Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Travellers Pocket Library - Canadian? You be the Judge! Part I

In 1949 a series of six paperbacks were published by Ward-Hill Books of New York. The series was called Travellers Pocket Library (TPL) and each book was called "A TPL Best-Seller". The books were numbered 100-104 and 106. Number 105 isn't known to exist. The books were a mixed bag of three reprints and three apparently original novels. One reprint is instantly recognisable - Lady Chatterley's Lover. The other is Venus in Furs by Russian Leopold Sacher-Masoch. Masoch lives on in the word masochist.

Collectors of paperbacks consider these books Canadian. The obvious question is why since the publisher address is New York. The books state "Printed in Canada" but that in of itself is not significant. A few of the books have an ad on the inside back cover by Medical Publishing Corp. of Toronto. The same ad and different ads for the same product can be seen in Canadian paperbacks although the company is sometimes British News Agency, still of Toronto. Finally, the covers show work by different artists but the cover of Speak the Sin Softly looks to be by the artist who did the covers of a series of paperbacks called Crow published by Alval Publishers of Toronto.

So Canadian or not?


  1. Interesting stuff. The only one of these titles I've seen is Venus in Furs, which is held at Queen's as part of John Glassco's personal library. I think it likely served as the foundation of Glassco's faux translation, published in 1977 by Burnaby's Blackfish Press.

    Glassco wrote in his copy, "Follows 1928 ed. in the main. Very poor!", a reference to a "privately printed" edition (also in his library).

    I wonder whether he picked up the book in Montreal or, as so often was the case, relied on the post.

  2. I hadn't heard of Glassco's translation. Likely a good deal more interesting than the Penguin edition I read. I'm not surprised that the Travellers edition was "very poor". Anyone who picked up the book with a blurb calling it "a sincere [!] novel, written without any idea of titillating morbid fancies" would be disappointed.