Welcome to "Part Two" of the "How and Why Wonder Book" story!
At the end of Part One, we concluded our discussions about the "Softcover" H&W books released from 1960 to 1976, a total of 74 unique editions, with one of the books released having two different "Painted" front covers. In Part Two, we still have a fair bit more to discuss about the "Softcover" versions (commencing with the "Photo" cover era). For many collectors, completing a collection of the 75 "Softcover" books highlighted in Part One would be their primary objective. But, as collectors well know, once the first goal has been meet, there is often an irresistible urge to take on yet another collecting challenge. Part Two will now delve into other Wonder Book publications that may well set off another collecting binge for even the most satisfied and content H&W book collector.
The "Photo" Cover Era
Shown in the photo below are a small sampling of some of the H&W books released during the "Photo" cover era.
Before delving deeply into the "Photo" cover era, we must first "backtrack" a bit into the 1970's section from the previous web page and furnish you with some information that was not outlined therein.
It could be said that the "true" start of the "Photo" cover era was when the "Ecology" edition was released. We had stated that the actual release year for "Ecology" was 1971, but in stating this, there still remains some element of doubt. The copyright notice indicates a copyright year of 1971, but the LCCN starts with an earlier 1970 date. Thus, "Ecology" may have been released as early as 1970. Yet, given that the author and photographer of the work (Shelly Grossman) does not declare a copyright interest in her work until 1971, we would assume that the latter date would be correct (see previous page for a detailed discussion on LCCN numbers and their inconsistencies).
Be that as it may, we do know that when "Ecology" was first released, the back cover of its early editions (from 1971 to 1973) continued to feature the classic full-color design, listing the previous 63 titles (then actively in print) up to edition #5069. "Ecology" (#5070) was never added to this list. The photos below show both the first and second versions of the "Ecology" edition's back covers.
Strangely enough, the "Photo" cover era actually commenced in earnest when G&D released their final "Painted" cover edition, "The Environment and You."
Concurrent with the 1973 release of this volume (#5071), the back covers of all editions were modified to a white background showing seven of the photo images to be found on the new covers (see photo, above right). The edition list was also collapsed to show only 26 of the titles available, but with the proviso that there were "Other Titles," too, that weren't shown on the list. (An obvious omission from the list would be #5071, "The Environment and You").
At the same time, the front covers of the photo editions were modified from previous editions, with the rainbow logo and the book title now appearing within the confines of a pair of rectangular borders.
This new format would continue to be in effect for the remainder of the 1970's and into the early 1980's (up until 1981 when the Allan Publishers, Inc., editions would be released). But even though all editions printed from 1973-1981 sported the "white" back cover with the revised edition list, all photo cover era editions did not display the modified logo and book title elements. For non-photo cover volumes (many of the books in this era still continued to have "Painted" covers), the former cover and logo designs from the 1960's continued to be prevalent.
While by no means comprehensive, below is a listing of some of the titles that were available during this time frame, along with an indication of whether or not they were published with a "Photo" cover or a "Painted" cover. We have shown all 26 known titles from the above back cover listing, along with any subsequent edition releases or other known editions. Wherever uncertainty exists regarding the front cover format, we have indicated those volumes as being "Unknowns."
"#5001 - Dinosaurs - Photo; #5002 - Weather - Unknown; #5004 - Rocks and Minerals - Photo; #5007 - Insects - Painted; #5008 - Reptiles - Photo; #5009 - Birds - Photo; #5011 - Beginning Science - Painted; #5013 - The Human Body - Photo; #5014 - Sea Shells - Painted; #5016 - The Microscope - Unknown; #5017 - The Civil War - Painted; #5021 - Chemistry - Unknown; #5022 - Horses - Photo; #5024 - Primitive Man - Painted; #5030 - Ants and Bees - Painted; #5031 - Wild Flowers - Painted; #5032 - Dogs - Unknown; #5033 - Prehistoric Mammals - Painted; #5034 - Science Experiments - Photo; #5037 - Butterflies and Moths - Painted; #5042 - The American Revolution - Painted; #5046 - Magnets and Magnetism - Unknown; #5053 - Trees - Painted; #5055 - North American Indians - Painted; #5064 - Stars - Photo; #5065 - Airplanes and the Story of Flight - Painted; #5066 - Fish - Photo; #5069 - Trains and Railroads - Painted; #5070 - Ecology - Photo; #5071 - The Environment and You - Painted; #5072 - Extinct Animals - Photo; #5073 - Snakes - Photo; #5076 - Fossils - Photo"
It is interesting to note that the "checklist" on all Photo cover-era editions incorrectly lists book #5069 (Trains and Railroads) as "Trains and Ships." It is unknown if book #5067 (Boats and Ships) was also printed during this era.
As one can tell from the handful of unknowns, our "Photo" cover era collection still has a ways to go.
Other "How & Why" Edition Puzzles
Displayed below are photos of the front and back cover of a 1960's edition of the "Rocks and Minerals" book. Do you notice anything strange about this book?
Aside from the obvious fact that the edition list is missing from the center of the back cover, do you notice anything else strange?
Take a closer look at the front cover and focus on the upper right hand corner. Where did the retail price go? Also, why does the G&D book number (#5004) not appear on it?
Although not pictured above, the spine of this book also lacks evidence of the 5004 book number. In addition, at the lower edge of the spine, instead of the standard "Wonder Books" words appearing, the lower spine is simply printed "Grosset and Dunlap." Why does this book lack a G&D book number, a price indicator and a listing of other editions in the series? Can you solve this puzzle?
There is only one probable answer that we can think of.
During the 1960's, Grosset and Dunlap produced a "How and Why Wonder Book Gift Set" for sale that included eight assorted volumes of the books, along with "an authentic wrist compass for scouting and hiking" and "a real working magnifying glass." It would be logical to assume that they would not want prices to be printed on the front covers of these books, since the books were not meant for individual sale, but were simply one component of the larger boxed set.
We may be wrong in this assumption, but it would seem to be the only feasible explanation. A photo of the boxed Gift Set appears directly below.
Before proceeding to discuss the "Allan Publishers, Inc." editions and the "Price/Stern/Sloan" editions of the "How and Why Wonder Book" series, we are compelled to provide you with some basic information about the ISBN book numbering system, and to shed some light on the seemingly ever-changing ownership control of the Grosset and Dunlap publishing house.
The ISBN Book Numbering System
The concept of using a "Standard Book Numbering" system dates back to as early as 1965, when a 9-digit identification system was first conceived. A few years later, this concept was expanded in order to develop a methodology that could be employed as an "International" tool for book identification. Thus, the ISBN (the International Standard Book Number) system was initially contemplated.
In 1970, the International Organization for Standardization (the "ISO") put forth and endorsed a 10-digit book number identification system as the international standard. This system would gain widespread approval and, indeed, become the standardized book identification method for many years to come. In 2007, the length of the ISBN was expanded from 10-digits to a 13-digit identifier.
Up until 1974, the only book identification numbers to be found on G&D "How and Why Wonder Book" publications were the 4-digit G&D book numbers. Commencing in 1974, Grosset and Dunlap adopted the ISBN system and began to print the full ISBN numbers for each of their H&W publications on the reverse side of title pages, in the copyright notice area. However, ISBN numbers did not appear on the exterior covers or spine of these books. ISBN numbers would, thus, first appear in H&W books in the "Photo" cover era.
ISBN book numbers would differ between the various 1970's H&W book formats (unique numbers for the "Wonder Editions" - which were the "softcover" editions, the "Trade Editions" - the glossy or linen hardcover editions, and the "Library Editions" - the ruggedly linen bound hardcovers).
All ISBN numbers would contain the full 4-digit G&D book numbers embedded within them. For example, the softcover edition of "Sea Shells" (G&D #5014) would bear the ISBN number 0-448-05014-5. The softcover edition of "Birds" (G&D #5009) would contain the ISBN sequence 0-448-05009-9, and so on.
The "0" at the start of the ISBN is a "Group" identifier; the three-digit Publisher Code of "448" identifies Grosset and Dunlap; the "5" at the end of the number is a "Check Digit." (For more information on ISBN codes, please visit the Wikipedia website).
On later versions of H&W books, the "softcover" editions would be labelled as "Wonder Book Editions" (versus "Wonder Editions") and the "hardcovers" might be listed as, simply, "Deluxe Editions" (versus "Trade Editions") next to the ISBN code numbers. By 1979, the publication of hardcover "Library Editions" had ceased.
A Brief History of Grosset and Dunlap
- The Grosset and Dunlap book publishing entity was founded in 1898.
- In 1968, the National General Corporation (NGC) acquired Grosset and Dunlap (and "Bantam Books" in that same year).
- By 1973, the American Financial Corporation (AFC) held majority ownership control of the National General Corporation.
- In 1974, NGC was merged with AFC, and AFC sold the Grosset and Dunlap entity to Filmways.
- In 1982, Orion Pictures bought Filmways, and sold the Grosset and Dunlap entity to G.P. Putnam's Sons.
- In 1993, Putnam Publishing Group (G.P. Putnam's) bought Price/Stern/Sloan Publishers, Inc..
- In 1996, G.P. Putnam and Sons was sold to the Penquin Group (a division of British publishing giant, Pearson PLC).
- Subsequently, Pearson PLC merged Putnam with Penquin USA to form Penquin Putnam Inc.
- In 2013, Penquin merged with Random House to form Penquin Random House, the Grosset and Dunlap imprint thereby falling under their auspices.
How and Why Wonder Book Pricing
Cover prices of softcover How and Why Wonder Books can be tracked over time by comparing the prices displayed on books to the initial release year of an edition, and/or to the actual year of printing (when so indicated inside an edition). While it is a relatively simple task to determine the retail price of a book within a given calendar year, it is much trickier to try to determine the actual year when a price increase took effect. To do so, one must be able to locate copies at both the lower price and the higher price which were published in the exact same year. There is only one year within the 1960-1981 date range where this is clearly evident.
Be that as it may, we can be certain of the following facts. First, we know that the constant retail price of H&W Books from 1960-1965 was 50 cents. We know this because copies of H&W Books #5001-5060 can be found with a 50 cent price on their covers. Next, we know that the retail price on H&W Books in 1966, 1967 and 1969 was 59 cents. This implies that the price in 1968 must also have been 59 cents. Furthermore, we know that the retail price of H&W Books from 1970 to 1974 was 69 cents. We also are aware of the fact that the price in 1975 and 1976 was 79 cents, and, that this was also the initial retail price in 1977. We also know that books were printed in 1977 with a cover price of $1.00. Therefore, we know that 1977 was one of the transition years for a price increase.
We also know that 1978 printings were priced at $1.00. While no information is available on editions printed in 1979, 1980 or 1981; we know that, when the Allan Publishers editions were released in 1981, the cover price had increased to $1.25. One could fairly safely assume then that the retail price of any remaining "Photo" cover books sold in 1979, 1980 or at the start of 1981 was likely also $1.00 (but this is still an uncertainty).
The following listing displays the softcover retail prices in effect from 1960 to 1981.
1960 = 50 cents, 1961 = 50 cents, 1962 = 50 cents, 1963 = 50 cents, 1964 = 50 cents, 1965 = 50 cents, 1966 = 59 cents, 1967 = 59 cents, 1968 = 59 cents, 1969 = 59 cents, 1970 = 69 cents, 1971 = 69 cents, 1972 = 69 cents, 1973 = 69 cents, 1974 = 69 cents, 1975 = 79 cents, 1976 = 79 cents, 1977 = 79 cents and $1.00 (year of price increase), 1978 = $1.00, 1979 = Unknown, 1980 = Unknown, 1981 = $1.25.
Thus, although we can find editions of the 1965 releases priced at both 50 cents and 59 cents, we cannot be certain that 1965 was the actual year of this initial price increase. The reason being is that we can also locate copies of the 1963 and 1964 editions priced at 59 cents. Since 1965 releases can be found with a 50 cent cover price, it is impossible that the increase to 59 cents could have taken place in either 1963 or 1964. Therefore, the 59 cent editions are clearly later printings of these 1963 and 1964 books (which were originally released at 50 cents). Using similar logic, we also cannot be sure that the increase to 59 cents couldn't have taken place in 1966 and that the 1965 releases, with 59 cents appearing on them, are also later (1966 to 1969) reprints.
But, the very first price increase (from 50 cents to 59 cents) had to have occurred at some time in either 1965 or 1966.
When this initial price increase took place, retailers still had H&W Books on their store shelves with 50 cents printed on their covers. As a temporary solution, retailers would affix price stickers to book covers, over top of the old 50 cent printed prices. Subsequently, G&D revised the printed book prices by modifying the existing 50 cent figure. Yet, they simply removed the lower left hand edge of the "0" numeral and inserted a straight black line across the center portion of this same modified character. Hence, the 59 cent editions displayed a very crude number "9" on them.
The two photos below show a price revision sticker overlaid on a book cover, and, the crudely modified 59 cent price logo on the printed version.
Pricing on the hardcover "Trade Editions" remained constant at $1.00 throughout the 1960's. But when Grosset and Dunlap began to abandon the "glossy" covers in favor of "linen" covers on their H&W hardcover "Trade" editions, a permanent price indicator was no longer printed on the front covers. Instead, retailers would simply affix price stickers to the front covers, commencing in the early 1970's. Existing supplies of the hardcover versions with $1.00 on the face of them were also routinely covered up with a higher price sticker, often based on the retailer's discretion.
Neither the hardcover "Library Editions" nor the hardcover "School Editions" had prices printed on them due to the "bulk sale" nature of their distribution.
The "Allan Publishers, Inc." Editions
Commencing in 1981, Allan Publishers, Inc. became the "Exclusive Distributors" for the new, abbreviated "How and Why Wonder Book" line-up. Although the copyright notice sections (on the reverse side of title pages) still indicated that Grossett and Dunlap was the "Publisher," and that Allan was the "Distributor," the true relationship between the two corporate entities is vague.
If Grosset and Dunlap, Inc. was still actively publishing the series, we must question why the ISBN numbering system on all of the books changed, yet the historical 4-digit G&D book numbers remained a constant within the context of them. Gone was the ISBN three-digit "448" publisher code that identified Grosset and Dunlap. Instead, ISBN numbers now commenced with four-digit publisher code of "8241." Did "8241" specify that Allan Publishers was now the official "Publisher?"
In reviewing the above G&D corporate history, there is no indicator that a restructure, takeover or merger occurred in 1981 that would have precipitated this change.
Be that as it may, along with the modified ISBN numbers, these H&W books now had a slimmer, thinner look. Both the interior pages and the exterior covers were now printed on lighter weight stock. Front covers continued to display a mixture of the classic G&D "Painted" and "Photo" images, but they were now confined to the bottom 5/6ths of the covers and were encased in a rectangular "box." The standard "rainbow" logo was also modified to extend across the top of the cover in an elongated "capsule" shape and the former "square" design was gone.
The photo below shows a small sampling of some of the "Allan Publisher" era titles, along with a view of the modified look.
Back covers of these editions also displayed a greatly reduced series offering, with only 23 remaining titles available. The photo below of a back cover illustrates those specific titles.
It is interesting to note that the above list no longer appears in numerical order, as did former versions, but now appears as a randomly sorted list. Could this be because the publisher wanted to mask the fact that there were now huge gaps in between respective edition numbers?
The "Price/Stern/Sloan" Editions
The Price/Stern/Sloan editions were the successors to the Allan Distributor series and they used a similar "thin" book format and the identical rainbow "capsule" header as the Allan editions. They also showed a much reduced listing of titles as compared to the G&D offerings, but they did expand the number of books on their back covers from 23 to 26 volumes. All 23 of the Allan editions continued to be listed, along with the following additions: North American Indians, Electricity and the Civil War.
Along with the change in the name of the publisher to "Price/Stern/Sloan," the ISBN numbers were also altered, once more, with a different publisher code and a "0-8431" sequence appearing in the prefix portion of the number. Some of the former artwork and photos were retained on covers, while others had brand new art (see front covers of "Science Experiments" and "Beginning Science" in the photo below). Along with the change in ISBN numbers, the historical G&D four-digit numbers were also purged from the ISBNs and new 4-digit identifiers were inserted inside them.
The Transworld Series
And now, a few brief words on the U.K. series.
Transworld Publishers Ltd. of London were licensed to publish the How and Why Wonder Book series in the United Kingdom, commencing in 1965. From the beginning, Transworld published the majority of their books with common cover art as the North American editions, with an inside liner note stating that "This book has been specially re-edited for publication in Great Britain." Often, not much was done in the way of "re-editing," other than to adjust the text to conform to the British spelling, versus the American spelling, of words; yet, in other instances, greater rewrites were necessary to modify content to better reflect regional conditions, local animal species and the like.
Over time, Transworld would add many more unique titles to their series which were not available within the more limited North American series of 74 books. In fact, two of the 1970's releases of the North American books were reprints of earlier Transworld editions ("Extinct Animals" - 1974, originally published by Transworld in 1972; and "Fossils" - 1976, originally published by Transworld in 1974).
The photo below shows a small sample of the Transworld editions with similar cover artwork as the North American versions. Note the presence of U.K. pricing in the upper right hand corners.
It goes without saying that the ISBN numbers were different on the U.K. books, but Transworld also used a different series of 4-digit numbers than the North American series and, thus, the U.K. editions follow a unique numerical sequence and the various editions are "sorted" in a different order as compared to the North American series.
For example, the six volumes illustrated above are:
#6501 - Dinosaurs (SBN 552-86501-X)
#6503 - Stars (SBN 552-86503-6)
#6506 - Horses (SBN 552-86506-0)
#6524 - Ballet (SBN 552-86524-9)
#6544 - Deserts (SBN 552-86544-3)
#6551 - Air and Water (ISBN 0-552-86551-6)*
*(Note: The first five, and earliest, editions shown above still had British 9-digit SBN numbers assigned to them, while the final, and latest, book conforms to the 10-digit ISBN numbering sequence, then in effect as at its 1971 printing date.)
Displayed below are photos of four different back covers from the U.K. books. The first cover (top left) is an early, mid-1960's cover showing the first 36 titles published in the series. The second cover (top row, far right - yellow background) appeared on books printed in 1969 and 1970; the third cover (bottom row, far left - red border) appeared on books printed in 1971, 1972 and 1973; and the fourth cover, in the bottom row, far right (two tone brown-yellow background), appeared on books printed in 1974 and up.
Note that both the 1965 and 1970 back covers list or display only editions also available in the North American series; the third (red) cover has four new unique titles illustrated on it (The Tower of London, Seashore, Stamps, Castles); and the final 1974 cover contains many new titles (The Spoilt Earth, Railways, Dance, Coins, Extinct Animals, Communications, Kings and Queens) and two North American titles with revised cover art (World War II, Birds).
The Spotlight Wonder Book Series
Now it's time for us to hop back into our "Time Machine," leave the 1970's, 1980's and 1990's behind, and travel back in time to the era of the "sixties" once again in order to explore one of the sister publications to How and Why Wonder Books, the "Spotlight Wonder Book" series.
The Spotlight Wonder Book series commenced in 1964 with the printing of the first title in the series, "The Story of John F. Kennedy." The books were printed in an 8 1/2" X 11" format, contained the standard 48 pages (the same as How and Why Wonder Books), and bore the words "Wonder Books" printed on their spines. They had slightly thicker cardboard covers, but should still be classified as "softcover" editions (a few of these Spotlight titles were later reprinted as true "hardcover" editions).
The "Story of John F. Kennedy" was assigned G&D book number 6900 and it is unclear as to whether or not G&D contemplated more books in the "Spotlight" series when it was first released in 1964. This book may have been issued as a tribute to JFK (given that his assassination occurred only months prior in late 1963) and was only intended to be a "one-time" publication and not the start of a series.
Be that as it may, with the success of the sales of "The Story of John F. Kennedy," G&D decided to release more titles pertaining to either famous personalities, important peoples or organizations, and well-known institutions. Thus, six more titles were issued in 1965 and one final "Spotlight" book was published in 1966, bringing the final total for the series to eight volumes.
Illustrated below are the covers of the eight books in the Spotlight Wonder Book series, followed by details as to the G&D book numbers, authors and year of release.
#6900 - The Story of John F. Kennedy - Written by: Earl Schenck Miers - Published in 1964.
#6901 - Into Space with the Astronauts - Written by: Robert Scharff - Published in 1965.
#6902 - The Story of Winston Churchill - Written by: Earl Schenck Miers - Published in 1965.
#6903 - The White House and the Presidency - Written by: Earl Schenck Miers - Published in 1965.
#6904 - The Capitol and Our Lawmakers - Written by: Earl Schenck Miers - Published in 1965.
#6905 - The Story of the American Negro - Written by: Earl Schenck Miers - Published in 1965.
#6906 - The Story of the F.B.I. - Written by: Earl Schenck Miers - Published in 1965.
#6907 - The Story of Pope John XXIII - Written by: Albert J. Nevins - Published in 1966.The standard cover price on all "Spotlight Wonder Books" was 69 cents.
The "7900" Series
In a similar fashion as to the commencement of the "Spotlight Wonder Book" series, the "7900" series also started with the publication of its first book in 1964. The book was titled "Portrait of Skipper" and its publication was closely timed to the release of the Mattel doll (she was Barbie's little sister) in that same year.
As with the Spotlight Wonder Book series, we are uncertain as to whether or not G&D contemplated, in 1964, more books along the same lines as the Mattel-licensed Skipper book (as this was the only "7900 Series" volume produced in that year). Four more books would be added in 1965 and G&D would be required to seek licensing approval yet again for three of those four titles.
The "7900 Series" books were printed in an 8 1/2" X 11" format, contained the standard 48 pages (the same as How and Why Wonder Books), and bore the words "Wonder Books" printed on their spines. All books in the series were based on either fictional characters, television programs or TV personalities.
The five titles in the series are shown in the photos below, along with details as to G&D book numbers, authors, illustrators and year of first publication.
#7900 - Portrait of Skipper - Written by: Ellen Lenhart, Illustrated by Claudine Nankivel - Published in 1964.
#7901 - Monsters (Three Famous Spine-Tingling Tales) - Adapted by: Walter Gibson, Illustrated by: Tony Tallarico - Published in 1965.
#7902 - Bewitched - Written by: Ellen Lenhart, Illustrated by: Beverly Edwards - Published in 1965.
#7903 - The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (The Coin of El Diablo Affair) - Written by: Walter Gibson, Illustrated by: I. H. Guyer - Published in 1965.
#7904 - Soupy Sales - Written by: Barbara Gelman & Robert Shorin, Illustrated by: Tony Tallarico - Published in 1965.
The standard cover price on all "7900 Series" books was 50 cents, identical to "How and Why Wonder Book" prices during those same years.
Other "Wonder Books" - Conquest of the Moon
In 1969, to commemorate the then recent moon landing, G&D published another softcover Wonder Book, similar in many respects to "How & Why Wonder Books" and "Spotlight Wonder Books," yet this publication did not result in the start of a new series. It was titled "Conquest of the Moon."
As with "How and Why Wonder Books," the "Conquest of the Moon" edition featured a series of questions, such as "How large is the moon?" and "Why does the moon stay in orbit?," which were answered in detail within the text sections. The book was printed in an 8 1/2" X 11" format (the same as How and Why Wonder Books) and bore the words "Wonder Books" printed on the spine. The G&D book number on its spine was #8100. Instead of the standard 48 pages, this publication contained 64 pages (the exact same as "The Environment and You").
A photo of the book's front cover and other pertinent details are listed below.
#8100 - Conquest of the Moon - Written by: Felix Sutton & Alvin Maurer, Illustrations & Photos by: Raul Mina Mora and NASA - Published in 1969.
The "Answers About" Series
Commencing in 1968, Grosset & Dunlap began to publish yet another series of softcover Wonder Books showcasing science and nature topics. The titles for these editions commenced with the words, "Answers About" and each book in the series was published in the standard 8 1/2" X 11" size format. The covers were made from fairly light weight stock, but they had a definite "linen-like" texture and feel to them. Each volume contained approximately 60 pages, plus an index section at the back of the book.
The text and illustrations contained in each book were taken directly from previous "How and Why Wonder Book" volumes. For example, the "Answers About Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Mammals" book was a collage of extracts taken from the former "Dinosaurs" and "Prehistoric Mammals" H&W printings, with only some minor changes to text and sub-titles. The "Answers About Rocks and Minerals" book was a compilation of material extracted from the former "Rocks and Minerals" and "Our Earth" H&W editions.
It is unclear as to why G&D would have felt it necessary to publish these editions when, concurrent with their release, the existing H&W books were still on retail store shelves (and would be for several years to come).
There appears to have been a total of eight unique titles produced in this series, but we are a little vague on their initial release dates as we only possess "hardcover" editions for two of the titles, and, the main title page (with the copyright notice) is missing from one of our softcover books. However, based on the information that we do have, it appears that "Answers About Rocks and Minerals" was likely the first book to be released in the series, closely followed by "Answers About Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Mammals;" both releases occurring in 1968. Even though these titles bear G&D book numbers 4004 and 4005, it appears that they were likely the first two books published.
The third book to be released was "Answers About the Human Body," and, unfortunately, this is the book that we possess which contains no title page. Yet, it had to have been released in either 1968 or 1969. It bears G&D book number 4006 on it. The fourth and fifth books to be published were "Answers About Insects" (#4007) and "Answers About the Moon, Stars and Planets" (#4008), both being released in 1969.
In 1970, another title was added to the series. In terms of the series' G&D book numbers though, it was added completely out of chronological sequence. It is G&D book number 4001 and it is titled "Answers About the F.B.I." Strangely enough, it is identical to the 1965 Spotlight Wonder book release titled "The Story of the F.B.I." in nearly all aspects, including the fact that it contains only 48 pages (as opposed to 60 pages in the other "Answers About" volumes). The one major difference from the "Spotlight" version is that the background color scheme of the cover is bright blue (as opposed to red).
The remaining two books in the series are "Answers About Dogs and Horses" and "Answers About Birds and Animals." Both of these titles were also released in 1970, but we are not aware of their softcover G&D book numbers. It may be conceivable that, along with "Answers About the F.B.I.," they were released with lower G&D book numbers, too, in order to "fill in the gaps." Therefore, the G&D book numbers assigned to their softcover versions may well have been #'s 4002 and 4003; yet, it is equally possible that they were assigned book numbers 4009 and 4010 so as to run in a higher continuous fashion from the forerunner 1969 editions. Or, perhaps, they were only released in hardcover format and do not exist at all as "softcover" editions.
We have included pictures of the two hardcover books in with the photo grouping of the six softcover book covers shown below and listed them with their correct "hardcover" G&D numbers. We have also included the "hardcover" G&D number for "Answers About Rocks and Minerals," too, as a cross reference. Once again, we have listed the various book authors and illustrators below the pictures.
#4001 - Answers About the F.B.I. - Written by: Earl Schenck Miers
#4004 - Answers About Rocks and Minerals - Written by: Frederick Smithline, Illustrated by: John Hull & Kenyon Shannon (hardcover #2836)
#4005 - Answers About Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Mammals - Written by: Frederick Smithline, Illustrated by: John Hull, Kenyon Shannon & R. F. Peterson
#4006 - Answers About the Human Body - Written by: Martin Keen, Illustrated by: Darrell Sweet
#4007 - Answers About Insects - Written by: Ronald Rood, Illustrated by: Cynthia Iliff Koehler & Alvin Koehler
#4008 - Answers About the Moon, Stars and Planets - Written by: Frederick Smithline, Illustrated by: Raul Mina Mora, James Ponter & Denny McMains
#2825 - Answers About Dogs and Horses - Written by: Irving Robbin and Margaret Cabell Self, Illustrated by: William Barss & Walter Ferguson
#2826 - Answers About Birds and Animals - Written by: Robert Mathewson and Martin L. Keen, Illustrated by: Walter Ferguson & Ned Smith
The standard cover price on all softcover "Answers About" books was $1.00.
Early Competition - The Saalfield Science Series
In 1962, the Saalfield Publishing Co. decided to publish their own line of 8 1/2" X 11" science books for the youth market. Their series, aptly named "The Saalfield Science Series," was, in many ways, a direct "knock-off" of the already popular "How and Why Wonder Book" series produced by their main competitor. The Saalfield books also contained a total of 48 pages in each volume; featured "painted" art covers; had different experts author each book; and had an initial retail price in 1962 of 50 cents per book.
There were only six books released in the entire series and the "Saalfield Science Series" likely had a fairly short lifespan. Having said that though, many of these books today are found to have a 59 cent price sticker overlaid on top of the former 50 cent cover price and, therefore, retailers were likely still selling them in 1966 or 1967 (around the same time as when G&D also raised their prices). Because of their limited four to five year retail lifespan, these books are extremely hard to find today and, as such, should command higher prices than most of the books in the H&W series, given their comparative rarity.
Below are photos of the six books in the series. The Saalfield book numbers for this series ran from #5806 to #5811.
#5806 - Dinosaurs - Written by: John J. Stephens III, Illustrated by: Bette Davis
#5807 - Water - Written by: Luna B. Leopold and Helene L. Baldwin, Illustrated by: J. Patrick Lee
#5808 - The Dawn of Man - Written by: Bernard E. Nurry, Illustrated by: Helen Kennedy
#5809 - Man in Flight - Written by: Dean Phillips, Illustrated by: Robert A. Smith
#5810 - Man and Missiles - Written by: Dean Phillips, Illustrated by: R. F. Smith
#5811 - Pine, Man and Ax - Written by: Bernice Stevens, Illustrated by: Geoffrey Biggs
Hardcover How and Why Wonder Books
Up until this point, our attention has been focused on the "Softcover" versions of the various "Wonder Book" series. Now, it is time to take an insider's look at the "Hardcover" editions.
With respect to the "How and Why Wonder Book" series, there are, fundamentally, three different versions of the hardcover editions that were published during the 1960's and 1970's. They are: 1.) the "Trade Editions" (also known as the "Deluxe Editions"), 2.) the "Library Editions," and 3.) the "School Editions." (We will discuss the "Compilation Volumes" as a separate topic.)
Given that both the Trade editions and the Library editions are often acknowledged, but the School editions are often ignored, we will commence our hardcover review with a look at this third somewhat obscure category of the hardcover H&W books.
The "School Editions"
The "School Editions" of the "How and Why Wonder Book" series were published by a different book publishing entity than Grosset and Dunlap. Under special arrangement, the School Editions were published (and most likely distributed, too) by Charles E. Merrill Books, Inc.
We would assume that this arrangement allowed Grosset and Dunlap to focus on the retail sales of their popular "Trade Editions" (and, of course, their softcover editions, too). The Charles E. Merill company would then be in charge of printing, distributing and supplying schools and other educational institutions with their versions of the hardcover H&W books.
The "School Editions" were very similar in look to the "Trade Editions," but there was no evidence of a retail price printed on front covers. In addition, the covers were all manufactured with a robust "linen" textured surface (as opposed to the "glossy" covers of the original Trade Editions). The School Editions also lacked evidence of a G&D book number and the spines of the books did not have "Grosset and Dunlap" printed near the base of them; rather, they simply read "MERRILL" in capital letters where the G&D wording would normally reside.
The reverse side of book covers continued to show a list of the various other H&W books, but this listing would be limited to the editions that the Charles E. Merrill company chose to publish. In the early stages, it appears that Merrill published all of the titles in a hardcover "School Edition" version, but, as the series grew, we are skeptical as to whether or not all titles were available in this particular format. The back cover also had the following wording at the base of the edition list: "SCHOOL EDITION; Charles E. Merrill Books, Inc.; 1300 Alum Creek Drive; Columbus 16, Ohio."
Displayed below is the back cover of a Charles E. Merrill "School Edition" hardcover. It lists 57 of the first 60 books in the "How & Why Wonder Book" series as being available in "Merrill" editions. It also lists one of the "Spotlight Wonder Books" (Into Space with the Astronauts) as one of the 58 titles shown on the list.
The "School Editions" were clearly intended to be sold to schools as students' textbooks, given that they possessed rugged linen covers that could take a lot of abuse. In a similar vein, the "Library Editions" were intended for distribution to both city and school libraries, as they, likewise, possessed similar rugged linen covers. The much more frail "Trade Editions," with their glossy board covers, were intended for home use. But, it is not impossible today to find "Library Editions" that were issued as school texts, or, "School Editions" that somehow made their way into school or public libraries. There are even "Trade Editions" that can be found with library cards and library stamps inside of them. Such overlaps of use, however, should not present confusion as to which version a collector has obtained.
Based on "School Editions" that have been found with only the first 24 books in the series listed on back covers (as pictured below), we know that distribution of the "School Editions" commenced as early as 1961 (if not earlier). We also know that they were still in widespread circulation in 1966, so, the "minimum" lifespan of the "School Editions" was 1961-1966, if not much longer.
The "Trade Editions"
We have already said much about the "Trade Editions," (such as their initial cover price was $1.00; they later morphed from "glossy" covers to "linen" covers; etc.) but, there is one more area of ground that we need to cover; that being their G&D book numbers.
The G&D book numbering system for all of the "Softcover" editions is a well-known sequence. Collectors know that the softcover series commenced with #5001 (Dinosaurs) and carried on in a sequential numerical fashion until #5073 (Snakes), and that this string of contiguous book numbers was broken when the title, "Fossils," leapfrogged ahead to #5076. They also know that, during the subsequent ISBN numbering era, #5075 was assigned to a hardcover version of Earl Schenck Miers' book, "America and its Presidents," and that book #5074 has never been assigned.
But, what collectors may not know is that, not only did the hardcover "Trade Editions" have a completely different numbering series from the softcover versions (the hardcover series started at #4000), the sequential ordering of the books in the series also differs.
Although the hardcover series starts out in the same sequential order as the softcover series, this one-to-one correlation does not last long. In the softcover series, the first six books (Dinosaurs to Stars) are numbered #'s 5001-5006 and, in a similar sequence, in the hardcover series, they are #'s 4000-4005.
But, the seventh book in the hardcover series (#4006) is "Beginning Science," which is the eleventh book (#5011) in the softcover series. The eighth book in the hardcover series (#4007) is "Birds," which is the ninth book (#5009) in the softcover series. "The Civil War" is the fourteenth book in the hardcover series (#4013), but it is the seventeenth book (#5017) in the softcover series; and so on.
Therefore, we have compiled a "possibly complete" list of the hardcover "Trade Edition" book numbers, and that listing immediately follows.
#4000 - Dinosaurs, #4001 - Weather, #4002 - Electricity, #4003 - Rocks and Minerals, #4004 - Rockets and Missiles, #4005 - Stars, #4006 - Beginning Science, #4007 - Birds, #4008 - Our Earth, #4009 - Reptiles and Amphibians, #4010 - Insects, #4011- Machines, #4012 - Atomic Energy, #4013 - The Civil War, #4014 - The Human Body, #4015 - Mathematics, #4016 - The Microscope, #4017 - Sea Shells, #4018 - Flight (and also: The Story of Flight), #4019 - Explorations and Discoveries, #4020 - Horses, #4021 - Ballet, #4022 - Primitive Man, #4023 - Chemistry, #4024 - Sound, #4025 - North America, #4026 - Lost Cities, #4027 - Planets and Interplanetary Travel, #4028 - Wild Animals, #4029 - Ants and Bees, #4030 - Wild Flowers, #4031 - Dogs, #4032 - Prehistoric Mammals, #4033 - Science Experiments, #4034 - World War II, #4035 - Florence Nightingale, #4036 - Butterflies and Moths, #4037 - Fish, #4038 - Robots and Electronic Brains, #4039 - Light and Color, #4040 - Winning of the West, #4041 - The American Revolution, #4042 - Caves to Skyscrapers, #4043 - Ships, #4044 - Time, #4045 - Magnets and Magnetism, #4046 - Guns, #4047 - The Moon (for both different art cover versions), #4048 - Famous Scientists, #4049 - The Old Testament, #4050 - Building, #4051 - Railroads, #4052 - Trees, #4053 - Oceanography, #4054 - North American Indians, #4055 - Mushrooms, Ferns and Mosses, #4056 - Polar Regions, #4057 - Coins and Currency, #4058 - Basic Inventions, #4059 - The First World War, #4060 - The Environment and You, #4061 - Deserts, #4062 - Extinct Animals, #4064 - Snakes, #4069 - Electronics, #4070 - Ecology, #4074 - Fossils.
Some of the later hardcover "Trade Editions," such as #4064 (Snakes) and #4062 (Extinct Animals) no longer display the classic rainbow "How and Why Wonder Book" logo on their front covers. The books' contents, however, are the same as the softcover versions and do indicate that they are, in fact, "How and Why Wonder Book" editions. A photo of the front cover of #4062 (Extinct Animals) is shown below, which further demonstrates this.
Note that the above hardcover list contains 67 of the possible 68 titles (the six reissued softcover titles from 1969 do not change their hardcover books numbers when their covers and contents change, unlike in the softcover series) and the only volume that is missing from the above list appears to be "Air and Water."
The "Library Editions"
The "Library Editions," similar to the "School Editions," are "linen-covered" hardcover editions that display no retail price on their front covers. As with the "School Editions" and the "Trade Editions," the interior pages are identical to the softcover versions; it is only the covers that make these books unique.
The "Library Editions" differ from both the "Trade" and "School" editions in that there is no "How and Why Wonder Book" listing of editions on their back covers. The back covers of "Library Editions" are, for the most part, plain and colored in a single color tone. They do, however, sport a circular crest in the lower right hand corner of each back cover that reads: "Grosset & Dunlap's Guaranteed Library Binding; Color-on-Cloth."
Attached are photos of the front and back covers of four different "Library Editions." Note that the front covers are virtually indistinguishable from the other H&W versions.
Illustrated below is a close-up photo of the "Color-on-Cloth" logo.
"Library Editions" can be found which predate 1971, while reference to "Library Edition" ISBN numbers can be found in H&W books published as late as 1978. However, the total life span of these editions is largely unknown.
Similar to the "Trade Editions," the "Library Editions" also had their own unique series of G&D book numbers (and consequently, later on, their own ISBN numbers).
A "partial" list of some of the G&D book numbers assigned to the "Library Editions" is shown immediately below.
#3802 - Atomic Energy, #3804 - Beginning Science, #3806 - Butterflies and Moths, #3807 - Caves to Skyscrapers, #3812 - Electricity, #3815 - Airplanes and the Story of Flight, #3819 - The Human Body, #3820 - Insects, #3823 - Machines, #3824 - Magnets and Magnetism, #3827 - The Moon, #3829 - Our Earth, #3832 - Primitive Man, #3833 - Reptiles and Amphibians, #3836 - Rocks and Minerals, #3837 - Science Experiments, #3838 - Sea Shells, #3840 - Sound, #3841 - Stars, #3842 - Time, #3845 - Wild Flowers, #3846 - Winning of the West, #3851 - Railroads, #3852 - Trees, #3853 - Oceanography, #3863 - Ecology, #3865 - The Environment and You, #3866 - Extinct Animals, #3868 - Snakes, #3870 - Fossils.
(Note: There was also a "Color-on-Cloth" hardcover edition of the Spotlight Wonder book, "The Story of the American Negro," released as G&D book #3105.)
Food for Thought
We are aware of the fact that the Merrill "School Editions" were in circulation as early as 1961 and were most likely produced until at least some point into the later 1960's. Furthermore, it would appear that the "Library Editions" may have made their first appearance sometime either in the late 1960's, or, in 1970. Thus, it may be entirely possible that these two hardcover series did not exist at the same time. It could very well be the case that the agreement that Grosset & Dunlap had with Charles E. Merrill Books expired in the late sixties and that G&D decided to terminate the arrangement and publish their own line for school (and library) distribution. Thus, it may well be plausible that the "Library Editions" are simply the 1970's successors to the 1960's "School Editions," although this is only pure conjecture.
Other Library Editions? - "The Sepia Covers"
We are also aware of a number of "How & Why Wonder Books" available in the used book marketplace that have covers in four basic colors (brown, red, black and white) and, usually, display library markings. For lack of a better name, we have labelled these books as the "Sepia Editions," since the predominant color on covers is usually a light brown. The photo below shows the "Florence Nightingale" H&W volume in a "Sepia Edition" cover.
Little is known about the years that these editions were published in, or about what library markets they would have been sold into. The lack of G&D book numbers, or other identifying features on them, make these H&W books a true enigma.
The Compilation Sets - "The Science Library"
Another question that we have long asked ourselves is why Grosset and Dunlap would have seen the need to publish their compilation volume sets, better known as "The Science Library." It is well known that the hardcover "Trade Editions" would have been available from 1960 to at least 1978 (they were phased out by 1981 though, as their ISBN numbers no longer appear in the Allan Publishers' editions). During those same years, either the "School Editions" or the "Library Editions" were also in existence. So, why the need for yet more hardcover editions of the exact same H&W titles?
This is a question that will likely continue to baffle collectors. We know that the Science Library editions commenced in 1962 and were in near continuous print form until at least 1987. But, if they were not sold as individual books, and were packaged as "all or nothing" sets, we can see the logic. They would thereby represent a much larger-dollar individual sale for G&D, and be similar in concept to the then popular encyclopedia salesman's sets.
From 1962 to 1987, there were four different versions of "The Science Library" released. The first two releases contained seven volumes in each set. The last two releases contained only six books in each. The individual titles contained inside each volume (there were three to a volume) varied from one set to the next and, thus, a distinction can be made between the various sets. It also helps that the first and the fourth sets had unique covers. It is the second and third sets where confusion often arises, since they both had near identical covers.
The four photos, shown immediately below, contain pictures of a single volume from each of the four different sets.
The first set (the one with the red covers) was released in 1962 and was only in print for a limited period of time. Hence, it is the hardest to come across.
The second set (represented by the volume at the upper right) was issued circa 1968 and would have been in continuous print until 1973.
In 1974, G&D decided to scale back the number of volumes in the set (from seven to six) and to revise the distribution of the titles in the remaining volumes. They also added or eliminated certain H&W titles from various volumes based on popularity. This 6-volume set was in print up until 1986 and was the longest-running of the four sets. (It is represented by the volume at the lower left in the photos.)
In 1987, Grosset & Dunlap arranged with publisher, the J. G. Ferguson Publishing Company of Chicago, to take over publication of these sets. A new 6-volume set was then developed and distributed under the J. G. Ferguson name. At the same time, the covers were revised to include images of a molecule, a gear wheel, a supersonic aircraft, the planet Saturn, and a microscope along their outer edge.
The contents of each volume, in each respective set, are listed as follows.
The Science Library, Edition #1 - 1962 (Red Covers)
Volume One - Beginning Science, Birds, Wild Animals
Volume Two - Insects, Ants & Bees, Reptiles & Amphibians
Volume Three - Our Earth, Rocks and Minerals, Weather
Volume Four - Machines, Mathematics, Electricity
Volume Five - The Microscope, Chemistry, The Human Body
Volume Six - Flight, Sound, Atomic Energy
Volume Seven - Stars, Planets & Interplanetary Travel, Rockets & Missiles
The Science Library, Edition #2 - 1968-1973 (Two-Tone Cover)
Volume One - Beginning Science, Science Experiments, Light & Color
Volume Two - Magnets & Magnetism, The Microscope, Machines
Volume Three - Sound, Mathematics, Electricity
Volume Four - Our Earth, Rocks & Minerals, Weather
Volume Five - Oceanography, Chemistry, The Human Body
Volume Six - The Moon, Planets & Interplanetary Travel, Stars
Volume Seven - Flight, Rockets & Missiles, Atomic Energy
The Science Library, Edition #3 - 1974-1986 (Two-Tone Cover)
Volume One - Beginning Science, Science Experiments, Light & Color
Volume Two - Magnets & Magnetism, Electricity, Machines
Volume Three - Our Earth, Rocks & Minerals, Weather
Volume Four - Oceanography, Chemistry, The Human Body
Volume Five - The Moon, Planets & Interplanetary Travel, Stars
Volume Six - Flight, Rockets & Missiles, Atomic Energy
The Science Library, Edition #4 - 1987 (J. G. Ferguson edition)
Volume One - Beginning Science, Science Experiments, Machines
Volume Two - Light & Color, Electricity, Magnets & Magnetism
Volume Three - Atomic Energy, Chemistry, Rocks & Minerals
Volume Four - Our Earth, Oceanography, Weather
Volume Five - The Moon, Stars, Planets & Interplanetary Travel
Volume Six - Flight, The Human Body, Primitive Man
One can easily spot the potential source of confusion between the second and third editions. Firstly, Volume One in both sets contains the exact same contents. Secondly, Volumes Four, Five, Six and Seven in the second edition are identical to Volumes Three, Four, Five and Six, respectively, in the third edition.
A Word of Warning to Amazon.com Shoppers
And, finally, a word of warning to those of you looking to purchase vintage "How & Why Wonder Books" online from sellers such as Amazon.com. Some of the ads on Amazon will lead you to believe that you are purchasing an individual hardcover (or softcover, for that matter) H&W book by virtue of the fact that the ad will be headed up with the name and author of that specific, individual book. Be aware that, in many instances, sellers who are posting ads for single volumes from one of the above "Science Library Series" sets will not bother reading past the first title page inside each book and will, incorrectly, post the book under the first name shown therein. For example, you may see an ad for the "hardcover" copy of "Sound" by Martin L. Keen and order it for your collection. Don't be too surprised however if what shows up at your doorstep is a copy of Volume Three of the second edition of "The Science Library." When in doubt, either communicate directly with the Amazon seller first, or, purchase it from eBay where a photo shows you exactly what you are buying. (The same comment regarding Amazon goes for Alibris.com; AbeBooks, Biblio.com, Better World Books and the like). Caveat emptor, my friends!
We hope you have truly enjoyed this little journey through the past in looking at all the various How & Why Wonder Book editions. And, we are also well aware of the fact that these two web pages do not tell the entire story either. We are confident that we will soon receive e-mails asking us why we did not include a section on, say, "How & Why Activity Wonder Books," or the two "How & Why Bumper Wonder Books," or many other such queries. Well, that just means that we really don't know everything there is to know about the vast scope of How & Why Wonder Books, and, there's likely much more yet to discover. Isn't that really the true fun in collecting anyway?