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Land of the Soviets: A missing page?

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Harrock n roll
#11 · Posted: 6 Jun 2020 09:43
Thank you superjm9. I've since seen the copy of the Le Petit Vingtième in question (issue no. 60, 25th December 1929) and I think I can now answer my own question about the odd number of pages, and indeed why it was left out of the book in the first place. [I'm not sure if this has been answered on the forums in the past, but to clear things up and for the sake of clarity, here it is...]

This particular issue had three pages; the 'missing' page appears on the right hand side and is in black and white, with the following two pages as a spread in colour (you were right about the Christmas edition, superjm9). This explains why it was left out of the book ("for no apparent reason", as it says in the Sundancer 1989 edition), which was to keep the integrity of the left hand/right hand flow of the spreads, with the cliffhangers and signatures on the right hand pages. Of course, this then left a gap in the continuity of the story but whoever made the decision when they came to publish the book (Hergé, Abbé Wallez or someone else at Le Vingtième Siècle?) must have felt this was better than losing the spreads and having an odd page at the end.

The Sundancer edition has reinserted the page into the story, but it's ended up on the left hand side, rather than on the right as it orginally appeared in Le Petit Vingtième. Having it on the right would have meant inserting a blank page just before it, but I'm sure they weren't bothered by this and probably didn't think about the left hand/right hand integrity (the "for no apparent reason" statement in the foreword seems to bear this out).

Indeed, the numbering of the book is another can of worms. The general rule of thumb of any book is to have even-numbered pages on the left and odd-numbered on the right. (I put documents together for a living and you wouldn't believe the amount of times I get asked to "add a page", so I'm used to having to explain that this can't be done for a printed document as it would throw all of the subsequent spreads out and leave an odd number of pages. It's even worse when you're producing a stapled document and having to explain that it needs to be divisble by four and that you would need to add a further three pages or leave one out... but I digress!)

This has made the Sundancer facsimile very confusing. It seems the only reason they bothered having numbers was to help the reader identify the 'missing' page. It starts with the 'even pages left/odd pages right' numbering rule, but only up until page 97 after which, because of the addition of page 97a, we end up with odd pages on the left and even numbers on the right. The beginning of the book is very strange because it leaves the first (left hand) plate of the story un-numbered and starts the numbering on the second (right hand) plate at 1. In fact, this means that page 97a is really plate 99!

The current modern edition of the book treats the cover of the book as page 1, so that the story begins on the left on page 4.

The other black and white facsimiles I own, both French and English, don't have any numbering, which is one way to get around this 'problem' of starting numbers on the left . However, this can be a headache if want to refer to something, look something up or remember where you're up to (a bookmark can help!). The English language b&w edition of The Blue Lotus actually messes the spreads up by starting the book with a single page on the right hand side, thus altering the flow thoughout the entire book, which is not how it should have been. But that's another story...!
#12 · Posted: 6 Jun 2020 17:55 · Edited by: superjm9
Harrock n roll
Yes, indeed. I remember a riddle about a robber who said that he hid money he stole between pages 9 and 10 of a book, with the question being how did the police know he was lying. The answer was that the odd number is always on the right page.

So page 97a did appear in the Christmas edition then. I wonder why it's not in colour? Also, why doesn't Hergé's signature appear on page 99? The numbering is indeed very strange. It starts off being one number behind the number of plates, and from page 97a onwards it's two numbers.

There's a reason for the first page of the English black-and-white facsimile of The Blue Lotus appearing on the right. The Blue Lotus was first published in 1936 with the correct page order. Its first reprint was in 1939, and here is where the problem is. That year Casterman decided to publish Tintin with the first page on the right instead of the left. The first edition of King Ottokar's Sceptre was published like this, as was the reprint of The Blue Lotus. The first reprint of King Ottokar's Sceptre, published in 1940, corrected this problem. Subsequent reprints of all albums (and the first edition of The Crab with the Golden Claws) had the first page on the left as it should be.

Now we come to the 1980s when Casterman published facsimiles of all the black-and-white Tintin albums. All of these were based on the first edition. As such, The Blue Lotus wass based on the 1936 version and King Ottokar's Sceptre was based on the 1939 version with the first page on the right.

In the 1990s Casterman reprinted the facsimiles, but in the case of Congo, America and Cigars they printed the later releases with four colour plates (1937, 1937 and 1938 respectively I think). The Blue Lotus was reprinted in 1993. For whatever reason they decided to go with the 1939 version instead of the 1936 version. Possibly it was because the 1936 version has 'Tintin en Extreme Orient' above the title, whereas the 1938 version of Cigars of the Pharaoh deleted its 'Tintin en Orient' text. Since then, only the facsimile of the 1939 version has been reprinted, making it by far the most common version in French.

When Last Gasp published the black-and-white facsimiles of America, Cigars and Lotus, they used the then-current French versions. They did the same with Congo in 2004, after initially reprinting the facsimile of the 1931 version in 2002. This is why the English facsimile of Lotus has page 1 on the right. It's a problem that dates all the way back to 1939!

For many years the only way to obtain a black-and-white version of King Ottokar's Sceptre with the first page on the left was to spend thousands on an original 1940 or 1942 copy (the fact it was published in 1941 is interesting in and of itself considering its clear anti-Nazi theme and that Belgium was under occupation). In 1942, all of the Tintin albums got new covers. Most of these are still used on the modern colour albums, but King Ottokar's Sceptre and Cigars of the Pharaoh got new covers when they were published in colour, in 1947 and 1955 respectively. This meant that their 1942 covers only appeared that year.

In 2009, Casterman published facsimiles of the 1942 versions of Cigars of the Pharaoh and King Ottokar's Sceptre, with their unique covers. This meant that the black-and-white version of King Ottokar's Sceptre was finally available with the first page on the left.

The 1985 facsimile of the 1936 version of The Blue Lotus isn't rare, but is uncommon. I managed to track down a copy myself last year, and the story definitely flows better with the correct page layout. The hand-lettering also helps.

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