The 'Mini-Golden' Editions

'Waltzing Mouse' - Italian cover I have coined the 'Mini-Golden' term to describe the hardbound format in which the Brains Benton stories were published in Italy, France, Great Britain & Germany in the 1960s. The name refers not only to the diminutive physical size of the books, but also to their part of a Golden Press collection of stories exported to Europe by Western Publishing. These editions share the same artwork, binding and overall design in each of these four territories, with the only major modifications being the translations of the stories themselves.

• History & Origins.
Western Publishing, a large and significant American publishing company, are historically renowned for the wide range of books for children they produced in the early to mid part of the 20th century via their Golden Press imprint. Contributing authors included such notable individuals as Josephine James, Robert Louis Stevenson, Walt Disney, Ellery Queen, Richard Scarry, and Charles Spain Verral, who created the Brains Benton series in 1959.

The large and potentially profitable European market beckoned, and sometime in the late 1950s, or early 1960s, Golden Press sought to have their vast and varied catalogue of popular juvenile titles published in the continent. Ultimately, four countries in particular – Italy and France at first, followed by Great Britain and Germany later – each published approximately 60 of these stories (including the Brains Benton series) in a physically uniform format and design. A random selection of non-Brains Benton Mini-Golden editions can be seen here.

• Printer & Publishers.
Italian publisher Arnoldo Mondadori assumed the responsibility of printing and binding the different editions for all four countries. The printing arm of Mondadori was based in Verona, as opposed to the main hub of operations, which in the 1960s was located in Milan. This is often, but not always, detailed in the copyright pages of these editions, as shown in the following example from a German title:

 
Above:
A typical example of a German copyright page (taken from Roving Rolls).

While the books had a common manufacturer in Italy, they were published by different companies in each territory. For example, in Great Britain, the books were released by Golden Pleasure, a publishing house co-owned by Paul Hamlyn and Western Publishing. The French books were actually published by Hachette, through their 'Editions des deux coqs d'or’ (Two Golden Cocks Editions) imprint, while the German publishers were ‘Delphn-Verlag’ (Dolphin Publishing House).

While the individual book titles and story translations are naturally unique to each region, the binding, overall design and illustrations are identical. The hardback editions were of a diminutive 'hexadecimo' size; barely five inches tall, and under four inches wide (the metric measurements are as follows: 95 mm x 127mm).

• Publication Dates.
Unfortunately, while all six Brains Benton titles were translated and published in Italy and France, only Missing Message saw the light of day in Britain. Rather bizarrely, five of the titles were released (out of order) in Germany, where Stolen Dummy was apparently rejected for publication, for reasons that remain unclear.

Above: The four Mini-Golden covers for Missing Message, featuring artwork by Jacques Pecnard.

  Title: Year: Illustrator: Italy France G.B. Germany

1.

Missing Message

1959

Jacques Pecnard

1965

1965

1966

1967

2.

Counterfeit Coin

1960

Jacques Pecnard

1966

1966

1967

3.

Stolen Dummy

1961

Jacques Pecnard

1966

1966

4.

Roving Rolls

1961

Jacques Pecnard

1967

1966

1967

5.

Waltzing Mouse

1961

Beniamino Bodini

1967

1966

1967

6.

Painted Dragon

1961

Beniamino Bodini

1967

1967

1968

 
Publication dates of the 'Mini-Golden' editions across Europe.

• Cover & Internal Artwork.
Each book contained a plethora of black and white line drawings, with a much smaller number of full-colour illustrations scattered intermittently. For the Brains Benton series, French illustrator Jacques Pecnard produced artwork for the first four titles, while Italian artist Beniamino Bodini worked on the remaining two.

1. Missing Message (J. Pecnard)

2. Counterfeit Coin (J. Pecnard)

3. Stolen Dummy (J. Pecnard)

4. Roving Rolls (J. Pecnard)

5. Waltzing Mouse (B. Bodini)

6. Painted Dragon (B. Bodini)

• Story Collections / Series.
In each country, the Mini-Golden stories were grouped into a ‘collection’ of stories. In Great Britain, the series was called the 'Golden Star Library'; in Italy it was ‘La Stella D’oro’ (The Golden Star); in France, ‘L'etoile D'o’r (also The Golden Star), and Germany opted for the ‘Goldene Happy-Bücher’ branding (Golden Happy Books).

The parental link back to Golden Press is clear to see in the names of these collections, as well as the names of the British and French publishing houses:


Examples of the spine format in each of the four countries.

Country: Publisher: Series:

Italy

Mondadori La stella d’oro
(The Gold Star)

France

Editions des deux coqs d'or
 
(Two Golden Cocks Editions) 
L'etoile D'or
(The Gold Star)

G.B.

Golden Pleasure Books Gold Star Library

Germany

Delphin-Verlag
(Dolphin Publishing House)
  Goldene Happy-Bücher 
(Golden Happy Books)

The stories were numbered in each particular series, and these were identical for the titles released in Italy and France (for example, the translated Missing Message is No. 8 in both of these territories). However, the order and sequence in Germany is significantly different; there, the Missing Message edition is No. 4 in the ‘Goldene Happy-Bücher’ collection. Strangely, the British releases did not appear to employ a similar numbering system.

Again with the notable exception of the UK (where the following convention was reversed), the books in these collections were divided into those for younger readers (denoted by a blue reverse cover and spine), and those for slightly older readers (sporting a red colouration instead). The actual age range covered by the red titles (according to the French editions) is 10 to 14 years.

• Text Changes:
It should be noted that the texts of most of the Brains Benton stories in each of these four countries were heavily abridged and edited, no matter what particular language they appeared in. Even the British Missing Message was anglicised, with many of the characteristically American phrases and dialogue replaced with much more mundane and insipid expressions.

Curiously, the editor’s scissors appear to have been wielded differently by each individual publisher. In Germany, for example, the first chapter of Missing Message is ludicrously short, ending shortly after Jimmy’s mother receives the mysterious phone call from Brains. In comparison, the French and British opening chapters are considerably longer, while the Italian text, at the time of writing, has not been available for examination.

The following table illustrates how many of the chapters in the Mini-Golden editions were merged together in the abridgement process, lowering the overall count. Curiously, Roving Rolls appears to be the only title to have escaped this treatment completely:

  Title:  US: Italy France  G.B. Germany
1. Missing Message 21 ? 13 13 14
2. Counterfeit Coin 25 ? 19 19
3. Stolen Dummy 22 ? 15
4. Roving Rolls 20 ? 20 20
5. Waltzing Mouse 18 18 17 17
6. Painted Dragon 28 ? 15 15

 
Number of chapters in the 'Mini-Golden' editions compared to the original US texts.

Please visit the dedicated pages for each of the four countries for more specific information on the Brains Benton titles published there:

Italy - France - Great Britain - Germany

Copyright © Ian Regan 2007–2010