The Old Readers' Guide

Towards a New Readers' Guide

As many members of the Kipling Society will be aware, the massive ‘Readers’ Guide to Rudyard Kipling’s Works’ was published over a period of eleven years between 1961 and 1972, in eight volumes containing over 4000 pages. For every tale and many poems it offered detailed notes, explaining to contemporary readers thousands of references which were familiar at the time of their first publication, but seemed obscure in the 1960s, twenty-five years after RK’s death, and eighty years after he had embarked on his writing career.

The Guide was the brainchild and creation of Reginald Harbord, the then Treasurer of the Society. It drew on the work of over 40 contributors from around the world, and included many previously unpublished minor writings of RK. It was a distillation of the expertise and judgement of Kipling scholars and enthusiasts of the day, and has been of much value to students and readers ever since.

Because, however, the Guide was published privately, in an edition of only 100, which is now scattered world-wide, many members may well not have not seen the work, indeed some have asked whether the entire set could be produced as a CD-ROM, since even reference copies in university libraries are rare. Moreover today another forty years have passed since the first volumes of the Guide were written, scholarship has moved on, new material about RK’s life has come to light, many new books on him have been published, and many of the judgements and references made in the 1960s now seem outdated. The Society has therefore embarked on the massive task of producing a new Readers’ Guide, drawing on the old, but taking advantage of the insights and knowledge of scholars and enthusiasts since Harbord’s day.

John Radcliffe, May 24th 2002