The Bantam in the Plain Wrapper




  Bantam S221             Penguin S221


Superior Reprint M656


Bantam 143 dust jacket













(When bibliophiles refer to a "wrapper," we mean the cover of the book that is glued to the pages ... as opposed to a "dust jacket," which is a piece of paper that is not physically attached.)

This oddity is more about a man than this particular book. You can't really study "vintage paperbacks" without running into the name Ian Ballantine. He ran Penguin in the U.S. during the war years, and he was a big advocate of catchy cover art, even though the head of Penguin (Allen Lane in London) wanted none at all.

Due to the war, Ballantine began actually publishing books for Penguin (rather than importing them from England). His greatest accomplishment with Penguin was a contract with the U.S. Army's Military Service Publishing Company, for which he printed the Penguin S-series, Infantry Journal, and Superior Reprints (see the Infantry Journal section). This agreement undoubtedly kept the company solvent through the war years.

But in 1945, Lane had had enough of Ballantine's contentiousness, and Penguin (U.S.) was left in the hands of Kurt Enoch and Victor Weybright. Ballantine went off and put together another paperback house: Bantam (though he would only remain there until 1952).

Every book company has leftover, unsold books lying around. Ballantine, believing that he owned not only the rights to the books he'd published for the Military Services Publishing Company, but also the books themselves, took them with him to Bantam. For most, he wrapped the books in dust jackets, such as the Saki book seen here, which was re-released with a Bantam book number. With Bantam numbers 146, 148, 149, 150 & 151, he re-released five books with identical dust jacket art (click HERE). But Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo was different, probably because there were too few books to warrant the cost of printing new dust jackets or contracting new artwork. The page blocks were released with new wrappers (covers) with no artwork.

The title page identifies it as a Bantam Book. Both books seen here are stated 6th printings (copyright Random House). In other words, they are the same physical printing, or blocks of pages (but with a new title page). Ballantine used the same back cover blurb and simply replaced the mention of Penguin with the Bantam colophon.

But for such an advocate of cover art, it must have irked Ballantine to release a book with no art at all on the wrapper.

"Bantam S221" is pretty scarce. There are very few copies for sale.