Sunday, 27 October 2013


My old, second hand, paperback copy of Poul Anderson's Virgin Planet (London, 1966) (see image) has, inside its covers:

a title page;
a publication history;
a dedication;
a blank page;
the text of the novel on pp. 9-149;
an Author's Note on pp. 150-156;
four pages advertising other books.

Since there are only four pages before the text, why does the text begin on p. 9 instead of on p. 5? I think that one page has been removed before the title page and can see that another has definitely been removed before the text. Here, "one page" means two numbered pages, thus pp. 1-2 and 7-8.

I guess that:

p. 1 was extracts from the text;
p. 2 was other Anderson titles;
p. 7 was the table of contents;
p. 8 was blank.

I suggest that a text should always begin on p. 1 and that the preceding pages should be numbered from p. i. In order to know how many pages are occupied by this novel, it is not sufficient to look at the last numbered page. Instead, we must subtract 8 from 149, then confirm that there are no blank pages between chapters. There are not. This practice started later.

We usually attend only to the content of a novel but it is interesting occasionally to reflect on its physical format, especially since publishing conventions have changed slightly over the decades.


  1. Hi, Paul!

    I'm such a zealous fan of Poul Anderson that as long ago as the 1970s I began replacing paperback copies of his works with hardbacks. This was before the rise of the Internet and online book buying sites. I had to use advertisements in SF magazines from used book searchers/sellers, send off for their hard copy catalogs, and then make my selections, all by snail mail.

    Anyway, one of these hardback Anderson books I acquired (probably in the mid 1980s) was a copy of the original 1959 Avon Books edition of VIRGIN PLANET. I also have a copy of the paperback STARSHIP, apparently containing the shorter version of the same book.

    The main text of my Avon Books edition runs from page 7 to 214, with an Author's Afterword on pages 215 to 224. This edition has no list of contents page, btw.

    Page 1 is blank except for the title "Virgin Planet" in italics.
    Page 2 is entirely blank.
    Page 3 is the title page.
    Page 4 is the publication page.
    Page 5 is the dedication page, honoring a friend named "John."
    Page 6 is also blank, with the text beginning on page 7.

    Like you, I woud prefer that the main texts of books would begin on page 1, with matters like the items I listed above using lower case Roman numbes such as "pages i to vi."


  2. Sean,
    Thank you! If anyone out there has the same edition as me, then maybe they can tell me what is on the pages that I am missing?
    Robert Heinlein's "Note on Stories to be Told" has never been in any British edition of his Future History. I bought a second hand copy of an American paperback of REVOLT IN 2100 because its table of contents listed this Note. Then I found that that page was missing!

    1. Hi, Paul!

      Now THAT was frustrating, lost material in a book you purchased at least partly because of the missing pages. I checked my undated (but obtained before 1975) Signet Books copy of Heinlein's REVOLT IN 2100, and it has an afterword called "Concerning Stories Never Written," four pages long. If I find another copy of this edition, should I send it to you?

      Btw, I made a small mistake in my previous note. It was AVALON Books, not Avon, which pub. the hard cover editioin of VIRGIN PLANET.


  3. Sean,
    I was quoting from memory. "Concerning Stories Never Written" would certainly have been the title of the missing note. Would you be able to post me a photocopy of those four pages if I email you my address?

    1. Hi, Paul!

      Yes, I can easily use a copy machine to reproduce Heinlein's note. Email me your snail mail address if you wish.

      All this reminds me a bit of Walter Miller's A CANTICLE FOR LEIBOWITZ. Concerning a post nuclear apocalypse Catholic monastic order which focused on trying to preserve lost and fragmentary books. And things like that actually happened during the Dark Ages after Rome fell, when many monasteries copied and preserved many we would otherwise have lost.