An article in the TLS discusses the history of the ISBN (International Standard Book Number) which appears on the copyright page of all books. According to Adrian Tahourdin, this was introduced in the late 1960s and became more important after computers came into general use in the 1990s. After describing what a typical copyright page looks like today, Tahourdin selects the Penguin 1951 edition of Waugh’s Put Out More Flags as an example of what was included in pre-ISBN days:
It was different in pre-ISBN days. Take, for example, Evelyn Waugh’s Put Out More Flags (1942) in the old orange and cream Penguin edition – in this case from 1951. The back cover has only a black-and-white photograph of the youngish author (by Yevonde) and a potted biography. The price of the book appears on the front – 1/6, i.e. one shilling and sixpence. (At least it doesn’t have the rather offputting “Not for sale in the US/Canada” that used to appear on so many books.) On the inside flyleaf there is a precis of the book we are about to read: “The characters with whom Evelyn Waugh has entertained us in such novels as Decline and Fall and Vile Bodies are here encountered in a different environment . . .”. On the title page is an Author’s Note: “The military operation described in Chapter III is wholly imaginary. No existing unit of His Majesty’s Forces is represented there, or anywhere, directly or indirectly. No character is derived from any living man or woman. E.W.”
Tahourdin doesn’t explain why this book was selected nor does he indicate how this edition might differ from the original Penguin of 1943 (a scarce wartime printing) or from current Penguin editions that carry the ISBN. Indeed, recently Penguin has been selling both a paperback and hardback edition of the novel. Are there different ISBNs for each one, I wonder?