Thursday, 18 February 2010

Canadian Paperbacks - Other Editions Part III

Frederick Niven is a little remembered Scots-Canadian author who shares some facts with the much better known Canadian author Stephen Leacock. Both were born outside of Canada, both died in 1944 and both have a literary award named after them. The Frederick Niven Literary Award was administered by the Scottish Centre of International PEN and given every three years for a novel by a Scot. I say "was" because I can find nothing to indicate that the award is still given. The Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour is given annually to the best book of humour written by a Canadian.

They also share paperback publishers. In an earlier post I discussed Leacock's Literary Lapses, published by Wm. Collins Sons & Co. Canada Ltd and McClelland & Stewart. Niven's The Flying Years was also published as a Collins's White Circle and a M&S New Canadian Library.

The first WC edition was one of the initial 50 published in 1942. A second edition was published in 1944 and then reprinted the next year. The NCL edition came 30 years later in 1974. This book demonstrates some of the sloppy work often seen in the NCL series. The copyright page states the book was originally published in 1942, not the correct 1935. The back cover notes 1935 as the "written" date, not the publishing date. The text is printed (poorly) from the Collins WC edition of 1944 rather than being reset.

The WC edition was discussed in an October 10, 1942 Globe & Mail story titled "White Circles". The article starts with "Canadian-made reprints of books of proven popularity mean a long step forward in local publishing" and the last paragraph says "there are plenty of other titles; new ones are being added fast, and copies are being absorbed by the public in very large quantities." The article is unsigned but likely W. A. Deacon.

White Circle - 1942

White Circle 1942 back cover

White Circle 116 - Margaret Paull artist

White Circle 116 back cover

New Canadian Library 102

New Canadian Library 102 back cover


  1. Interesting to see that large empty space on the back cover of the NCL edition. Every other title I've seen with this design includes an image of the author. Photos, sketches, caricatures, it seems they used whatever was a hand. I expect they had nothing for Niven. A further reflection of "the sloppy work often seen in the NCL series".

    You may be interested in this example, the subject of a recent Chumley and Pepys post.

  2. Now that you mention it the space does look odd. The NCL series has an odd combination of effort in choosing the books (based on the Friskney book) and lack of effort or care in the nuts and bolts of publishing the books.

    Thanks for the example.