Breaking the Code... The Ballantine Enigma
by Simon van Meygaarden
A Brief History of CJN
As Far As We Know
SBN and ISBN
Finding New ISBNs
The first thing one notices, when searching for the first seven volumes of the Gor series; Tarnsman of Gor, Outlaw of Gor, Priest-Kings of Gor, Nomads of Gor, Assassin of Gor, Raiders of Gor and Captive of Gor; is the huge amount of totally different covers. At first sight, it isn't even clear that all of these books are created by the same publisher, and once one has the opportunity to study these covers in slightly more detail, even more differences become apparent, and the sheer number of different printings and unique covers becomes, in the truest sense of the word, overwhelming.
This is what I mean by overwhelming:
How could one ever make some sense out of this?
In the summer of 1998, when I first ran into this plethora of artwork and design, I began by collecting cover images from second-hand Gor books sold on eBay, which had started only a couple of years earlier. After a while, I realized I could use the cover price to sort the images, and I begun to collect and add some bibliographical information; ISBN, printing, publication date, and such, to each of the covers. The big problem, of course, was that most of the images were small, and contained hardly any detail, while the description of the books was usually incorrect.However, I did manage to find several covers of foreign translations of the Gor series, and in the years that followed I contacted hundreds of people, all over the world, trying to get more information about the Gor books they owned. Many of them, to my surprise, were actually very helpful, and some even stayed in contact long after providing the information I needed, Slowly, but steadily, I managed to create a good overview of all foreign translations, but the original American editions, by Ballantine and DAW, remained, for the most part, a complete mystery.After a couple of years, the amount of covers and bibliographical data proved impossible to handle manually, and I began to write software that would, eventually, allow me to generate an entire website from a set of databases and some supporting text files. The image on the right shows The Complete John Norman website on November 29th, 2000.
In March, 2008, a good friend, a librarian, provided me with bibliographical information from the Books-in-Print database, which allowed me to correct many errors, but after a couple of month, I realized, I would probably never be able to find enough information and good quality cover images to finish the project I had started a almost decade earlier.Then, in the spring of 2010, I met Jon Ard, who got into eBay in 2001, and while I had been collecting covers, he had actually been buying the books. We both quickly realized that by combining our knowledge; Jon's huge book collection, and my data and software; we could create something that no one else had ever tried before - a complete overview of John Norman's work, with detailed bibliographical information and high resolution cover scans; a website dedicated to Norman's publication history, in other words, The Complete John Norman.
[UPDATE] As of this date (September 10, 2012), this is what we know about the Ballantine Edition:
Tarnsman of Gor
Outlaw of Gor
Priest-Kings of Gor
Nomads of Gor
Assassin of Gor
Raiders of Gor
Captive of Gor
Number of Printings
In other words, a total of 140 different regular printings. There are also several Canadian printings, and even some Hybrid printings, with the book printed in Canada, but the cover printed in the U.S.A., giving a grand total of 164 different printings.
After scanning front, back and copyright pages of each of these printings, and updating our databases with the information present, we can now finally solve the mystery of the Ballantine enigma; we can reveal several new ISBNs, that have been unknown until now, and we will show that most of the bibliographical information on the Internet, particularly about the first printings of the first three books, is dead wrong. We can now break the code.
Almost all of the books with the Ballantine Edition have an SBN on the copyright page. This is what an SBN is all about.
In 1965, W. H. Smith (the largest single book retailer in Great Britain) announced its plans to move to a computerized warehouse in 1967 and wanted a standard numbering system for books it carried. They hired consultants to work on behalf of their interest, the British Publishers Association's Distribution and Methods Committee and other experts in the U.K. book trade. They devised the Standard Book Numbering (SBN) system in 1966 and it was implemented in 1967.
At the same time, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Technical Committee on Documentation (TC 46) set up a working party to investigate the possibility of adapting the British SBN for international use. A meeting was held in London in 1968 with representatives from Denmark, France, Germany, Eire, the Netherlands, Norway, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and an observer from UNESCO. Other countries contributed written suggestions and expressions of interest. A report of the meeting was circulated to all ISO member countries. Comments on this report and subsequent proposals were considered at meetings of the working party held in Berlin and Stockholm in 1969. As a result of the thinking at all of these meetings, the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) was approved as an ISO standard in 1970, and became ISO 2108.
That original standard has been revised as book and book-like content appeared in new forms of media, but the basic structure of the ISBN as defined in that standard has not changed and is in use today in almost 150 countries.From isbn.org
[UPDATE] Together with the SBN/ISBN, most of the books within the Ballantine Edition show printing information, consisting of print number, month and year, on their copyright page. On the right an example from the Tenth Printing of Tarnsman of Gor, where the price (US 1.50) is put behind the ISBN 0-345-25179-2.
The first thing to note is that the only difference between a SBN and an ISBN is the zero in front of the number. In other words, one can create an ISBN from an SBN by putting a zero in front of the SBN, or create a SBN from an ISBN by remove the zero. Also note that the publishers code for Ballantine is "0-345-".
Besides using the information on the copyright page. it is also possible to deduce the ISBN from the information on the Ballantine covers. For example, the Second American Printing of Assassin of Gor has the following text on its cover: "Ballantine Books Fantasy Adventure 02489-3-095". Strip away the cover price (095), add the publishers code (0-345-), and there you have the full ISBN, 0-345-02489-3.
However, several books don't have an SBN on their copyright page: the First and Second American Printings of Tarnsman of Gor, Outlaw of Gor and Priest-Kings of Gor, and the First American Printing of Nomads of Gor. For four of these seven books, we can deduce the ISBN using the aforementioned procedure. The Second American Printing of Tarnsman of Gor, from January, 1970, has the number 01830 on the cover, which means its ISBN is 0-345-01830-3. The Second American Printing of Outlaw of Gor, from January, 1970, has the number 01891 on the cover, which means its ISBN is 0-345-01891-5. The Second American Printing of Priest-Kings of Gor, from December, 1969, has the number 01832 on the cover, which means its ISBN is 0-345-01832-X. And finally, the First American Printing of Nomads of Gor, from October, 1969, has the number 01765 on the cover, which means its ISBN is 0-345-01765-X.
Using these previously unknown ISBNs, we can now create an overview of the period between 1966 and 1972:
|December, 1966||Tarnsman of Gor||Ballantine Edition||First Printing|
|December, 1967||Outlaw of Gor||Ballantine Edition||First Printing|
|December, 1968||Priest-Kings of Gor||Ballantine Edition||First Printing|
|0-345-01765-X||October, 1969||Nomads of Gor||Ballantine Edition||First Printing|
|0-345-01830-3||January, 1970||Tarnsman of Gor||Ballantine Edition||Second Printing|
|0-345-01832-X||January, 1970||Priest-Kings of Gor||Ballantine Edition||Second Printing|
|0-345-01891-5||January, 1970||Outlaw of Gor||Ballantine Edition||Second Printing|
|0-345-02094-4||December, 1970||Assassin of Gor||Ballantine Edition||First Printing|
|0-345-02447-8||December, 1971||Raiders of Gor||Ballantine Edition||First Printing|
|0-345-02485-0||December, 1971||Tarnsman of Gor||Ballantine Edition||Third Printing|
|0-345-02486-9||December, 1971||Outlaw of Gor||Ballantine Edition||Third Printing|
|0-345-02487-7||December, 1971||Priest-Kings of Gor||Ballantine Edition||Third Printing|
|0-345-02488-5||December, 1971||Nomads of Gor||Ballantine Edition||Second Printing|
|0-345-02489-3||December, 1971||Assassin of Gor||Ballantine Edition||Second Printing|
|0-345-02994-1||December, 1972||Captive of Gor||Ballantine Edition||First Printing|
This means that the First Printings of Tarnsman of Gor, Outlaw of Gor and Priest-Kings of Gor must have SBN sequence numbers lower then "01765". As Ballantine seemingly implemented the SBN system in 1969, the three books were published without any reference to an SBN identification. Ballantine Books was founded in 1952, and it is possible that they reserved the first 1750 numbers for their catalog per 1969. It is also possible, however, that they never got around to assigning these numbers to previously published books, and the First Printings of Tarnsman of Gor, Outlaw of Gor and Priest-Kings of Gor might simply not have an ISBN. If they do, it is somewhere in the range between 0-345-00001-0 and 0-345-01764-1.
One thing is sure, though. The ISBNs mentioned on the Internet are wrong. As an obvious example, the Wikipedia page for John Norman states:
Using the publication dates from the copyright pages and our high-resolution front cover scans, we can now create some order in the initial chaos of the Ballantine Edition. After removing identical duplicates, we can use the cover design to split the edition into several series. Please note that the names of these series, like Red Book and Stone Cover, are not "official" names. We just invented these names to make it easier to reference a certain set of covers.
Here's an overview of the twelve cover series we have identified thusfar. Click on any of the covers to see the book, see the Ballantine Edition for more details about the covers series themselves, and see The Start of the Series, Betty says No! - The Ballantine Rejection and The Vallejo Reprints for their historical backgrounds.
The Ballantine Red Book Series was published between 1966 and 1971. The series consists of 4 books and 21 printings.
The Ballantine Full Cover Series was published between 1970 and 1972. The series consists of 3 books and 7 printings.
The Ballantine Black Title Series was published between 1972 and 1975. The series consists of 7 books and 38 printings.
The Ballantine Red Title Series was published between 1975 and 1976. The series consists of 5 books and 9 printings.
The Ballantine Stone Cover Series was published between 1976 and 1977. The series consists of 7 books and 9 printings.
The Ballantine 1st Del Ray Stone Cover Series was published between 1977 and 1980. The series consists of 7 books and 26 printings.
The Ballantine 2nd Del Ray Stone Cover Series was published between 1980 and 1983. The series consists of 7 books and 24 printings.
The Ballantine 3rd Del Ray Stone Cover Series was published in 1983. The series consists of 2 books and 2 printings.
The Ballantine 4th Del Ray Stone Cover Series was published between between 1984 and 1989. The series consists of 5 books and 16 printings.
The Ballantine Orange Cover Series was published between between 1985 and 1987. The series consists of 3 books and 6 printings.
These are some very special printings.
These are the boxed sets.
This article was written between August 26 and August 30, 2012, and published on The Complete John Norman website on Monday, September 3, 2012. On September 10, I updated the page, added unknown covers to cover gallery in the Introduction, and a little more information in Finding New ISBNs.
"Breaking the Code... The Ballantine Enigma" was written by Simon van Meygaarden.
Copyright ® 2012 by Simon van Meygaarden. All Rights Reserved.