The Maniac Collector's Inbox (125)
October 24, 2004
By Don Hobbs
When one collects anything for any length of time, there are little pieces of knowledge that are amassed along with the collected objects. It is like peeling away the layers of an onion. Any collector worth their salt has detailed-minutia on whatever their specialty is. There are many times when a collector slides over into another area simple because of their proximity to it. This holds true for Sherlockian collectors as well.
Many collectors start out collecting Sherlockian books but end up with countless non-book Sherlockian artifacts such as dolls dressed in an Inverness Capes and/or deerstalker hats, coffee cups, figurines and a whole host of other Sherlockian items. There are Sherlockians who have branched of into other areas of interest of the Literary Agent. I know a Sherlockian who collects variations of The Lost World and another who collects Brigadier Gerard books. This brings me to De Waal #C654 -- The Chillers Illustrated issued by Royce Publications in 1945 as #104 in their "Quick Reader" series.
This is one of those little books that grows on you. I say little because the book measures 4 1/2" x 3". The cover looks like a miniature movie poster from the forties. The blurb on the cover seems to be exploding from the person's head. The signature on the cover artwork says "Axelrod". The cover is a trompe l'oeil that make it look like a book on a slight slant. As far as I know this is the only Sherlockian book in the Quick Reader series.
On one of my frequent Internet searches, I came across Quick Reader #135 -- Humorous Ghost Stories. This was a collection of several stories, one of which was "The Water Ghost Of Harrow by Hall" by John Kendrick Bang. I bought it and when it arrived I was pleasantly surprised to find another trompe l'oeil cover by Axilrod, equally as interesting as The Chillers Illustrated. Upon further inspection, I find listed inside the back cover a selected list of other Quick Readers. I could feel myself being sucked into a new realm of collecting.
I soon found several other titles listed on eBay and on ABEBOOKS.
There is little information available on the Internet about the history of the Royce Publisher or about Quick Readers in general. What I have been able to discover so far is that there were 49 titles in the Quick Reader series. They were published between 1943 and 1945 in Chicago, Illinois. They were all abridged editions. The titles were very diverse including #108 "Self-Pronouncing Webster's Dictionary", #141 -- "Quick Read Bible" and #144 -"Unforgettable French Love Stories". One of my favorite covers in #142 --"Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde."
I am still working on getting all of the titles. The titles listed on the inside back cover are not complete. There are still 11 titles I have not been able to figure out but I am steadily working on it. I attended the Ft. Worth Book and Paper Show over the weekend and about 90% of the dealers had never heard of Quick Readers. The ones who had heard of them seemed to have that superior attitude that they would never lower themselves to collect such a trivial item. This only steeled my resolve to find and collect them all. I will triumph where others have failed. I may never achieve having the world's greatest Sherlockian collection but I will someday have all 49 Quick Readers!