As you will probably know I have written several series of posts on the updatings to Blyton’s texts, looking at the first book of a series (and a few Noddys). I would now like to award a (dubious) prize to the ‘most edited’ title.
Our contenders are:
- Five on a Treasure Island (Hodder, 1997)
- First Term at Malory Towers (Egmont, 2000)
- The Secret Island (Award, 2009)
- The Island of Adventure (Macmillan, 2001)
- The Twins at St Clare’s (Egmont, 2005)
- The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage (Egmont, 2014)
There are two possible ways to rank these books. First would be a simple ‘highest number of edits’ chart, but that’s probably not quite fair as some books are longer than others. The second would be to work out the average number of changes per chapter (though now I’m starting to doubt myself and wondering if it should be by number of pages, as some might just have very short chapters…)
Anyway, using the first method, our chart would look like this.
- In last place is The Secret Island with just 59
- Still under the hundred-mark is The Twins at St Clare’s with 83
- Five on a Treasure Island comes in next with 117
- Then not far behind is The Island of Adventure with 128
- First Term at Malory Towers would come next, with 133
- The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage would scoop the
covetedtop spot with a whopping total of 187 changes.
SOME MORE RESULTS
However, let’s see what happens when we work out the average per chapter:
- The Secret Island (3)
- The Twins at St Clare’s (4)
- The Island of Adventure (4.5)
- First Term at Malory Towers (6)
- Five on a Treasure Island (7)
- The Mystery of The Burnt Cottage (10)
So The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage is still in top place, and The Secret Island is still at the bottom, but it does change around the order for those in the middle.
IS THERE A BETTER WAY OF DOING THIS?
I then started to look at number of pages, thinking that would be more accurate (as some books have longer chapters than others) and there I stumbled upon another problem. I wasn’t sure whether to use the paperback number of pages, or the hardback. So I counted both just to see what the difference was. For most books, it wasn’t significant. Five on a Treasure Island and The Secret Island had almost exactly the same number of pages in each format. First Term at Malory Towers differed by sixteen pages (the paperback being longer), The Twins at St Clare’s was 35 pages shorter in paperback, The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage was 52 pages longer in paperback, and then, The Island of Adventure was a whopping 136 pages longer in the hardback!
I had expected the paperbacks to be shorter – cheap, economy paperbacks cramming as many words per page and most lacking illustrations. But that wasn’t really the case. So clearly there’s a lot of variety in terms of font size and words per page.
My problem really arose with Five on a Treasure Island vs. The Island of Adventure. In paperback they are exactly the same length. In hardback, The Island of Adventure is 1.7 times longer. Any attempt to work out which had been most edited (and by what margin) would have to take that into account.
And so, I found myself counting words on a page. I just picked one average page that was all text (I don’t have all year for this, despite how long I’ve gone on…) that made Five on a Treasure Island around 51,000 words and The Island of Adventure 68,000, the latter being only 1.3 times longer. (The chapter numbers gave a 1.7 increase too, incidentally.)
In addition to that, the hardbacks of Five on a Treasure Island and The Secret Island are the same length but Five on a Treasure Island is around 10,000 words shorter.
Therefore I have come to the conclusion, that in the search for pedantic, pathetic accuracy, I will be doing a word count on all the books…
So, with a rough estimate of length, here are the books from longest to shortest:
- The Island of Adventure 68,000
- The Twins at St Clare’s 55,000
- Five on a Treasure Island 51,000
- The Secret Island 62,700
- First Term at Malory Towers 49,500
- The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage 43,500
And so, let’s see what that means, drumroll please! (I will be quite annoyed if this list is in the same order as the first one mind you.)
- The Secret Island remains in last place, as there was an edit for every 1,062 words.
- The Twins at St Clare’s is still in second-last place, with an edit for every 662 words.
- The Island of Adventure moves down to fourth place (same as in the per chapter result) with an edit per 531 words.
- Five on a Treasure Island comes third (it was fourth in total and second by chapters) with a change per 435 words.
- First Term at Malory Towers retains second place (but was third by chapters) with an edit for every 372 words.
- And you know what that means! The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage is the unequivocal winner, with a change made for every 232 words.
Yes, Mr Goon. I’m as perplexed as you.
So the final order doesn’t look too different, but I think it’s the most accurate. If there are any mathematicians or statistical analysts out there, please let me know if my methodology stinks.
AND NOT FORGETTING…
And just as a little bonus: Noddy! Thankfully the Noddys are all exactly the same length so I can order them easily.
- Noddy and his Car (47)
- Here Comes Noddy Again (39)
- Hurrah for Little Noddy (32)
- Well Done, Noddy (20)
- Noddy Goes to Toyland (14)
That does give Noddy and His Car an edit for very 165 words, though… Even Here Comes Noddy Again has one per 200 words, making them both more edited than even The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage.
You know what? It would just be simpler if they didn’t edit any books, and then I’d have nothing to count and nothing to obsess over. Wouldn’t that be great??
Fascinating and horrifying! Thank you Fiona.
Fiona, I have some original novels I would be happy to share, editions I believe were published before the texts were butchered. I always buy only 2nd hand editions, and won’t touch any of the rubbish printed after 1975, when they first started making wholesale changes (originally this was limited to removing the use of old money). Why do they pretend Enid Blyton is a popular author, when so little is left of the stories she wrote?
Ive spent ages looking to buy editions that are original text, is impossible to know esp if trying via amazon. Adventure series, secret series, secret 7 & famous 5 series. Anyone know publish year is safe to buy?! I never saw books in 1960s/70s as prejudiced, but publishers ARE prejudice against a woman, Enid Blyton, why have they only picked on her? I dont see them changing Shakespeare or Dickens!!
Well, if you want to be really really safe, go for true firsts! Otherwise you’re usually OK up until the late 60s. God Save the King is updated to God Save the Queen in post 1953 reprints, but then it’s not until the 70s that the jeans started creeping in and so on. Then the late 90s onwards is when the major changes started happening.