Beadle's Dime Novel No. 1 (Figs. 8 and 9), the first of a series of over six hundred novels, appeared June 9, 1860. Typical "Yellow-backs" numbered 321, and New Dime Novels, with "illuminated" covers, 310 more. The history of the beginning of the series is given in Part II of this book under "Year 1860."
About the only feature of the covers of the original Dime Novels that remained constant throughout the series, was the characteristic orange color which was adopted by Irwin Beadle for his publications when he began to issue the novels. Preceding that time, for his other Dime Books, he had used buff wrappers, and on some of these he continued to use that color for a while, although eventually most of these also were changed to orange.
The first twenty-eight Dime Novels, without exception, originally appeared in plain, non-pictorial wrappers, embellished only with a cut of the reverse of a dime (Type I-DN, Fig. 16). But even these twenty-eight numbers were not quite the same throughout. After the first nine numbers had been issued, the design of the heading on the front wrapper was re-engraved, and this design remained the same up to and including No. 28 (Type II-DN, Fig. 17). With No. 17 another slight change was made: the ornamental dash below the words "Published Semi-Monthly" at the top of the page was replaced by a double rule, above which occur, in one straight line, the number of pages, the interval of publication, and the word "Complete." There were, however, no essential differences in the early printings until, with No. 29, an illustration, which was usually repeated as a frontispiece, was added. In order to accommodate this cut (Type III-DN, Fig. 18), the heading had to be condensed to about one-half its former height, and the title of the novel itself (in Nos. 29 to 40) was engraved across the illustration. A reprint of No. 37 is rather curious. Normally it is of Type III-DN, but three copies that I have seen are of Type IV-DN. In these a close examination reveals that the title "Gideon Godbold," which was originally engraved across the cut, has been removed, although traces remain, showing that the wood-block was recut.
In No. 41 and up to and including No. 89, the title of the novel was no longer engraved across the illustration but was type-set (Type IV-DN, Fig. 19). The masthead remained as before. A slight change came with No. 66. The words in the two upper corners became "Published Monthly" and "Novel Series, No. —."
Beginning with No. 90 and continuing to the end of the series of yellow-backs, with the exception of a few numbers to be mentioned in a moment, a new type occurs (Type V-DN, Fig. 20). The heading is still more condensed and the ribbon carrying the legend "The Choicest Works of the Most Popular Authors" was removed. The title of the novel itself remains type-set, but the words in the upper left corner become "Published Semi-Monthly."
As the stock of the first twenty-eight numbers of the Dime Novels became exhausted, they were reprinted. At first the reprints were made without a cut on the cover, for such covers may be found with advertisements of numerous later numbers on the back, showing that they are not originals. But later reprints of Nos. 1 to 28, after perhaps fifty numbers of the series had been issued, were made with a cut on the front wrapper to conform with the more recent issues. I have seen only No. 1 reissued as Type III-DN; all of the others, except Nos. 8 and 24 to 28, appeared as Type IV-DN. No. 8 (Type VI-DN, Fig. 21) is the only reprint that has been seen without the title of the series on the front cover. The title of the novel, "Seth Jones," forms the heading above the illustration. The address on the wrapper is 118 William Street. The novel was issued originally on October 2, 1860, from 141 William Street, and was of Type I, and it was not until the end of 1862 that the publishers moved. It is possible that reprints of No. 8 also appeared in Type IV-DN, although I have never seen one.
Nos. 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, and 164 (Type VII-DN, Fig. 22) reprinted, are similar in appearance to Type VI-DN except that the title of the series is printed in rather small bold face capitals in one line across the top. Whether they ever appeared in Type IV-DN is unknown, although No. 27 was so issued.
It was mentioned above that from No. 90 on, the wrappers, with a few exceptions, are of Type V-DN. No. 283 is still of that type; 284 I have not seen, but 285 to 287 inclusive (Type VIII, Fig. 23) resemble Type VII except that the bold face type of the heading of the series is in capitals and small letters instead of being in capitals only. The title of the novel itself, as in Type VII, is engraved across the cut, apparently a throwback to the earlier form, for it seems hardly possible that all of the numbers from 41 to 287 could have been of Type III or VII originally, otherwise some number besides No. 164 would certainly have been seen in these types between Nos. 41 and 284. No. 288 returns again to Type V-DN, and this type continues to the end (No. 32I-DN).
The first thirty-nine novels, at least, were approximately 6 5/8 by 4 1/2 inches in size, but later issues were trimmed about a quarter of an inch shorter and narrower. The number of pages ranged from 96 to 128, although a few of the novels are slightly longer or shorter. Usually the frontispiece, when present, and the title-page were counted as pages 1 to 4, or, if there was no frontispiece, the fly leaf was counted. Beginning about No. 69, it became the general rule to number the first page of text "9," regardless of how few were the pages which preceded it. The consequence is, that even giving page numbers to the wrapper, Beadle's count was slightly inaccurate in his favor. In some of the novels there are a few additional pages at the back, advertising Beadle's publications only.Early editions of Nos. 1 to 9 bear the imprint Irwin P. Beadle & Co., 141 William Street; Nos. 10 and 11, in the copies I have seen, have the same publishers' name on the title page but Beadle & Co. on the wrappers. They were issued at a transition period of the firm and may have been printed with the former name but enclosed in wrappers after the firm name was changed. Nos. 12 to 46 read Beadle & Co., 141 William Street; Nos. 47 to 149, Beadle & Co., 118 William Street, Nos. 150 to 258, Beadle & Co., 98 William Street, and Nos. 259 to the end, Beadle & Adams, 98 William Street. The issues from Nos. 17 to 59, inclusive, bear in most cases besides the New York address, also 44 Paternoster Row", London. Beneath the publishers' address, on the wrappers, there is usually the name and address of a distributing agent or book-seller, and some of the early numbers also bear on the verso of the title page, the name of Pudney & Russell, printers, 79 John Street, New York. All of the novels ran through many editions, consequently some of the later reprints bear on the covers a later address, while the title-page address may remain as originally published, or both title and cover addresses may have been changed. It is to be noted, also, that certain novels, which are reprints, bear earlier street numbers than they should. Thus Dime Novel No. 54 bears the 141 William Street address, although as a dime novel it was issued from 118, but the title page is that which was used on the novel when it first appeared as the one and only issue of the Half-Dime Novelette
The type used was leaded brevier, as it was then called, a single column to the page. The paper is of good quality, and these novels are usually in much better condition than the later thin quartos which were printed on sulphite paper. Some of the novels as found may show considerable wear, but browning is absent.
In almost every number, inside the front cover, there is a blurb of a forthcoming novel and the date at which it was to be issued. In first editions this announcement is of the succeeding number, but this is not a perfectly safe criterion of a first edition because it also appeared in early reprints. Often, however, the announcement in later editions is of novels published at a much later date. Both sides of the hack wrapper contain advertisements of Beadle publications. In this case also, the announcements in early editions are of no number more than one or two in advance of the novel itself. (Parenthetically, I may say that the novels are so scarce, that almost any edition is worth picking up. It is impossible to know how many copies of any number remain in existence, and of certain novels there may be very few indeed.) Occasionally there are errors in the dates announced for the appearance of a novel; the newspaper announcements "Out Today" being in most cases a few days earlier than those given in the preceding novel. Usually they appeared on time. It has been possible to fix the dates of appearance of most of the novels by newspaper advertisements. When the novels of a series came out at regular intervals, it has been easy to supply a few intermediate dates when advertisements were lacking, but in some cases during the Civil War when the time intervals were irregular, there may be a possible error of a day or two in the dates given in the following list.
With No. 321, the original yellow-backs ended, and a new series began under the title Beadle's New Dime Novels. These are described below after the list of Dime Novels.