BiblioFile: La Pendola Magica (1975)
Of all the foreign editions of The House with a Clock in its Walls we have seen over the years it’s been the two initial Italian outings that have always had the most mystique to us - in part because they’re almost as old as the original American edition. Aside from some one-off outings from Germany and England in the late-1970s, when we began The Dullard’s Bane back in 2001 all the major foreign editions of House that existed were from Italy – making it the first country to publish John’s novels outside the United States. Italy kept at it, too, as we’ve seen close to a half-dozen different covers dating from between the 1970s through the 1990s. It would seem then our website began about the time there was a rise in new translations, with House soon appearing in Polish, Japanese, Serbian, and French. We wish we could take credit for it but let us not be silly.
It’s one of the Italian editions from the 1970s that we’re dealing with today. La Pendola Magica is a 160-page, yellow-hued paperback that about the size of the Bantams from the 1980s. Its copyright page shows it was first released in October 1975 by the Biblioteca Universale Rizzoli (BUR) publishing house of Milan and translated into Italian by Attilio Veraldi (1925-99), himself an author of crime novels.
Save for the color, the cover of the paperback looks mostly identical to the original edition of House, though the cropped image cuts off the glasses of milk and totally leaves out the chocolate chip cookies. (Bummer, this.) Visible are the house, hand of glory, and Izard symbol but the sky above the house is void of Edward Gorey’s thin-lined clouds. Above the image are the titles in three lines:
La Pendola Magica | Un giallo | Nella casa stregata dai maghi
This roughly translates to:
The Magic Pendulum clock | a yellow | In the haunted house by magicians
Actually, it’s more like:
The Magic Pendulum clock | a mystery | In the haunted house by magicians
Giallo, in Italian, refers to crime stories, both fictional and real. This began in about 1930, when the first series of crime novels published in Italy had yellow covers. So that’s the story behind the color of the cover.
On the spine is the numeral 4; sources indicate this was the fourth book in the La BUR dei Ragazzi (BUR for boys) series that existed from 1975 to 1981. Early books in the series appear to feature covers in prominent yellow and green colors – see examples of Maximilian Grottker’s Puddle Pandy (Il Barboncino Accadueo) [right] and Ted Hughes’ The Iron Man (L'uomo di ferro) – seemingly a series of books to attract the attention of young male readers.
What's inside looks surprisingly similar to the 1973 Dial edition. All of Gorey’s images are retained, some looking quite crisp, though the individual images that serve as chapter headers are reduced in size by give-or-take 20%. This therefore makes Isaac Izard’s image at the top of chapter nine look more like a smudged fingerprint. Oh! We thumbed back to capitolo ottavo and page 109 for the chant of the Fuse Box Dwarf in Italian:
≪ Ehi! Ehi! Sono il Nano della Valvola del Contatore! ≫
All said, the strangest thing about this edition is what comes after the final page. It’s an index, one that tells which page each chapter starts on. To American eyes it looks like the table of contents was slipped into the end of the book. Following that are two pages of ads for other books in the La BUR dei Ragazzi series, including Mario Puzo’s Il Cavallino di Davie (possibly The Runaway Summer of Davie Shaw) and Kipling’s Capitani Coraggiosi.
Over half of the rear cover is given over to text, mostly a synopsis and then a few words about the author – mostly the brief biography shown on the Dial edition’s rear dust jacket flap. In the bottom left are graphic credits (John Alcorn) and opposite that, the price (L 2000).
In 2009, the Italian publisher HappyPlanetBooks released a new edition of House - La casa con l'orologio nelle pareti – and keeping with tradition, its cover, too, is yellow. Angelo Cristaldi, HappyPlanet’s editor, said in a 2011 interview at Letteratura-per-ragazzi.it that he "deliberately revived...the acid green of the first edition" for the new edition.
Apparently this almost-40-year-old edition holds some mystique with others, too.