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June 1950

Astounding

British

Reprint

Editions

February 1955

During the 1940s and 50s, Britain had its own version of Astounding Science Fiction, produced in the UK by the Atlas Publishing Company under licence from Street and Smith, the American publishers of Astounding.

The contents of the British version was taken directly from the US magazine (albeit reformatted), and the cover illustrations were the same -- although bizarrely they were all repainted by British artists (this may have been for copyright reasons, since the covers always had subtle differences).

Initially the British magazine was produced on the same monthly schedule as the US edition. However, the UK version had fewer pages, and so only printed a subset of the American original (typically it omitted the serialized stories and much of the non-fiction content such as book reviews and letters pages). The size discrepancy was particularly acute after December 1940, when the page count was reduced to just 64 pages -- less than half the size of the original.

The cover price of the first British editions was 6d (six old pence, equivalent to 2.5p today). This rose to 9d early in 1942, and around the same time (presumably due to wartime paper shortages) the frequency was reduced to bi-monthly -- even though the US magazine continued on a monthly schedule (thus further reducing the percentage of material seen by British readers).

With the switch to a bimonthly schedule, the cover dates of the British magazines were no longer an exact match to their US counterparts. Each British issue still took its cover and its (depleted) contents from a single US issue, but this generally had a cover date several months earlier. This can be confusing to collectors -- the charts below may help to clarify the relationship.


A small caveat on the above:   It was quite common for the 64-page issues (and even a few of the later 128-page issues) to contain one or two short stories from a different US edition (not the one with the corresponding cover), presumably in order to make up the exact number of pages required.


In the latter years of the 64-page version (1948 to 1953) the cover price oscillated several times between 9d and 1/- (One shilling, i.e. 12d -- or 5p in modern terminology). At the start of 1952, while still at the 64-page length, the magazine finally reverted to the monthly schedule that had been abandoned during World War II. Another big step towards normality occurred in November 1953, when the magazine doubled in size to 128 pages (it also doubled in price, from 9d to 1/6). After this time it was a virtually complete replica of the US edition -- albeit four or five months out of step, and still with the redrawn covers and reformatted interiors.

Because of the out-of -step cover dates, a few anomalies occurred in the 1950s -- for example when a "summer" British edition reprinted a US "Christmas" edition. This problem could be solved by swapping the Christmas cover for one of the earlier covers that had been missed during the bimonthly period (e.g. the British issue of June 1955 reproduced the interior of the US "Christmas" edition of January 1955, but used the non-Christmas cover from December 1951. Then for the British issue of January 1956 the Christmas cover from January 1955 was finally used, combined with the contents of the US August 1955 issue!).


In May 1956 the cover price was raised to 1/9, and then again to 2/- in August 1959. The following two issues (September and October 1959) never appeared due to a printers' strike. As with the American original, the British magazine changed its name from Astounding to Analog over a succession of issues during the following year, although with the lag in cover dates this process occurred a few months later (the last issue to bear any traces of the Astounding logo was January 1961 in the UK, rather than September 1960 as in the US.)

 September 1960

For some reason, the British editions of Astounding are not considered "collectable" by connoisseurs, even in the UK. This is good news for those of us who are mere "readers", because it means back-issues can be bought quite easily for a pound or two each. There is still the problem of the out-of-step cover dates to be grappled with (since most references and citations give the date of the American issue, which is normally 3 to 5 months ahead of the UK issue). The charts below are a graphical attempt to solve this problem.


For further information, see:



Charts showing relationship between British and US editions

Click on a chart to view it at larger size.

Copyright © 2010 Andrew May Visit www.andrew-may.com

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