as well. This makes sense as the start of the NCL was in 1958 and Ross wrote some of introductions to books in the series. Since we know this book is part of Series Two not Series One, we know it must have been issued later than 1957. When we look below Ross’ Introduction copyright, we see that this is true. Such Is My Beloved has been reprinted seven times since its first printing in the NCL back in 1957 (1960, 1961, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, and 1969). This means that this particular book is the seventh reprint and was printed in 1969.
Now that we know that the Variant is the seventh reprint, we can look at the Common book and see when it was printed. Along with the differences I have already shown between the books, there is an addition. Where the variant shows the reprint information on the copyright page, the Common version has it on the top of the back cover:
As you can see, the Common is an eleventh printing, issued in 1972. So my guess was correct, the Variant is actually an earlier edition and represents an earlier design. As an aside, there was the possibility of a fourth way to figure out which book was the earlier version. Checking the book price can also show which came first. Books always increase in price as time passes so the book with the higher price is always the later printing. But in this situation both books were priced the same at $1.50.
To conclude, we now know that Series Two came out in at least two variations. The earlier version had the author name and book title on both the back and front covers and did not feature a portrait of the author on the back cover. The earlier version did not put the N with the series number on bottom of the spine as the later version did. The later version put the reprint number on the back cover, not on the copyright page. As I find more books in Series Two and look closer at the books I have presently, perhaps we will be able to know if the Variant actually represents the first design of Series Two.