Fatty heard a knock on the door of his shed.

"Come in you lot."

In trooped the rest of the Find-Outers, delighted to be in Fatty's company again.

"I'm in the middle of an unusual mystery, but I'll try and get you up to speed."

"Oh good," said Bets, patting Pip on the arm.

"Can't wait," said Larry, smiling at Daisy.

"Look here, then."

"Your collection of Enid Blyton Mystery books?" observed Pip.

"Yes, and there's something funny going on. "

"Something funny?"

"In the way that Enid Blyton has signed her name in them."

"Oh, has Enid Blyton signed your copies, Fatty?" said Bets. "How wonderful."

"Not really. These are just printed signatures at the foot of the forewords. Look. As far as the Mysteries were concerned, there weren't such printed signatures at all until
The Mystery of the Invisible Thief, which came out in 1950."

"Oh, I remember that one," said Bets. "Didn't the baker have big feet?"

"No, he had big shoes," said Daisy, smiling.

"See here," said Fatty pointing.

The rest of the Find-Outers looked at the bottom of the page as directed by Fatty.

enid signature

"Now compare it with the signature on the next book,
The Mystery of the Vanished Prince."

"Shall I do my funny voice, Fatty? The one I did when I was Princess Bongawee."

"Just look closely, Bets. And the rest of you. There's a magnifying glass for every one of us. This is the serious stage of the mystery. "

enid signature_0007

"Just the same isn't it?" said Larry.

"It's not as dark," said Pip, without much interest.

"Let me show you the next one,
Mystery of Holly Lane."

"Oh, lovely Marian," said Bets.

enid signature_0002

"Oh, I think I get it," said Pip, blinking hard after straining to look through his magnifying glass. "The same name-stamp, or whatever it is, is being used each time but it's not being cleaned from year to year. So the bit of dirt that's bunging up the inside and bottom of the 'd' in Enid, and at the bottom of the 'n' in Blyton keeps cropping up."

"Well spotted, Pip. It's the same again in
Mystery of Tally-Ho Cottage."

enid signature_0003

"Oh, that is a messy one!" said Daisy. "The two strokes are quite joined together. But I see what you mean. The 'd' and the 'n' are still not clean."

Mystery of the Strange Bundle is better. But my copy is quite light so I can't say for certain. Mystery of the Missing Man confirms that the name-stamp has been cleaned. But look..."

enid signature_0005

"What are these smudge marks under Blyton?"

"Exactly Bets. And does the printer clean up his act before printing off thousands of copies of
Mystery of the Strange Messages?"

"I bet he doesn't."

"He does not!"

enid signature_0006

"So what's the mystery, Fatty?"

"The mystery is where did this name-stamp, or whatever it is, come from? How widely was it used? What happened to it in the end? And where is it now?"

"Sounds like a pretty grown-up mystery," said Bets.

"More suitable for a middle-aged librarian starting to spend a bit too long in his shed," commented Larry.

"Will it do to be going on with?" asked Fatty, slightly exasperated. "That is the question."

"Yes," came the faithful answer from four young mouths. Plus a "yip," from Buster.

"Okay. Here's what we'll do. You lot will go home and research the use of the name-stamp in your Enid Blyton collections. Pip you have all the Adventures, don't you?"

"Of course."

"Larry, check out your old Secret Sevens."

"That's going back a few years for me. But it'll be a pleasure."

"Daisy, you check out the Famous Five. Careful with them, I think they might be tricky."

"What about me, Fatty?" asked Bets.

"You have a free hand, Bets. There are lots of other Blyton books. Check 'em out!"

"And what about your good self?" asked Larry.

"Oh don't worry about me. I've got an enormous lunch to eat. And I have a notion that I might drop a clue in front of Mr Goon about what we're up to. See you back here at four o'clock sharp."


It was an excited group of Find Outers who met up again at Fatty's shed later that afternoon. Everyone was holding a pile of books and the first thing they did was find a clear spot in the shed where they could temporarily park their load.

"Shall we deal with the Adventures first? What's your report, Pip?"

Pip moved the three books he had with him to the table top that Fatty indicated, and began to speak. "As with the Mysteries, there was no copy signature used until 1950."

"I think we can use the word 'facsimile'. Yes, Bets?"

"Sure, Fatty," said Bets, glad to be reminded how to pronounce the awkward word.

"Carry on, Pip."

"1950 was when
The Ship of Adventure was published. See its foreword."

They all looked.

enid signature_0001 - Version 2

"I love Kiki," said Bets.

"That's not the point," Fatty reminded her. "The point is that the facsimile signature is not the same as the one used in the Mysteries. The stroke through the capital 'E' for Enid is further down in the letter and is longer, so that the 'n' is a long way from the 'E'.

Everyone responded to that. Pip waited for the others to stop speaking before saying himself: "Enid wrote a 2-page foreword for
The Circus of Adventure. And the facsimile signature has two strokes below it.

By this time the find-outers were using their magnifying glasses.

enid signature_0003

"That's more like the signature used in the Mysteries, but it's still not the same," observed Fatty. The bottom loop on the 'B' is very different for a start."

Again Pip had to wait until everyone had their say. Then he opened the last book and said: "The signature on
The River of Adventure is exactly the same as in Circus."

enid signature_0002

"What does it mean, Fatty?"

"I think it means that the publisher of the Adventure series, MacMillan, copied a genuine signature of Enid's into metal when they were setting up the typing blocks for
The Ship of Adventure. But for whatever reason they set-up a different signature the next year. Perhaps because Enid requested it."

"Are you sure it was done in metal? I know the rest of the page would have been typeset..."

"What's that?" asked Bets.

"The printer uses tweezers to place all the fiddly little lead letters in rows on his 'pages' from which all the paper pages are printed."

"Oh, I see."

"But is it not possible," Larry continued, "That the signature part was transferred to the page photographically?"

"Well, I'm not sure," admitted Fatty. "But what we were observing re the little black spots around the Mysteries signature certainly reminds me of the same problem you get with metal typewriter keys which have to be cleaned regularly if you want a crisp, clean, letter of ink pressed onto the paper."

Fatty wandered to the back of the shed and came back with a book. "The signature on the Adventure stories are a bit like the signature on the foreword of
In the Fifth at Malory Towers, which was first published in September 1950. (1950 again, note!) Those of the previous Malory Tower books that have forewords just have Enid's name printed in capital letters. Anyway, here it is:

enid signature

"It's not quite the same as the signatures in the Adventure stories. But it's certainly not very like the one in all the Mysteries."

"What about the signature in
Last Term at Malory Towers?"

"It's the same."


"Oh yes, so it is, " said Daisy. "And what's that?"

"Nothing less than the actual sheet upon which Enid Blyton typed out the foreword to
Last Term at Malory Towers!"

"Wow!" said Pip.

"How did you get hold of it?" asked several Find-Outers at once.

Fatty shrugged. "It's only three miles to Beaconsfield. While you lot were busy at home with your bookshelves, I cycled over to Green Hedges, sneaked in the kitchen door, made my way to the study and soon found out where Enid stores all her typescripts in a big cupboard. Each is in a named bundle. Enid knows they are very valuable and that one day her children will inherit them. Selling them for large amounts of money, no doubt."

"Let's see," squealed Bets.

"Ignore all the pencil marks," said Fatty. "They've been made by an editor or printer."

Together they looked.

Screen shot 2017-10-11 at 19.53.51

Each of the Find-Outers raised their magnifying glass and considered the signature. Bets had been given the smallest magnifier and the view she got was a bit blurred:

Screen shot 2017-10-11 at 19.57.25

"Funny," said Fatty. "Even with a glass I can't tell if that's a real signature or a facsimile."

"Are you joking?" asked Pip. "Of course, it's real."

For a full minute, everyone admired the sheet of paper with its genuine signature of Enid Blyton. They had a really good look because Fatty told them he'd have to put it back with the rest of the typescript within a few days.

"This is good though," he went on. "We're building up the picture. What have you to report about the Secret Seven, Larry?"

Larry pointed to the large pile of books he had brought along and said rather sadly. "I don't know where to start."

Fatty helped him out. "These came later than some of the other series, so I expect as soon as the books needed forewords, that is by the third or fourth title, these would have been given Enid's signature."

"Oh, that's right, Fatty. That was what I was about to say!" Larry went on more comfortably. "But it's not easy, because although I have all the books, they're not all first editions. See here for, example.
Secret Seven on the Trail is the fourth book and it came out in 1952. This is the third impression, printed in 1955. So the foreword includes two more books that wouldn't have been on the foreword as it appeared in 1952."

They all looked to see what Larry meant.

enid signature_0007

"How nice, the signature is in colour!" said Bets.

"I expect that means the page was first run over a typeset page with all the printed words, then run over a page that just had the signature set up," said Fatty.

"That looks like the same signature used on the Mysteries, but not the Adventures," observed Pip.

"Wait a minute. Let's not jump to conclusions," said Fatty. "Any more to show us, Larry?"

"This one was first published in 1960, and this is the first edition. So, on the foreword, the previous eleven books are correctly listed."

enid signature_0006

Pip took up the analysis: "From what you said, Fatty, that paper page would have been pressed against a metal page set with all the small printed letters, black ink being transferred onto the paper. Then the paper would have been pressed onto a metal page containing only 'Secret Seven Society' in big letters and Enid's signature, green ink being transferred."

"To tell you the truth," said Fatty, "I'm a bit vague about the technical side. But let's see these signatures one above the other and under the magnifying glass."

enid signature_0007 - Version 2enid signature_0006 - Version 2

"Looks like exactly the same signature set-up has been used," said Daisy

"Hang on," said Pip. "What's that red writing faintly visible beneath the green?"

"Ha!" said Fatty. "Some child reader has shown his or her fascination with the signature by echoing it. Then someone - perhaps the same child grown a little older - has tried to erase the handwritten effort."

Fatty seemed lost in thought. Suddenly he pulled himself together and asked. "What have you got for us, Daisy?"

"The Famous Five coming out of my ears!" Daisy brought several books to the newly cleared table-top and plonked them there in a pile.

"Larry's and my Famous Five collection isn't as good as I thought it was. We've got copies of all the books, but some of them are later editions and as time went on, Enid's signature seemed to crop up everywhere. Painted on the spine and the front of the dust-cover. Printed at an angle onto the actual fabric of the hardcover, in the bottom corner. And printed twice on a page encouraging readers to join the Famous Five Club!"

"Oh, dear," said Bets, sympathetically.

"But in the end I got somewhere by putting all the other signatures out of my mind and just concentrating on the foreword. Oh, and by borrowing a couple of books from Pip and Bets."

"Good girl," said Fatty. "That's what a scientist would do. And we Find-Outers are really scientists."

"Except when we're too hungry to be that."

"Or too intent on running rings round Goon."

Buster started to bark at this. Suddenly the shed was full of barking and shouting which helped to let off a bit of the tension that was building up.

"Let's calm down," said Fatty. "Go on, Daisy. Tell us what you've found out."

"Here's the foreword of
Five on Kirrin Island Again. This came out in 1947. And although this is a fourth impression from what we're discovering is a special year, 1950, you can see there is no signature, just the printed name."

enid signature_0013

Daisy then turned to them all and frowned. "I have Pip's first edition of
Five Go Off To Camp, and have to report that there is no Foreword, as such, just a list of the 'Fives' books which has Enid's signature attached to it."


"That's odd," said Fatty. "When did it come out."

"August 1948."

"And what happened the next year? Before you shower me
Camp, I would have expected it to be unsigned," said Fatty. Up to now, we've been assuming that forewords weren't signed until 1950."

"Well, the eighth book,
Five Get Into Trouble, came out just before that, in November 1949, and the foreword was signed as we can see."

enid signature_0010 - Version 2

"Quite a different looking signature."

"Yes, the stroke through the 'E' is much further to the left," said Fatty. "And the 'B' doesn't come very close to joining up with itself."

"The same signature crops up the next year as well."

enid signature_0009 - Version 2

When the others had all had a look, Daisy went on. "Now you're going to be disappointed with me, Fatty, as I don't have an older copy of the tenth book, Five on a Hike Together. But the eleventh book, Five Have a Wonderful Time, has been signed, first printed in 1952, the foreword looks like this."

enid signature_0011 - Version 2

"That's very close to the signature we're already familiar with. I'm betting that the next one will be similar," said Pip.

"You're right, Pip," said Daisy. "Here it is."

enid signature_0012 - Version 2

Meanwhile, Fatty had found his own first edition from1951 of Five on A Hike Together. And presented the foreword to the rest of the Find-Outers:


"So it was just the two books, Five Get into Trouble, from November 1949, and Five Fall into Adventure, from September 1950, that had the odd signature on the foreword," summarised Fatty. "Of course, to the reader such pattern is not at all clear since reprints of all the earlier books contained Enid Blyton's signature on the foreword. What gets obliterated by this is that the importance of the signature on the foreword evolved over time."

Pip frowned and said, "Not forgetting that
Five Go Off to Camp from August 1948 had no foreword but did have the signature that became regular, after the two anomaly signature years."

"OK let's try something," said Fatty. "Let's put together a signature from the Mysteries, one from the Secret Seven and one of those later Fives. To see if they are the same. Can we do that?"

Daisy, helped by Pip, soon had the books set out so that the pattern could be focussed on. Five young eyes helped by magnifying glasses.

enid signature_0007
enid signature_0007 - Version 2
enid signature_0011

"Now, leaving aside differences in how the ink has been taken up because of how clean the set-up is, and how much ink has been sloshing around, can we see any differences between these signatures?"

"I can't," said Daisy.

"Nor me," said Larry.

"Nope," said Pip.

"Fatty, they're the same!" said Bets.

"So from 1950, the Mysteries were using the signature that Enid had clearly authorised. Once the Secret Sevens got going, they used the stamp from the start. Hodder and Stoughton were a bit slow with the Famous Five, but by 1951 or 1952 they were using the standard signature. MacMillan continued to do their own thing on forewords, never adapting their Enid signature to the standard. But there's another book that helps tell the story and that's
The Story of My Life, Enid's autobiography that came out in 1952.

Fatty produced the book with a flourish. He showed that the standard facsimile was punched gold ink on red cloth on the cover. He opened the book and there was the facsimile 'Enid Blyton' on the contents page. He turned back a page and there it was again on the title page.

enid signature_0017

"This book is really a long letter to Enid's child readers. Literally. So it starts off like this on page 5:"

enid signature_0018

"Then on the last page, page 124, the book finishes like this:"

enid signature_0019

"Obviously that is a 'real' signature. And I would say for sure that it's not been set up in the same way as the type, more like the way a drawing would have been set up for printing. In fact, Enid has a double-page in the book called 'HOW ONE OF YOUR BOOKS WAS MADE'. When talking about a picture, she says:
'The negative is printed on to sensitised metal plate and etched with acid, one plate for each colour in the printing process.'"

"Etched with acid?" mused Pip.

"I know, it still doesn't make things crystal clear," said Fatty. "But what is clear to me is that the actual signature is really quite like the one used in the foreword of
In the Fifth at Malory Towers and in the forewords of the Adventure books. So although Enid favoured a particular version of her signature - the standard facsimile, let's call it - and used it all over the beginning of The Story of My Life. She also respected the freshness of slight variations, and where she thought it appropriate, preferred that to be used."

Suddenly, Bets piped up: "Oh Fatty, I've suddenly realised. It all goes a lot further back than 1948, 1949 or 1950."

"What makes you say that?" asked Fatty.

Bets was holding in her hand her oldest and favourite book,
Adventures of the Wishing Chair.

Wishing Chair was published in 1940 by George Newnes," said Fatty. "Let's see it, Bets. Open up."

"Wow! I see what you mean," said Pip.

The Find-Outers all stared at the page with the signature, reading it from top to bottom.

enid signature_0015

"Gosh, I think that's the same signature we were focussing on," said Larry.

"Let's have a close look," said Fatty. "Raise your glasses for the Queen!"

enid signature_0015

"It is the same! The same 'Enid Blyton' we love so much."

"Of course!" said Fatty suddenly. "The Preface mentions
Sunny Stories which she was editing since the 1920s. And in that fortnightly magazine she wrote a letter to children every issue. I'm sure I have a few of the little orangey-red-covered things somewhere in this shed."

"Somewhere in this summerhouse." said Daisy.

"Somewhere in this pamper station," said Larry.

"Ah, found them. My oldest is from April, 1941. So that's just after
Wishing Chair came out. Here, look... Oh, and read it. If I remember rightly, in this one Enid mentions her actual children, Gillian and Imogen."

enid signature_0016

"Lovely," said Bets.

"The signature is a blur," said Pip.

"That's partly cos the paper is cheap and rough," said Larry.

"And too much ink has been used," was Daisy's contribution

"Oh, we're all expert printers now are we?" smiled Fatty. "But the conclusion is clear. Enid chose the perfect signature early in her career and used it on her special books and her weekly magazine. Then in in 1950, or just before, when the book serials had all got into their stride, she realised she was missing a trick by not signing them off for everyone. And that's what she did, she signed all her marvellous books. MacMillan stuck with a particular signature with the Adventures and so did Methuen with Malory Towers. But the Secret Sevens and the Mysteries and the Famous Fives (after a shaky start that lasted for three books, including one with an omitted foreword) all used the signature that Enid had selected as being
the Enid Blyton signature."

"Tell me, Fatty. Why did the Blyton family leave Peterswood again?" Bets wanted to know.

"Enid was married to a man called Hugh Pollock. He didn't value the life that he had with Enid and their two young girls. He preferred to booze alone in a cellar of the house, Old Thatch. So Enid decided to save what she could of the paradise she'd created and took her little girls the three short miles to Green Hedges in Beaconsfield. Where she carried on writing glorious books and being their mother while being married to someone else."

"Are Gillian and Imogen still playing in the garden at Green Hedges?" asked Bets, frowning slightly. Were they there today when you cycled to the house?"

Fatty didn't know what to say. The word 'TIME 'grew large and dark in the forefront of his mind. And a word of five letters, beginning with 'D', looked as if it was going to eat 'TIME' alive.

There was a noise from the garden. Someone breathing heavily and trampling shrubs underfoot. "Ah, here's Mr Goon, bang on cue," said Fatty, opening the door of the shed before Goon could pound his fist on it. "Tell me Goon, did you used to be an apprentice printer at
Sunny Stories?"

Everyone laughed. Everyone except Goon, of course.

"Now look here," Goon said, once the children seemed calmer. "I received a note earlier this afternoon. Pushed through the letterbox at the station, it was. Thing is, it was completely blank. Luckily, I'm not exactly stupid, so I ran a hot iron over it. And... well, I've never been so insulted in my life! See here... Take your time in reading it. It took me about five minutes."

Screen shot 2017-10-11 at 21.51.15

As soon as they saw it, the Five Find-Outers burst out laughing and Buster started barking his head off.

"Who is this Enid
blooming Blyton? asked Goon. "Obviously, a mad woman who should be locked up. And I'm just the man to do that. Lock her up and throw away the key to the cellar. See if I don't."

Receiving only facetious answers to his question, Goon soon left the shed and trudged up the garden path, his every movement betraying a sense of hopelessness.

Fatty felt sorry for him. Perhaps he would write Goon another letter in which wonderful Enid would be just a bit more... well...
understanding. He might even sign it off in an honest and straightforward way using the time-honoured facsimile. A true cultural icon if ever there was one.

In fact, within a week Fatty had made up a rubber block of the signature, plus two ink pads, that they could play around with so that this essay/story could be finished with an afterword:


How did Fatty mange to get it right first go? Oh, call it natural talent. Or look in the shed bin and see all the botched purple efforts.