Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Boys' Series Bibliographies- A History

In a number of posts I have referred to Mattson's guide for "Hardcover Boys' Series Books". It is the gold standard for these books now. Although it does not deal with 19th century books, girls' series and has a limited number of pictures, it is still a phenomenal reference. But where did it really come from? Was there anything that was there before? Well the answer is yes.

Of course, there are many single author bibliographies. Carl Weber on Jacob Abbott, Jacob Blanck on Harry Castlemon, Louise Harris on C.A. Stephens, Louise Jones on Oliver Optic, Bennett and Gardner on Horatio Alger. Peter Newbolt on Henty and many more on well known and lesser known authors. There are also many multi authored guides such as Blanck's BAL and of course the National Union Catalogue ( all 700 plus volumes- sitting in my garage presently).

But what about a boys' series bibliography. Well, the first one was a basic attempt by Harry Hudson. Hudson's first edition was self published by the Jiffy Blueprint Company in Clearwater, Florida. I do not know the exact date but believe it was printed in 1967. Although it does not have the breadth of his second edition, for a first time work it is incredible.
The big limitation of course is that it is mainly a 170 page checklist. No book descriptions are given. There are a number of errors. For example, he lists the Ben Lightbody Series published by Altemus. This is a phantom series and was never published. Over all, for a first effort it was quite impressive.

He gave particular thanks to the Reverend Donald Steinhauer for great help. This is of interest to me because I have a number of Steinhauer's books in my collection.

Hudson's second bibliography was published in 1977 by Data Print in Tampa, Florida. This book was a giant leap forward. For the most part the series now had descriptions of the books and even sometimes the dust jackets. Many more series were included. Some publishers' series are also listed. Hudson credited the great collector's of the era for their help. This included my friend Jack Dizer, Bob Chenu, Jack Schorr, Maurice Owen, Eddie LeBlanc, and Owen Cobb. These fellows knew as much about series books in this era as anyone could have. I am pleased to say that I have an autographed copy of this edition.

Next came a book surrounded by suspicion. The American Boys' Book Series Bibliography 1895-1935 by Alan Dikty. This was copyrighted in 1977 . In his preface he noted Hudson's 1967 work. He also sites his editorship of the Boys Book Collector. This was a quarterly magazine about juvenile series and authors. It ran a total of 13 issues between 1969 and 1973. (More about it in a later blog). Some have questioned this book's originality because of the similarity of mistakes and omissions between it and Hudson's first. However, there is no disputing that Dikty's book had quite a bit of new information in it. In fairness however, it nowhere near as comprehensive as was Hudson's 1977 edition.

In 1997 a hardcover book written by Philip Young-Children's Fiction Series was published by McFarland and Company. This book has very little value for collectors. There are few pages that I turn to that do not have egregious mistakes regarding titles and publishers. There is no format information. You would think a real publisher might have reviewed the material a bit. I guess not!

One year earlier in 1996 my good friend Ed Mattson and Tom Davis published their first "A Collector's Guide to Hardcover Boys' Series Books". This book (beige book above)was built on the foundation that Harry Hudson had provided.It had 535 pages and listed virtually all known boys series from 1900-1960's. It notes 1872-1993 but the pre-1900 books are not its strong point. It was published in a first edition of 260 books. It is spiral bound. Really quite an impressive achievement. There is information about hard to find series and various other topics.

In 1997 the second edition(red book) was released. This one had numerous additional series and lots of new information that was provided by collectors. Today it is the gold standard. There are a few mistakes and omissions but in a volume this size with this much information, that fact is of virtually no consequence. The new book had 578 pages. There is no better place to find out about the formats, descriptions and illustrators of boy's series books. (At least in my opinion).

Perhaps someone will add a supplement to Ed and Tom's bibliography that will include pictures. This would be a wonderful addition.


  1. Between the 1977 revised Hudson and the Mattson-Davis guide is the version from the University of South Florida from 1987. Harry's books were donated to this institution along with rights to publish his bibliography. They rearranged it into alphabetical order by the author or pen name for each series. The pages were printed on a dot-matrix printer and then photocopied. The result can be difficult to read.

    It has some additional series and I believe a few corrections from the 1977 version. After Hudson issued the 1977 version he published a series of corrections and new series in the series book magazines. I believe some of these appeared in Dime Novel Round-Up and Yellowback Library. These were probably incorporated in the USFL version.

    James Keeline

  2. Hopefully someday we'll have the chance to work on the edits we were submitting back in 2000-2002. I enjoyed our editorial/advisory group that we had going for a few years with Bill, Bart and ourselves. That was a good idea Tom had.
    As far as Harry's collection, during my two visits to USF Tampa I was surprised at how much of Harry's boys series books were missing dustjackets. For example, a "common" series like the Lone Ranger was missing several dustjackets. However, it was good to see that some of the rarer series like Verrill's Deep Sea Hunters had a jacket or two. Of course, one of the funner parts of the visit was meeting Paul Camp who is now Librarian Emeritus as of his retirement circa 2009.