This article was written by Dr. William P. Palmer and is published here on haldeman-julius.org with his kind permission. All copyright belongs to Dr. Palmer.
By Dr. William P. Palmer
Emanuel Haldeman-Julius was self-evidently hardworking in terms of the large amount of writing that he completed and also his huge editorial load. However in looking at his Little Blue Books, it is not hard to find persistent errors not corrected from one edition (printing) to the next. Little Blue Book #50 Common Sense shows some strange persistent errors. Haldeman-Julius was quite a fan of Paine and produced five Little Blue Books (#4, #50, #88, #522, #1208) that either reproduced his works, commented on him or provided his biography. Haldeman-Julius's book, The First Hundred Million, mentions some of these and indicates by quoting the numbers of copies printed that they achieved reasonable sales.
I possess some seven different copies of Common Sense by Thomas Paine, though if all variations were included two or three times this number of variations might exist. Common Sense may exist in all series; the copies that I have in my collection are detailed in Table 1. Further comments and pictures follow.
|Series||My Collection||Back Cover Type||Inside Cover||Error Inside Cover||Number of Pages||Error p.64|
|Appeal's Pocket||0 (None Exist?)||-||-||-||-||-|
|People's Pocket||1 copy||Appeal to Reason Advertisement||People's Pocket||No error||95 + 1 Advertisement||None|
|Appeal Pocket||1 copy||No printing||People's Pocket||#190 instead of #50||95 + 1 Advertise-ment||p.64 Inverted|
|Ten Cent Pocket||3 copies||No printing||People's Pocket||Error #190||95 + 1 blank||Inverted|
|No printing||People's Pocket||Title and author only||95 + 1 blank||Inverted|
|2 Advertisements||Ten Cent Pocket||No error||93 + 3 blanks||No error|
|Five Cent Pocket||-||-||-||-||-||-|
|Little Blue Books||2 copies||No printing||Ten Cent Pocket||No error||93 +3 blanks||No error|
|One staple + printing icon||Ten Cent Pocket||No error||93 +3 blanks||No error|
|Little Blue Books (Illustrated wraps)||-||-||-||-||-||-|
The images above in Picture 1 show a People's Pocket Series (PPS) edition of Common Sense as front cover (wrapper), inside cover (title page) and back cover. As far as I can tell, the copy is error free and generally superior to the later issues. Jake Gibbs (in BBN #11) paints a complex picture of three different types of wrapper plus variations with title pages usually aligned with the wrappers. It is thus possible that other variants of the People's Pocket Series exist, but they would probably also be error free.
Picture 2 images show the Appeal Pocket Series, which is almost identical to the People's Pocket Series except that two errors appear to have been introduced. Firstly the inside cover (title page) has the heading People's Pocket Series #190 instead of People's Pocket Series #50. Secondly page 64 is inverted. Since all else seems the same, one wonders how these errors came to be introduced. The only other copy about which I have information (Thanks to David Williams) appears to have the same errors, so it is likely that the errors exist throughout the series. However the series only lasted from January to April 1922, so it is perhaps understandable that the error was not corrected. What does show a degree of carelessness is that the errors persist into the next series.
Two of the Ten Cent Pocket Series exemplars in my collection are as above. They continue to use the same printing blocks for the interior and are both amongst the earliest in this series as they have a blank back outer cover (wrapper). Both errors continue uncorrected in the first example (3a) and the second error continues in 3b. The contents page in 3b is unusual, in that it omits the Haldeman-Julius name entirely. All issues so far considered have 95 numbered pages with one page of advertisements or a blank page.
The further exemplar (3c) is later as it has two advertisements on the back cover; there may be another Ten Cent Pocket Series example with three advertisements on the back. It is obvious at this juncture a new set of plates were made as there are now 86 pages of content numbered up to page 93 to include advertisements, and with three blank pages. Page 64 is included the right way up, but there is a large black mark which appears never to have been corrected.
This is the standard Little Blue Book which continued with minor variations for the next 30 years or so. Page 64 on exemplars 4a and 4b was still badly marked. The Ten Cent Pocket Series still continues to head the contents page and there is no evidence from my collection that it ever changed. 4a was probably printed between 1924 and 1930. 4b was printed after 1940 because it had only one staple and the union icon on the back confirms that dating. For LBB #50, I have no examples of back covers with the portrait of Haldeman-Julius or the circular device stating "A university in print read the world over" or any example with bright coloured covers. There appear to be no illustrated covers, which were produced for popular Little Blue Books after 1945. This lack of later printings would suggest that during the Second World War and thereafter few copies of LBB #50 were sold.
The evidence provided so far could easily be expanded from other collections. There may be Five Cent Pocket Series or Pocket Series examples. There will be no Appeal's Series blue book but there may be other examples of the People's Pocket Series and the Ten Cent Pocket Series. However based on the evidence so far, one can see that Haldeman-Julius did not use his powers as editor and publisher to correct errors in any timely fashion.
Haldeman-Julius does not mention Common Sense in The First Hundred Million, so it can be assumed that it was selling 10,000 copies a year in the late 1920s; otherwise it would have been sent to the 'morgue' or the 'hospital'. The lack of different printings in the 1940s and 1950s indicates that fairly few copies were being sold at that time. Interest in Thomas Paine and his ideas had perhaps by then run their course in the USA, which would have disappointed Haldeman-Julius when young, but in his later years he would not have cared provided he made money.
One purpose of this essay is to ask readers to examine their own collections to see if examples of this title in other Haldeman-Julius series exist. A second purpose is to see if a thorough examination of one particular blue book title, especially the errors contained within it, might add to our knowledge of how the Haldeman-Julius business operated and perhaps even hypothesize about the changes in American literary tastes and American social history.
Please send comments, questions, and any data that you'd like to add to the table to firstname.lastname@example.org.
© Bill Palmer, 2010
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