In the not-too-distant past I have looked at the various different covers that have been used for the Famous Five, Malory Towers, Secret Series and the Adventure Series. Now it is the turn of The Barney Mysteries, or as they are sometimes known The ‘R’ Mysteries.
Let’s start at the very beginning
The original publishers of the Barney Mysteries was Collins, with five books being illustrated inside and out by Gilbert Dunlop and one (the fifth) by Anyon Cook. The first book, The Rockingdown Mystery, has three different Collins Dunlop covers.
Collins 1949 / Collins 1955 / Collins 1956 / Collins 1950 / Collins 1951 / Collins 1952 / Collins 1956 / Collins 1959
What’s interesting to me is that the third Rockingdown cover is the most in keeping with the rest of the series, but it came out after most of the rest of the series’ first editions. I am left wondering why Collins re-released the book with the same illustration but different taglines and colouring, after publishing new entries in a different style. But I know very little about the publishing industry.
I think I like the third Rockingdown cover the best, out of those three and perhaps the whole series. It has a pleasing colour scheme, and I like seeing them discover the old manor. I also like the cover for The Rubadub Mystery with the huge shadows thrown against the wall, it’s very atmospheric.
Also strange is Anyon Cook illustrating the fifth book and Dunlop returning for the sixth (perhaps he was ill or on a long holiday when he was needed for The Rat-a-Tat Mystery.)
And it’s Armada again
While Armada are often the first paperback publishers of Enid Blyton’s book, they are in fact, the most frequent publishers of the Barney Mysteries. The first five books have six Armada editions apiece, and the sixth has five.
It’s not as clear with this series as to what constitutes a ‘set’, but I’ve done my best. The first appears to only have the first five books. Published between 1967 and 1970 with covers by Mary Gernat they have a typical Armada look despite the variety of fonts and logos.
Armada 1967 / Armada 1967 / Armada 1969 / Armada 1970
As a side note: how wide is that well? It must be fifteen feet across, at least!
The next set are all uncredited and are from between 1972 and 1974. Interestingly, they weren’t published in series order. (I find it odd how many series had new editions published across several years, as if they were still waiting for them to be written!) Also interesting is Rat-a-Tat being uncredited despite clearly being a recolour of the previous one by Mary Gernat. Anyway, they have a uniform font with slightly more realistic characters and backgrounds. (I like all of Mary Gernat’s covers but they are generally a bit more stylised especially with the colour washed backgrounds).
The extra-wide well is back for Ring O Bells, and there’s a start of a ‘strange positions’ trend too, first example is on the Rilloby Fair cover.
Armada 1973 / Armada 1974 / Armada 1973 / Armada 1973
Seriously what’s Tonnerre doing to Snubby? Trying to make him fly?
Next up are some 1979 Peter Archer covers. These all feature a coloured border and Blyton’s name in a jauntily-angled box.
This time both Tonnerre and Snubby look like they’re flying, but the well is not used on the Ring O Bell’s Cover.
All Armada 1979
I am always intrigued to see what scenes make it onto book covers. Usually it is something quite dynamic or picturesque, which makes me wonder why so many Rockingdown covers have some children doing very little in a dank cellar.
The three further Armada lots are all uncredited, and are from 1986, 1990 and 1993 respectively. The 1986 set has bold stripes for the title, and some oddly posed characters. The 1990 one has some of the most 90s clothing ever, and an almost impossible to read MYSTERY at the top. The 1993 set is similar to a set of Secret Series books from 1986, also by Armada, with the word mystery repeated on the edges (or Secret, in the case of the Secret Series).
Armada 1986 / Armada 1990 / Armada 1993 / Armada 1986 / Armada 1990 / Armada 1993
Back to Collins
The penultimate set takes us back to the original publishers, but a very different look, with covers by Piers Sanford. The main word of each title almost seems to glow, like a neon sign. The well may be a more accurate size based on the story, but there’s something a bit odd about the extreme angles of the main characters on the covers below. They all look like they should have already toppled over!
All Collins 1997
The most recent set is sixteen years old!
Yes, the last ever Barney Mysteries books published are from 2003, and are by Award. The children seem to almost be an afterthought on these covers, squeezed into the background while the foreground is given over to some adults.
All Award 2003
Which covers do you like? Do you have a soft spot for the covers of your childhood, or are you a purist who prefers the originals?