Guild Books in Australia – a clue to a mystery?
Over its fifteen year history in paperback publishing from 1941 to around 1955, The British Publishers Guild tried all sorts of different ventures. Originally set up as a collective response to the success of Penguin, its high point came with the series of over 200 Services Editions from 1943 to 1946, to be followed by a long decline as it struggled to adapt to the post-war paperback market. Along the way it tried its hand at various other things, including from 1944 to 1945 a short series of paperbacks in Australia.
In doing so it was again following Penguin, which had made arrangements for some of its books to be published in Australia by the Lothian Publishing Company. The war had made it impractical to export books from the UK to Australia, so local printing made sense, as did working with a local partner. For Guild the partnership was with the Australian Publishing Co. Pty. Ltd. in Sydney and it seems to have lasted long enough to publish at least 13 books (checklist below). Whether it came to an end because of the end of the war or because of commercial failure is not clear, but it seems unlikely to have been a great success.
The series followed the format of the early UK books quite closely and used the same division into three separately coloured series according to size and price. In the UK, books were either Guild Six, Guild Nine or Guild Twelve, according to the price in pence. In Australia they were Guild Fifteen (coloured red), Guild Eighteen (light blue) or Guild Twenty-One (green), corresponding to 1s 3d, 1s 6d or 1s 9d in Australian currency. This partly reflects the discount in the Australian Pound relative to the British Pound at the time, but also some significant wartime inflation of prices.
Most of the books had already appeared in Guild editions elsewhere, several of them in the Services Editions series, but there are three books, ‘Poirot investigates’, ‘One foot in heaven’ and ‘This is the life!’ that may be first printings in Guild Books. The most intriguing of these is ‘Poirot investigates’, which in the printing history, after listing various other editions, says ‘First issued in this Edition, 1943. Australian Edition 1945’. This suggests that there was a previous Guild Books edition, and although I have never seen any other evidence of one, it’s possible that it could be one of the missing titles from the Services Edition series. I’d love to be able to confirm this theory one day by finding a Services Edition of this book. Can anyone help?
Full listing of the known Guild Books Australian Editions. There may be others!
- David Garnett – The sailor’s return (Guild 15, 1944)
- C.S. Forester – Brown on Resolution (Guild 18, 1944)
- E.M. Forster – Where angels fear to tread (Guild 18, 1944)
- Hartzell Spence – One foot in heaven (Guild 18, 1944)
- A.P. Herbert – The house by the river (Guild 15, 1945)
- Agatha Christie – Poirot investigates (Guild 15, 1945)
- George Sava – A ring at the door (Guild 18, 1945)
- David Masters – Up periscope (Guild 18, 1945)
- Hugh de Selincourt – The cricket match (Guild 18, 1945)
- Madeleine Kent – I married a German (Guild 21, 1945)
- P.C. Wren – The uniform of glory (Guild 21, 1945)
- I.A.R. Wylie – The young in heart (Guild 15, no date)
- Aubrey Wisberg & Harold Waters – This is the life! (Guild 21, no date)