Bear Hudson Publishing – The Bear Facts (2)

Bear Hudson numbered booklets

The first Bear Hudson booklet was Be Clever with Leather, numbered 501. (No doubt the numbers 1 to 500 were left clear for Bernards.) The highest Bear Hudson number I know of was No. 555, How to Make Rugs, by F.J. Christopher. Some titles carried both the general number and a subset number within a “Model Engineering Series”.

Incidentally, the first few titles were published from 14 The Broadway, Hammersmith, W.6, before the firm settled down at Goldhawk Road, W.12. (A reprint of Be Clever with Leather had the old address on its front cover and the new address on its back, before a further reprint saw 63 Goldhawk Road reach the front cover at last.)

(web image)

(web image)

The Bear Hudson publishing story had several twists and turns. Omitting various oddities of 1946-48 for now, I would place the numbered booklets into three main phases:

1943-5             mostly craft/DIY subjects

1946                mainly pulp fiction

1947-50           returning to crafts

Booklet prices and formats

The prices ranged from 1/- to 2s.6d (5p to 12½p in modern money), with a very few at 6d or 3s.6d. This may have seemed expensive at the time for small stapled pamphlets, but in wartime the printers often controlled the scarce paper stocks and could negotiate a high cover price to increase their own profits. The flimsy pink interior paper just visible in the early printing of Be Clever with Leather above may have been an attempt to imitate home pattern paper, or may have been simply what was available; later impressions saw variations in paper, printers and even the number of staples. (Wartime shortages may explain why, for example, Bernards’ booklet No. 42 used eye-straining dark red paper, while No.51 was slightly more legible on blue.) Most Bear Hudson titles were printed on ordinary white paper.

Naturally Bear Hudson like Bernards seemed to change printers almost with each new book: Southern Publishing, Brighton; Reynard Press, London; A W Duncan, Liverpool; and on No. 506 I noticed “Printed in Great Britain by Technical Suppliers Ltd., London, W.12.” (Just like Bernard’s No. 39.)

Where Bernards’ booklets carried a key-to-victory image, the Bear Hudson booklets carried a small pictorial logo of a bear surmounting the world, engrossed in reading matter:

Very symbolic. The front cover logo varied slightly and in some later booklets was omitted altogether. The format, paper quality and subject were even more variable than the prices. No. 501 was pink paper in landscape format, 4½ x 7 inches; No. 502 was white paper, the same size but portrait format; No. 506 was a large surprise (literally) at landscape 6 x 9¾ inches, and priced accordingly at a huge 3/6 rather than the usual 1/- to 2/-. After No. 507, similar and also 3/6, prices reverted to normal. Titles started appearing in normal portrait format with increasing frequency.

Numbered booklet titles (Fiction authors in bold)

501      Be Clever with Leather, Violet Read

502      1,001 Household Hints, Alex Adamson

503      I Speak to the Workers, W T Baker

504      Handbook of Coarse Fishing, Frank House

505      Aero Model Construction

506      Nature’s Toys, William A Bagley

507      Make and Play, William A Bagley

508      Model Railway Construction, “Creator”

509      Dames Spell Trouble! Michael Hervey, short stories

510      Paris Interlude, Various authors, short stories

511      You and Your Landlord, S Lovegrove

512      Model Ships and Boats, “Creator”

513      Make Your Own Motors, “Creator”

514      Dynamos and Motors, “Creator”

515      The 20th Century Guide to London, Vernon Sommerfield

(web image – nice cogwheels!)

(web image – nice cogwheels!)

No. 515 was advertised as a book of maps “in preparation”, an item which I would love to see but cannot locate anywhere as yet. Then, from No. 516, Say it with violence, the pulp fiction became more frequent.

(Image courtesy of Ash Rare Books)

(Image courtesy of Ash Rare Books)

This second phase, the pulp fiction, really took off from No. 520, and in 1946 dominated the list. H W Perl painted numerous vivid covers, one of his best being for No. 525 Death Takes a Hand, reproduced in glorious living colour within Gary Lovisi’s eye-candy for collectors, Dames, Dolls and Delinquents (2009).

516      Say it with Violence, D Eames

517      War Damage, Irving J Kahn

518      Women’s Legal Problems, F Griffin

519      Fashions in Jazz, Larry Stave

520      Innocents on Broadway, Elmer Elliot Saks

521      Modern Ballroom Dancing, James Holland

522      The Case of the Indiana Torturer, Elmer Elliot Saks

523      The Curate Finds the Corpse, A T Rich

524      Lovelies of the Screen, M Phillips

525      Death Takes a Hand, Frank Griffin

526      Murder for Sale, N Wesley Firth

527      They Led Us to Victory, Anonymous

528      The Film Star Vanishes, D Richmond

529      Terror Stalks by Night, N Wesley Firth

530      Concerto for Fear, N Wesley Firth

531      Sinister Valley, George Stanley

532      Arrest Ace Lannigan, Leslie Halward

533      Death Haunts the Charnel Estate, Jackson Evans

534      Be Clever with Clothes, Ena Whyl Bogard (evidently published after No. 542)

535      What Killed Christopher Scammell? P Lea Reed

536      The House of Fear, Frank Richards

537      Ladies Love Murder, Leslie Halward

538      Spawn of the Vampire, N Wesley Firth*

* also includes story “All Set for Murder” by Frank Griffin

539      Terrell in TroubleStephen Blakesley

540      Be Clever with Leather, Book 2, C W Read (evidently published after No. 542)

541      Starlight and LoveMargaret A Cole

542      Thunder on the Rio GrandeCoolidge McCann

The late appearance of Nos. 534 and 540 is problematical. British Library stamp-in dates for this period are little help for precise sequencing because they do not always correlate with publication, as shown by a comparison of Nos. 537 (12/6/46), 538 (5/4/46) and 522 (a surprising 27/9/46). The publishers may have simply sent in books as and when circumstances permitted, in the difficult times after World War II. However, the main run of popular fiction seems to have been published in 1946.

Later numbered booklets

The mid-series run of pulp fiction ended abruptly after No. 542. Then the craft subjects made a probably long-planned comeback, belatedly filling the gaps at Nos. 534 and 540. The latter, with a British Library stamp-in date of 22/6/46, was a sequel to Bear Hudson’s very first title:

(also reviving the small landscape format)

(also reviving the small landscape format)

I have the titles of a dozen or so further booklets 1947-50, but as yet not all the numbers.

544      Be Clever with Felt, Ruby Evans

545      Be Clever with Plastics, C W Read

546      How to Make Lampshades, F J Christopher

548      Things to Make with Crinothene, F J Christopher

551      How to Make Gloves, Eunice Close

553      How to Make Twenty-five Soft Toys, Ruby Evans      

554      Gifts to Make, Ruby Evans

555      How to Make Rugs, F J Christopher

I would be glad to know numbers for the following, and any missing titles:

Be Clever with Leather, Book 3, C W Read *

Be Clever with Leather, Book 4, C W Read

Boxing, Joe Bloom

Terror at Staups House, Frank King

* The number style on “Book 3” could vary from 3 to III or even Three between cover, title page and advertisements, the latter often liable to minor errors. My copy of Be Clever with Leather Book 3, like the British Library copy of Terror at Staups House, bears neither series number nor date.

(Inevitably the Bernards’ booklets could vary even more, spectacularly so with No. 42, cover title Short Wave Radio Handbook and interior title Manual of Short-Wave Technique and International Broadcast Reception. Bernards’ formats and prices could range from tiny pamphlets at 1/- to the massive hardcover International Radio Tube Encyclopedia at 42/-. Minor details such as author, date, printer, address, other titles etc., were all liable to be missing, as indeed all were for Bernards’ No. 50.)

Enough of that. The point is that in its third phase Bear Hudson made a drastic turnaround back into craft booklets. I perceive an abrupt disappearance of N Wesley Firth and friends. Something of a pity, but other publishers remained eager for their work. (And Mr Firth did not stay away from Bear Hudson for long, as we shall see.)

Before the return to craftwork, though, the Bear Hudson pulp thrillers and their authors had some intriguing backgrounds. A few highlights follow …

3 thoughts on “Bear Hudson Publishing – The Bear Facts (2)

  1. Anonymous

    There’s a copy of “Be Clever With Leather 4” on offer on eBay UK at the moment – apparently a 1950 printing and its cover shows “No. 547”.

  2. David Redd

    Thank you Anon – I’ve sent for that “Be Clever with Leather 4”. Glad you commented. Also thank you Jot101 for everything. David


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