Collins paperbacks in Ceylon
I wrote last year about the Collins White Circle editions and other Collins paperbacks published in India around the end of the war, and mentioned the similar issues for Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). So here finally is more about those editions.
There are certainly far fewer of them than the Indian editions, probably only around twenty books. Like the Indian editions, they’re very difficult to find, but I wouldn’t say necessarily more difficult, so maybe the print runs weren’t a lot smaller. Some day it would be great to get to Sri Lanka and search for them there. But for the moment I have to make do with what can be found in Britain.
Several of them include lists of the books published in Ceylon, including varying numbers of titles, with the longest list I’ve seen covering 18 novels. I do have two books though that aren’t on that list, so it’s certainly incomplete.
At first glance most of the books are indistinguishable from the Indian editions and it’s only from the internal information about printing and price that they can be distinguished. Some of the same cover styles were used, but just with less variety. There was though the same split between higher-priced Collins paperbacks and cheaper White Circle Editions. The White Circle books sold for one rupee, while other Collins paperbacks were 2 Rupees or 2 Rupees and 50 cents. The lists of titles though mix both types together, so they clearly weren’t seen as completely separate series.
Two of the higher priced Ceylon paperbacks
All the books that I’ve seen were printed by the Times of Ceylon Co. in Colombo under the name of David Vast, and published around 1945 or 1946. It seems likely that they were aimed mostly at British forces stationed in Ceylon or other British expatriates living there, but there would have been some market as well amongst the local population. Most of the books carry adverts, either on the back cover or the dustwrapper flaps, often for Lifebuoy soap, and these look as if they’re aimed at the expatriate population. I’m sure that local people were concerned about personal freshness too, but perhaps without the insecurities of the British about B.O.!
More evidence for the books being aimed at expatriates or forces personnel comes from the fact that copies do still turn up occasionally in Britain, presumably brought over when the purchasers came home. As with the Indian editions though, I’ve never been able to find a copy of any of the Westerns in the series. Were they seen as too trashy to be worth bringing back?