Order from chaos – The Hutchinson Services Editions

The two longest series of UK Services Editions, from Guild Books and from Collins, between them account for almost 400 of the 500 or so books that exist in total, at least in paperback.   In comparison with those two, Hutchinson were a minnow.  But they still produced a series of over 30 Services Editions as well as offering a million other books to the forces as a free Victory Gift.

Hutchinson SE HPL9

The standard cover design for Hutchinson Services Editions

Although the Hutchinson Services Editions appear to be a consistently branded series, this hides the complexity of the underlying businesses.   Having been mainly a publisher of magazines, Walter Hutchinson, son of the original founder, had switched the direction of the firm into books and by the start of the Second World War seems to have built it up into quite a mini-conglomerate of publishing businesses.   It included amongst others, Hurst & Blackett, Jarrolds, John Long, Stanley Paul, Rich & Cowan, Skeffington and Andrew Melrose.   It also operated through a bewildering variety of paperback imprints including Toucan Books, Jarrolds Jackdaw Library, The Crime Book Society, The Leisure Library, Readers’ Library, Four Square Books and so on, as well as several different series using  the Hutchinson brand more directly.  What the marketing logic was behind such a variety of different brands and series, is completely beyond me, but at least for the Services Editions they left most of that behind and brought order from the chaos.

Not entirely, because the books still carry different series names on the front cover and different publishers’ names on the title page.  For instance ‘Rapid Fire’ by Joan Butler is headed ‘The Toucan novels’ on the cover, and is published by Stanley Paul & Co. Ltd.  But at least the cover design is standard, the books clearly form a single series and they are listed together in the advertising pages within the books.

Hutchinson SE JJL1   Hutchinson SE TTN6

Those lists within the books also mean that for once we do more or less know what exists in this series.  There are 33 books in the series, including 15 from the Hutchinson’s Pocket Library, 7 from Jarrolds Jackdaw, 7 from Toucan Books, 2 from John Long Four Square and 2 from Skeffington’s Pocket Library.   They’re produced to War Economy standard, so very poor quality paper and production, but a surprising number seem to have survived and some of these books are less rare than other Services Editions.   This may be because they come from Iater in the war, possibly around 1945, although the books are undated.   I don’t know how many were printed, but comparison with other non-Services Editions suggests it may have been 25,000 copies of each book.  For instance the Services Edition of ‘In Brighton Waters’ by Gordon Volk says ’52nd thousand’ on the title page, while the Free Victory Gift edition of the same book says ’27th thousand’.

As well as the paperback editions, several of the books are also found in a simple red hardback format.   This was probably produced by the publishers, although it could have been added later by the Services Central Book Depot, or some other agency.

The hardback version of a Hutchinson Services Edition

The hardback version of a Hutchinson Services Edition

I’ll look at the Free Victory Gift series in a separate post.  The sting in the tail from Hutchinson though, is that I have a single copy of a Crime Book Society Services Edition, which comes from the Hutchinson Group, but is not in the standard format or included in any of the standard lists of books.   Was this a one-off, or are there others out there waiting to be discovered?

Crime Book Society 1

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Posted on November 15, 2014, in Vintage Paperbacks and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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