History of the Greenleaf Classics Book Collection
The Early Years
The Greenleaf Classics book collection was started in 1984 when the partnership of Lance Casebeer and Bob Speray was established to pursue the vintage paperback collector's goal of having one copy of each book published by Greenleaf Publishing, shelved in book number order. This was how vintage paperback books were collected within the collecting hobby when a publisher was added to the collecting focus. The goal was to have fun collecting the books while building an archive that documented what was published.
The West Coast vintage paperback collecting community had already built up information about many mainstream publishers such as Pocket Books, Avons, Dells, Popular Library, Ace, and other paperback imprints. The legacy was based on the work of dedicated collectors over many years. Diligent searching of paperback exchanges and used book stores filled in missing books in the collections. The collections supported creation of checklists and shared information about what books existed. Many early hobbyists were completist collectors, having a goal to get one copy of each published book from their favorite imprint to form an archive of books to enjoy.
Lance Casebeer's paperback collection filled his house in Portland, Oregon. Its existence was an important resource for those wanting to know about the details of paperback publishing history. He produced the influential fanzine "Collecting Paperbacks?" that promoted the fun and excitement of collecting vintage paperbacks, and helped maintain contact among collectors all over the world. Lance hosted a convention at his house every year in late August. LanceCon, as it was called, was a party for collectors where they could celebrate their shared book collecting obsessions.
In 1984, only a handful of Greenleaf books were known about. Adult oriented sex novels were not considered a legitimate focus of vintage paperback collecting, and those who were interested in such books were considered a bit strange. Even within the vintage paperback collecting community there was social pressure toward suppressing the books.
Lance was open to finding out more about all vintage paperbacks, and Bob was a new member of the hobby with a specific interest in the books because he had recently found a large stash of original art at an antique show. It looked like the art might have been used on the Greenleaf Classics books, so he wanted to know more about them.
Art Scott, the leading expert on Robert McGinnis cover art, was the only other local vintage paperback collector with a bent towards the wilder imprints. He would pick up books with shocking covers for his collection and had a few great vintage Greenleaf Classics books that gave promise of finding more.
Since so few Greenleaf Classics books were in hand and known about, figuring out how to distribute collecting efforts in the partnership was not an obvious thing. No one knew the extent of the books. No one even knew what to call the publisher.
In those days, the books were called "Corinths" because the informally named Corinth Reprints (the Corinth Regency imprint), containing pulp reprint stories, were the best known examples of books from the publisher. Also the name Corinth Publications was seen inside the few books in hand.
The final plan was for Lance to collect the books having a cover price under $1.25, the ones mostly with pink and yellow spines, and for Bob to collect the books with a cover price of $1.25 or more, the ones tending to have a white spine.
That was the start of the collecting process. Each year after that, more books would be found and more shelf space needed to hold them. Both parts of the collection grew.
Decades of Collecting
It was discovered that there were multiple imprints published by Greenleaf, each with a unique prefix and book numbering scheme. The publishing information inside books had publisher names such as Phenix Publication and Greenleaf Classics. As time passed and more books were found and added to the collections, the knowledge about the set of books increased. But the Corinth name stuck for a long time as the way to talk about them. ("Hi Lance, have you found any Corinths recently?")
Eventually the name "Corinth" was replaced with "Satyr Books" when Bruce Brenner coined the term (for the logo on the spine) when he was scanning the book covers and creating his checklist. ("Here's the new version of the Satyr list.") Recently, the name "Greenleaf Classics" was adopted to match the term used on the net when searching for the books. We want this web site found.
The process to build out the collection took years of dedication and effort. The vintage Greenleaf Classics books were considered pornography so there were very few outlets that handled used copies. This added to the effort to shop for the books. It required thousands of awkward moments in used book stores, asking if they have any adult or erotic paperbacks, maybe in the back room somewhere, trying to find the right word that would lead to the books without it leading to being 86'd from the place. Art Scott, for one, got the boot from the Ken-Bailey Bookstore in Buffalo, so the concern was real.
But there were also the surprising attitudes, like at the Armchair Family Bookstore in Portland, Oregon, which has a special section set aside to hold adult oriented paperbacks. When asked why he used "Family" in his book store name when that was the code word used in places like Phoenix, Arizona to indicate a store without adult books, the owner said,
"This store is for the whole family. We have books for Billy over in the teen section, and the general fiction for Mom and Dad is in the big room up front. Over here in this area are the books for Uncle Roy. We have books for everyone in the family. We're a true family book store and are proud of it."
Lance died in the Spring of 2003 and the responsibility for collecting the full range of the Greenleaf Classics books fell to Bob. All the books in the collection are now in one place, organized by imprint and number.
In the past decade, more imprints were discovered and books continued to be added to the collection.
Information about the titles published by Greenleaf Classics increases all the time. We discover new and unknown books every month. The main path for discovery is finding the book for sale and buying it to add to the collection. Surprisingly, another source of discovery is by doing research at institutional collections that allow public access.
In 2011, two completely unknown imprints (Diary Books and Confession Books), unlike any of the other Greenleaf Classics books, were discovered to exist when a title from each line was found in the Stanley Fleishman archive in the Special Collections at UCLA in Los Angeles, California.
Stanley Fleishman was the First Amendment lawyer who represented Greenleaf Classics Publishing and other publishers in their court battles against criminal prosecutions for publishing obscenity. His estate donated his papers to the UCLA library, where they are available for research within the Special Collections section. The archive includes all of his office files, with court transcripts from the many trials and copies of briefs that he submitted to the courts. The archive also contains a large number of vintage paperback books that were used as evidence.
The rules of the library limit the amount of the archive that can be viewed during a daily visit. Three boxes per day is the limit. They require advance notice and a written request indicating the boxes to see when scheduling a visit. Each box is a small archival container, 13 x 12 x 4 inches. It can hold a 4-inch thick group of manilla file folders with papers inside, or perhaps 25 paperbacks. The library created a finding aid for the archive that does not catalog the boxes in detail.
It took many visits to UCLA over several years to discover what has been found so far. That includes the two books in the newly discovered imprints, and also a few dozen other unknown titles that had not been seen before.
There are still many other boxes that have not been looked at or reported on by any known researcher. It was quite a surprise to discover two new imprints, and it raises the question - how many other unknown discoveries might exist?
In 2012, a three day visit to the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana provided a chance to browse through a number of books in their collection of adult paperbacks. Again, a daily limit on number of viewable boxes and a weak cataloging of contents allowed only a small sampling of their holdings. It is difficult to know which boxes to request weeks in advance. Picking winning numbers in the lottery is more likely. Even with the odds against winning much, a few dozen unknown Greenleaf Classics books were seen and information about them was cataloged. There are likely many more to be found there.
Thanks To Many People
The existence of the Greenleaf Classics Book Collection and the state of knowledge about the books is due to huge amounts of work by many people.
Handing out full credit for the existence of a book collection is not possible to do completely, but a few key people stand out.
Lance Casebeer and Bob Speray did the focused searching and the actual spending of cash to acquire the majority of the books. They also paid the cost to store the books, both in rent, and the consequences of having such books around in their lives.
A big credit goes to Chris Eckhoff, the East Coast book collector and dealer who was an early inspiration. He was willing to share his knowledge about the books when no one else knew anything. In 1984, he was the only other person known to have Greenleaf books in hand. He encouraged the process of building the collection and has continued to help ever since.
Bruce Brenner (owner of the Vintage Paperback and Digest web site) and Lynn Munroe have provided solid and steady support by searching out and finding needed books as the number of missing titles has gotten smaller.
Ron Blum and Tony Jacobs and Rose Idlet are West Coast booksellers who handle such books. They have found titles that ended up in the collection.
A key inspiration for the collection was reading about Patrick J Kearney, (Scissors and Paste Bibliographies) a leading collector and bibliographer of classic erotica, as reported in SEX COLLECTORS by Geoff Nicholson about his visit with Patrick in Santa Rosa.
"Finally I asked him, as I'd asked other collectors, what single item he'd try to save in the event of a fire, and he thought about it for just a second before saying he probably wouldn't try to save anything. He'd just throw himself into the flames instead."
Thanks to the many vintage paperback collectors who have provided a community of support and kindness that allowed this collection to be built up.
The annual vintage paperback show in Los Angeles that is hosted by Tom Lesser is a major source of all types of vintage paperback titles, including Greenleaf Classics books. The dealers who bring in their goods and offer them to the crowd make it a wonderful experience. The show delivers a fun time every year, with the books, the people, and Tom's hospitality.
Finally, credit goes out to the many scattered book stores, and their owners, and to the flea market sellers, that offered the books in spite of cultural pressure to not handle such material.
Cataloging The Books
In 2001, Bob Speray and Bruce Brenner met Earl Kemp, who was editor at Greenleaf Classics Publishing from 1959 through 1973, and Robert Bonfils, who was cover artist during that same period.
That led to an effort to catalog the information about the Greenleaf Classics books in preparation for publishing an illustrated checklist.
Bruce took on the task of scanning all the books using a 360 DPI archival quality setting and saving the scan in lossless tif format. He touched up many of the tiffs to make each photograph a work of art that depicts the cover as a glamour portrait of the book.
He also made contact with collectors having copies of books not in the archive, to get scans of the covers for the portrait collection and to get information about the books for the bibliographic data. Thanks goes out to Greg Funke, Fred Meyerriecks and others who have provided such help.
Bruce entered information about each book into a spreadsheet that was very useful for review. It gave everyone involved in researching the books a way to understand the multiple imprints published by Greenleaf Classics and to see all the covers in a local digital gallery.
As the data set was accumulated and new information found, improved versions of it were created and passed around on a CD holding several spreadsheets and folders full of low resolution jpgs of the cover portraits.
This data set of spreadsheet and cover jpgs has been shared within a small number of researchers for review and editing. The data set has had many versions over the years as the information was improved and mistakes corrected.
Starting in 2001, Earl Kemp published an on-line eZine called "eI" where he wrote about his time working at Greenleaf Publishing, or as he calls it - "the Porno Factory". Over a ten year period, he published many interesting stories about the publishing process and the people. He helped document the true authors behind many of the bylines used on the books.
During the same time period, Lynn Munroe, Bookseller has been an active researcher into the history of the vintage Greenleaf Classics books, specializing in the writings of Lawrence Block, Donald Westlake, and Harry Whittington. He also discovered the hidden secret that the Reed Nightstand imprint was used to quietly reprint earlier books published under other imprints, using new titles and bylines to hide the fact.
Thanks to Robert Bonfils for his patient work to look at each book and to say if he did the art, or if he had an opinion on which of the other staff artists did the work.
This single task of reviewing the cover art of each book was a multiple year campaign, as trips to Robert Bonfils' San Diego house with a load of books for review would only happen once a year during the trip to Southern California for the annual paperback show in Los Angeles.
Recently, a large set of books from the mid-70's were reviewed. This group was the final set of covers not yet reviewed. It marked the end of the cover review campaign and helped clear up confusion about many covers that have the "Robert Bonfils" look, which are now understood to be painted by someone else, unknown so far.
By early 2013, when the final group of books needing cover art review was complete, the data set was ready to publish for wider review and a major project was started to create a web site to hold it.
Publishing a Digital Archive Website
A web site was selected as the way to publish the information so that it could be seen by many people who could help improve and enlarge it.
Having the information in a hyper-linked format with the added feature of a searchable database provides the best way to show the vintage Greenleaf Classics books for research and review, and also for entertainment and enjoyment.
Seeing the work that Ryan Richardson did with his Strange Sisters and Gay on the Range web sites was an inspiration to do a web site that would document the full set of vintage Greenleaf Classic books, showing every cover.
The BookScans web site produced by Bruce Black showed how awesome it can be to have thousands of vintage paperback covers on display, while highlighting the importance of providing search and links to make sense of so many books.
Bob Speray produced this web site using the most accurate and correct information about the vintage Greenleaf Classics books. It supersedes all previous versions of the data set.
The site has had several privately available iterations before going public. Critical reviews by talented editors led to useful improvements.
Chris Crockett, a medieval art history scholar, was helpful in making suggestions for improving the site's content. Attila Gyenis, bookman, musician, publisher of a Jack Kerouac appreciation web site and creator of other interesting sites, suggested navigational improvements that make the site easier to visit.
This website's existence owes a kind thank you to Brian E., an East Coast art collector. He has been a valued supporter encouraging the creation of the web site so he can look at the cover images on his mobile phone and show them to friends who can't understand his enthusiasm for the art.
And another thank you is due to D. Blandford, a friend from Duckberg, Kentucky, who in 1985 introduced me to the question that is still a puzzle, "What's your internet strategy?".
The cover images on this web site are copyright by Bruce Brenner and used with his permission.
Come to this website for correct information about vintage Greenleaf Classics books, and the best cover images available.
The Future of the Greenleaf Classics Books Collection
The full set of information available has now been cataloged fully and published as this web site.
This site has become the working data set that holds the authoritative information about the books. As additions and corrections are made, this web site will be updated.
If anyone can help fill in a needed book in the collection, or correct or add missing information in the catalog, please contact us.
Enjoy the place. It is here because of two groups of people. One group, who published and distributed the books over a 15 year period, leaving no records except for the books. And another group, who spent twice that time - 30 years - collecting and cataloging them all.
45 years of human effort, documented here so it is not forgotten.
Thanks to all who contributed and share credit for its existence.