Sunday, 1 April 2012

Abridged, Expurgated, Revised, Bowdlerized - Part VII


If you'd climb the Helicon,
You should read Anacreon,
Ovid's Metamorphoses,
Likewise Aristophanes,
And the works of Juvenal:
These are worth attention, all;
But, if you will be advised,
You will get them Bowdlerized!

Ah! We will get them Bowdlerized!

                                           Gilbert & Sullivan, Princess Ida, 1884

I've often wondered what the original publisher and author thought of Harlequin cutting the text in their books. Did the reprint rights allow for this? Or did Harlequin just do it and hope nobody noticed?

How many of the 477 titles that Harlequin published between 1949 and 1959 have less text than the original? Short of comparing with the original edition there is no way to find out. I know of only one time that Harlequin announced a text was abridged - Thomas H. Raddall's Roger Sudden. Less rare but still uncommon is a statement that the book is "complete and unabridged". Three examples are below.

One company that trumpets selling bowdlerized books is Reader's Digest. Starting in 1950 (and still going at over 300 volumes) is their Condensed Book series, now renamed. Famously worth nothing (the whole 62 year set could likely be bought for 50cents/ea plus shipping) except as a thesis subject, the Condensed Book is proudly abridged. I recently came across a few, one of which had this Canadian promo piece from 1962.

Harlequin 332 - March 1955

Harlequin 333 - April 1955

Harlequin 334 - April 1955

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