Usage guides and the Book Club Associates

Yesterday, I wrote a post about my discovery of Harry Blamires’s usage guide, called The Cassell Guide to Common Errors in English (1998). The publisher is mentioned as BCA, which as I now know, thanks to Tim Waller, stands for Book Club Associates. The reason why I did not at first recognize the abbreviation is that I was only familiar with their older logo, as in the edition of Partridge in the image below:

My two copies of Partridge

What made me concede defeat (I know: I shouldn’t use this phrase: it is another usage problem!) was the Wikipedia entry on the Book Club Associates, which shows a different logo, as if the other one never existed:

BCA logo, from Wikipedia

This is indeed the logo (though in colour) that appears on the title page of Blamires’s book.

More interestingly, though, I have now identified two usage guides published by Book Club Associates: Partridge (1947/1975) and Blamires (1998). The copyright of the latter book is stated as 1997, and as Tim Waller writes in his comment below, the BCA version is a reprint of the book originally published by Cassell the year before. Partridge’s original publisher was Hamish Hamilton.

I’d now like to know if there are other usage guides that were originally published or reprinted by book clubs like BCA? This would probably have led to enormous numbers of sales. Does anyone know?


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3 Responses to Usage guides and the Book Club Associates

  1. Tim Waller says:

    Aha, glad that’s been sorted out, Ingrid. Now, I don’t mean to be a pain, but I’m not sure I understand your point about the Blamires book not being a reprint. Are you suggesting BCA originated it? The original book was published by Cassell in 1997 (according to the copy in the UL and the BL catalogue). What date appears in the BCA edition? It should make it clear on the copyright page (rather than the title page), though information there is not always as full as it should be on book club editions, I know.

    Forgive me if I’m telling you what you already know, but the right to publish a book club edition is one of the subsidiary rights publishers try to sell for each book they publish. If a book club buys the rights, it sometimes just takes copies of the publisher’s books, with the publisher’s logo, and sometimes it thinks it can sell enough copies to warrant paying to have its own logo on the book. Occasionally, a book club might do a special book club-only edition, so that the members of the book club are offered something exclusive, and this is often a smaller-size hardback than the one that is, or was, available from the publisher. Sometimes they do a small hardback edition of a book that was only published in paperback by the publisher.

    I’m pretty sure BCA wouldn’t have originated a book like the Blamires; they are more likely to have acquired the book club rights from Cassell, just as they would have done from Hamish Hamilton for the Partridge. Publication of a book club edition can be in the same year as the original book, or it can be a long time afterwards. Book club editions are only sold through mail order, not in bookshops, so they are not seen as competing directly with the publisher’s edition.

    Or have I missed the point completely?

    • Not at all: thanks for all this, which is very helpful indeed.

      My copy of Blamires (BCA) dates from 1998 and states that it was published “by arrangement with Cassell”. The date of copyright (Blamires’s) given is 1997. As for my BCA copy of Partridge, the original date of publication is not mentioned. All it says is: “This edition published 1975 by Book Club Associates By arrangement with Hamish Hamilton Ltd”. It also says on the title-page that this is a new edition: I wonder though how accurate that is.

      I know how book clubs work, and used to subscribe to one. A lot of us students did at the time, usually to get the free coffee maker that came with a year’s subscription, and they would cancel their subscriptions at once.

      Having now identified two usage guides that were reprinted by BCA, I would like to know if there are more such titles. Was Fowler published by a book club, for instance? I doubt that OUP would give permission for such a reprint. Knowing more about this would help us identify the actual (rather than intended) readership of usage guides. If people read them at all, that is. Neither my Blamires nor my Partridge (the BCA copy that is) shows a great many signs of wear. My Hamish Hamilton edition is in even better shape.

  2. We have a BCA edition of the Oxford Guide to English Usage by Edmund Weiner and Andrew Delahunty in our HUGE database. It’s the 16th reprint (1998) of a second edition, published in 1994 by BCA (the regular 2nd edition seems to have been published a year earlier). The book’s first edition was originally published as The Oxford Miniguide to English Usage in 1983. The name of the publisher is given as BCA on the title page of the book, which also has the logo. It isn’t written out full as Book Club Associates in the book.

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