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Tarka the Otter: the film


Tarka the Otter: the opera




UK editions: dust wrappers and covers


The following does not pretend to be exhaustive, but is a representative selection of the very many editions of Tarka the Otter that have been published over the years since 1927. For full bibliographical details, please refer to Hugoe Matthews's definitive Henry Williamson: A Bibliography. Owners of editions not shown here are welcome to submit scans and publication details to the webmaster.


G. P. Putnam's Sons


1927. The most desirable of the Putnam editions - indeed the most desirable Tarka of all - has to be that limited to 100 copies. Bound in white vellum (which tended to bow over the years unless kept pressed) and printed in brown and black on hand-made paper, untrimmed apart from the gilt top edge, this is a very handsome book indeed:


Tarka Putnam 100 1


This copy is number 10; copies nos 9 and 10 were first bought by A. C. Knights, of 1 Grosvenor Gardens, Carshalton, Surrey.


Tarka Putnam 100 2

 Tarka Putnam 100 3


1927. The next edition is described by Matthews as the 'first edition, large-paper issue, limited to 1,000 copies', and published at one guinea (£1 1s.) Bound in quarter cream buckram, with brown cloth, this is another handsomely produced book. When exposed to light, however, the buckram browned over the years, as in this example:


Tarka Putnam 1000


1927. The first trade edition, published at 7s 6d, had a jacket designed by Hester Sainsbury, who has been described as 'yet another of the lost female artists of England between-the-wars. Successful and acclaimed in the 1920s, she vanished from view following her marriage to the Vorticist painter, architect, and publisher Frederick Etchells in 1932':


Tarka 1st trade



1929. A new 'popular edition' was published at 3s 6d, It was given a new dust wrapper with a design by the Australian artist William Kermode, who in 1930 illustrated The Patriot's Progress with his stark lino cuts:


Tarka Putnam 1929 ed


1932.Then came Charles F. Tunnicliffe's rightly celebrated edition, published at 5s 0d, which contained 23 full page woodcuts and 16 line drawings as ‘tail-pieces’; very many subsequent editions were based on this edition:


Tarka 1st illus





1937. Tarka the Otter was an early publication of Penguin Books; their eighty-first book. It went through many editions from 1937 onwards, bearing the familiar orange and white striped cover, including an edition 'For the Forces' in 1942 ('Leave this book at a Post Office when you have read it, so that men and women in the Services may enjoy it too'), and, also in 1942 an edition for The Forces Book Club.  However, after 1949 it was treated as a childrens' book, and subsequent editions appeared under the Puffin Books imprint. In 1985 it was again published by Penguin, in their Penguin Country Library series (though it retained Eleanor Graham's Puffin introduction and the typesetting, it was given slightly more generous page margins). In 2009 it was published in Penguin's prestigious Penguin Modern Classics series, with fresh typesetting and a new introduction by Jeremy Gavron:


Tarka Penguin 1937     Tarka Penguin 1985     Tarka Penguin 2009
1937, the classic Penguin cover   1985, Penguin Country Library   2009, Modern Classics





1949. Early Puffin editions bore two variations on a striking cover designed by Charles Tunnicliffe. In 1978 it was reissued with a new cover to tie in with the film Tarka the Otter that was released in that year. In 1986 Puffin gave it a cover that is probably best forgotten; it still had Eleanor Farjeon's introduction written over 35 years earlier. In 1995 it was published in the Puffin Modern Classics series, newly typeset and sensitively illustrated by Annabel Large. Farjeon's introduction was still used, but relegated to the end of the book as an Afterword. In 2019 Puffin issued a completely new edition in their attractive hardback Puffin Classics series; Anne Williamson had some input into the cover design. The edition retained the illustrations by Annabel Large but omitted Farjeon's Introduction, which was replaced by a section at the end comprised a map, a glossary, and two rather simplistic pages on 'Where did the story come from?' and 'All about otters'.


Tarka Puffin 1949 1      Tarka Puffin 1949 2
1949, front and back covers  


Tarka Puffin 1962     Tarka Puffin 1978 1     Tarka Puffin 1978 2
1962       1978, with film tie-in cover, front . . . and back


Tarka Puffin 1986    Tarka Puffin 1995    Tarka Puffin 2019
1986   1995  

2019, hardback; there was no dust






1961. In 1961, 'by permission of Messrs Putnam & Co.', Longmans, Green and Co. Ltd published Tarka in their Heritage of Literature Series, designed for schools. The series was published in 'three sections': Section A, without notes; Section B, with introduction and notes suitable for intensive study; and Section J, for younger readers. Tarka was published in Section A, no. 83, and illustrated by John Barber:


Tarka Longman 1961 1 


Nonesuch Press


1964. The Nonesuch Press edition was one of the classic editions of Tarka. Published in 1964 at £1 10s as a Nonesuch Cygnet and designed by Sir Francis Meynell, it was illustrated by Barry Driscoll, a wildlife artist of international reputation, who also designed the endpaper maps. Henry Williamson had already seen Driscoll's work, and specifically asked his publisher to use him to illustrate this new edition:


Tarka Nonesuch 1964 1      Tarka Nonesuch 1964 2
The Nonesuch Tarka dust wrapper, with title page; the endpaper map is shown below         


Tarka Nonesuch 1964 map1Tarka Nonesuch 1964 map2



The Bodley Head


1965. In 1965 The Bodley Head published a new edition, priced at 18s. Essentially a reprint, it retained Sir John Fortescue's original introduction and C. F. Tunnicliffe's illustrations. The back cover featured an iconic portrait photograph of Henry, taken by Oswald Jones:

Tarka Bodley Head 1965 1Tarka Bodley Head 1965 2


1978. To tie in with David Cobham's film of Tarka the Otter, released the same year, The Bodley Head published a new edition of the book, priced at £4.50, containing 16 coloured plates of scenes from the film. Particularly notable is the long and informative introduction by Richard Williamson, Henry's son:

Tarka Bodley Head 1978 1

 Tarka Bodley Head 1978 3


Heron Books


1974. (No date in book; not in Matthews) Between the late 1960s and the early 1980s Heron Books specialised in marketing 'Collectors Editions' of the works of many authors, both classic and modern, to the British consumer. Their books were bound in 'luxurious Skivertex' (an imitation leather), and featured heavy 'gold' tooling on the front cover and spine. Their books were not available in shops, but sold via mail order, readers being invited to subscribe to a book or more each month at around a pound a title, virtually ad infinitum. Their edition of Tarka, published by arrangement with The Bodley Head, featured Tunnicliffe's illustrations. Heron Books was actually owned by Edito-Service S.A., Geneva, and the books were printed in Switzerland:

Tarka Heron Books 


Webb & Bower


1985. Webb & Bower, a Devon-based publisher, was founded in 1975 and specialised in large format illustrated editions. The Illustrated Tarka the Otter was published in 1985, price £12.95, in their Classics of the British Countryside series. A handsome production, it featured specially commissioned  photographs by Simon McBride, both black and white and coloured plates, of the places that feature in the book:

Tarka WebbBower 1985



Folio Society


1995. The Folio Society specialise in producing modern, attractively designed editions of classic books at reasonable prices for the discerning collector. Their edition of Tarka, priced at £19.95, again retains Tunnicliffe's illustrations (the slip case design is also based on these), and the text 'follows that of the 1964 Nonesuch Cygnet edition, which includes the author's final revisions'. It was advertised as a 'beautiful centenary edition', 1995 being the centenary of Henry's birth. Paul Scofield, the actor, chose Tarka as his favourite book in the Folio Society 'Castaways' choice in their house magazine:

Tarka Folio 1995

Tarka Paul Scofield




Back to Tarka the Otter main page


Critical reception


Overseas editions


Tarka the Otter: the film


Tarka the Otter: the opera



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