Tag Archives: Publishing

The scented novel: early twentieth century book publishing in the USA


Jot 101 perfume book Brentano's_Booksellers_1916In the May 1909 issue of Bookman,the correspondent ‘ Galbraith ‘ in his ‘ American Letter ‘ compares the brash exploits of American publishers to the more sedate efforts of their British confreres.

American publishes and booksellers are remarkable in that they apploy the same ingenuity and audacity to book advertising that it is customary to use in the selling of soap and breakfast foods. Where the English publisher inserts in the newspaper a genteel announcement to the effect that “ So and So is Mr Such and Such ‘s finest book , and is really a remarkable story, the American publisher charters a full page in a popular daily, and prints upside down in the middle of it, something well near as striking as this:


                                               “YOU ARE A LIAR

                                               if you deny ‘So and So’

                                                    is the finest Novel

                                                        Ever Printed !”


Moreover, Galbraith contends, publishers don’t miss a trick when it comes to marketing gimmicks. When the American edition of Gaston Leroux’s The Perfume of the Lady in Black (published originally in France in 1908) appeared in 1909, the  publishers Brentano’s , decided to perfume ( it was not said how they did it) ‘ every copy of the book with an almost overpowering fragrance so strong…that one may handle the book at a shop with gloves on, go back through the air of the streets to find one’s fingers still smelling strongly…’ Continue reading

Fay Inchfawn

Inchfawn cover pic 2 001Discovered at Jot HQ is this first edition of one of the ‘Homely Woman’ pocket volumes by the prolific female writer Fay Inchfawn ( aka Elizabeth Rebecca Ward, 1880 – 1978), whose work is forgotten now, but whose books, which included popular verse, religious works and children’s literature, were once, to quote the blurb from her publisher Ward, Lock & Co in 1947,  ‘to be found in countless homes, for more than half a million have been sold’.

To further quote from her publicity department:

 ‘everyone of Fay Inchfawn’s delightful little books rings with a true sincerity from cover to cover. She can extract joy from the scullery, yes, even from the wash tub…If Fay Inchfawn cannot bring some compensation to you in your humdrum daily toil—well, nobody can ! She has certainly done so for countless wives and mothers, and if you do not happen to be one of those so fortunate, it is up to you to see what she can do for you. Surely she cannot fail ! ‘


Inchfawn, who lived in Freshford, near Bath, for most of her life, also contributed to women’s magazines, and if she didn’t write for my grandmother’s favourite magazine, The People’s Friend, she should have done. The Day’s Journey, which is one of her ‘ religious works, seems perfumed with peppermint creams and Werner’s Originals.


A Day’s Journeyis a homily which takes its inspiration from The Pilgrim’s Progress. Its homely message seems to be that like Bunyan’s pilgrim, the wanderer through life will overcome all the difficulties that confront him by applying the self-reliance and common wisdom that God has conferred on him and by ignoring all the vices and distractions placed in his way by the ‘Prince of Evil’. Continue reading

Edith Allonby—-the novelist who had to commit suicide to get published

‘I have found another way… ‘So wrote fantasy novelist Edith Allonby (1875 – 1905) in a note Edith Allonby photographfound on her lap following her suicide, aged just thirty, in December 1905. When discovered she was sitting in a comfortable chair dressed in a silk evening gown with fresh flowers in her hair. By her side was an empty bottle of phenol (carbolic acid), the poison of choice (bleach was another) for many suicides in the UK at that time, due to its availability and quick, but painful, action.

For Allonby, a schoolmistress from Cartmel, Lancashire whose two previous works of ‘ satirical fantasy ‘, Jewel Sowers (1903) and Marigold 
(1905),  both set on the imaginary planet of Lucifram, had not sold well, there seemed little choice. In her suicide note she explained that after four years of labour on her latest book , a spiritual fantasy about life and death that she claimed had been given to her by God, her publisher Greening had rejected the manuscript, as had other publishers. ‘I have tried in vain ‘, she wrote,’ …yet shall The Fulfilment reach the people to whom I appeal, for I have found another way…’

That way was an act that would make her posthumous book a sensation at the time, for Greening did change their minds about its publication once the author was dead. It came out in a limited edition, which makes it and her previous two novels, scarce and valuable items today. It is possible that originally all the publishers to whom it was shown simply found the subject matter of The Fulfilmenttoo difficult to deal with. The author herself admitted that her book contained ‘either truth or page upon page of blasphemy ‘. Today, we are more open minded on spiritual matters.  [R.M.Healey]

Edith Allonby The Fulfillment 1905 cover


The Case of the Wrong Carpenter

There were two 20th century children’s writers called Frances Carpenter.  On-line book sites rarely distinguish them.  The “right” Carpenter was the real name of a busy USA educator.  The “wrong” Carpenter was a pseudonym for one of the shadowy “men behind girl’s fiction” of the Thirties and beyond.

6790795Frances Carpenter (UK) wrote two children’s books, A Rebel Schoolgirl and the lesser-known Sally of the Circus, both reprinted in the 1950s.  Their author had been published earlier under his own name.

Horace Eli Boyten (21.8.1901 – 9.4.1986) was born in Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire, being noted there in the 1911 census, and later is said to have lived in Highgate.  In the 1920s he wrote some boy’s and girl’s fiction as H.E. Boyten, including the 1926 Chums serial Plot and Peril, an historical adventure published in book form the same year.  About this time Boyten began a long career with the Amalgamated Press in editorial and writing capacities for their girl’s weekly papers such as Girl’s Crystal and School Friend.  Most such Amalgamated writers were male and adopted female pseudonyms usually unrelated to their real names, although Boyten for some work became “Enid” Boyten just as Ernest McKeag became “Eileen”.

Boyten’s best-remembered characters were the “Silent Three” schoolgirls created with editor Stewart Pride.  The three heroines wore masks and hooded robes to fight crime and injustice throughout numerous text and picture stories, illustrated initially by the talented Evelyn Flinders, a veteran of the schoolgirl “hooded secret society” genre.  (A guide to the series, A Silent Three Companion, was privately published by Marion Waters in 1995, indicative of a continuing interest in the stories.)

In 1953 a feminine version of Boyten’s name came to the attention of solicitors acting for Enid Blyton.  Perhaps an “Enid Boyten” lead story in several School Friend annuals had been a step too far.  Horace Eli agreed to change his “Enid” to “Hilda Boyten”.  However he seems to have continued writing as “Helen Crawford” without incident.  In person he was described as “a very nice chap, quiet and modest”.

Continue reading

Mr Mosbacher says no again. Twice.


        Gustav Meyrink

As we have noted in a previous Jot, Eric Mosbacher, journalist, critic and acclaimed translator, was a hard man to please. When asked by the Souvenir Press to recommend a foreign language text for translation into English his judgement was invariably that he was unable to do so. We have already seen in a previous Jot that his failure to see the merits of  ‘ The Quest for Fire ‘, probably cost the Souvenir Press oodles of money when the film adapted from another translation  made many millions at the Box Office. The discovery of two further reports by Mosbacher dating from the same period show the failings of his critical judgement. He rejected Jean Ray’s horror story ‘Malpertius’ (1943) on the grounds that it had failed to make his flesh creep and was, in any case, badly put together. In 1973 this too had been made into a film starring Orson Welles and Susan Hampshire, which had been adapted from the original Flemish production of 1971. Doubtless the Souvenir Press wished to cash in on its success, but Eric said no, and that was that.

In 1979 Gustav Meyrink’s bizarre tale of 1916, ‘Das Grune Gesicht’ (The Green Face) had also got a thumbs down from Mosbacher, who was baffled by its’ uncanny mixture of the grotesque, the mystical, the surrealist-before-its-time.’ He couldn’t recommend a book that, in spite of all his efforts, he had not understood. Eric’s rather sardonic summary of its plot reflects his lack of enthusiasm: Continue reading

Bear Hudson Publishing – The Bear Facts (5)

Some of the other things?

On 8 June 1956, Abraham Assael (“known as Albert Assael”) was granted a Certificate of Naturalisation according to the London Gazette, 17 August 1956. His origin was given as Turkey. His occupation was given as Company Director (Printers, Publishers and Stationers), probably a standard category rather than a full and accurate description.

This led into my other question. What was Bear Hudson doing after its Forties publishing wound down?

If your interest is only in the pulp fiction, the following may not appeal. Please flick down past the reading-bear logo, and resume when it reappears.

Bear Hudson after publishing

One clue as to the firm’s further activities appears in, of all places, the Chemist and Druggist, 11 July 1953:

“REPRESENTATIVE required by established house to carry an attractive and original line. Non-competitive with present lines carried. Liberal commission. Apply: Bear Hudson, Ltd., 63 Goldhawk Road, Shepherds Bush, W.12.”

I wonder what that “attractive and original line” could have been. Perhaps something like the “Key-lite” device advertised in Motor Sport for December 1964?

(web image)

Technical Suppliers Ltd.? At the same address? Oh, yes. See a brief mention in the Jewish Chronicle for 24 June, 1966:

“… our Managing Director, Mr. B. Babani, Technical Suppliers Ltd., Hudson House, 63 Goldhawk Road, London, W.12.”

Babani. Hudson House. Again. Technical Suppliers Ltd. had evidently moved from W.6 to W.12. along with Bear Hudson. Parts of the jigsaw puzzle are starting to fit together. I find another piece, a 1964 half-page advertisement in Practical Wireless for Bernards Books’ radio manuals. They are available by mail from Bear Hudson Ltd. of 63 Goldhawk Road.

So the close link to Bernard Babani continued for decades. In 1944 Technical Suppliers Limited was printing booklets for Bernards and for Bear Hudson. In 1953 it was printing the Hudson House Classics. In 1964 it was operating from the same building as Bear Hudson, as presumably it always had. Continue reading