How To Collect The Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series

One of the most famous and highly collectible of the early genre series is the renowned Adult Fantasy Series published by Ballantine Books between 1969 and 1974. The series grew out of the popularity of Ballantine’s paperback editions of J.R.R. Tolkien’s now famous quartet, as well as a number of other fantasy classics seen in paperback for the first time. Capitalizing on the success of the first set of books and seeing a growing desire for fantasy literature, Ian and Betty Ballantine enlisted author/editor Lin Carter to produce a series of paperback fantasy books. Carter produced a seminal series of fantasy including many works that had been out of print and unavailable for some time.

The series is identifiable by a distinctive “Unicorn Head” colophon in the upper right hand corner and/or the phrase “A Ballantine Adult Fantasy” in the upper left hand corner of the cover. The colophon was redesigned in December of 1969 and appears first on that month’s publication, Hannes Bok’s The Sorcerer’s Ship. Each publication also featured an introduction by Carter.

Most collectors of the BAF series include the sixteen books published by Ballantine prior to the series inception, beginning with Tolkien’s The Hobbit, as precursors to the official series. Also usually included are two non-fiction books by Lin Carter himself concerning the works of J.R.R Tolkien and H.P. Lovecraft.

Additionally, two other books are commonly considered part of the BAF series though published after the series colophon was dropped. The first, published in June of 1974 is H. Warner Munn’s Merlin’s Ring which includes the Carter introduction and the second, Evangeline Walton’s Prince of Annwn, which lacks the logo and Carter introduction but completes the Mabinogi cycle started by Walton’s three books issued under the Unicorn Head colophon.

Due to being a paperback series, having a well defined checklist, a finite number of books and the generally inexpensive cost of most of the BAF titles, collecting the series is both easy and satisfying. Copies of many of the books frequently show up in yard sales and used bookstores. Dealers at conventions usually have a number of titles available and much of the series is available online. It is an excellent series for the beginning collector.

All books in the series proper bore a distinctive Unicorn’s Head colophon on the cover and included an introduction by Carter.

Series precursors (August 1965 – April, 1969)

Ballantine’s initial line of fantasies, published before hiring Carter as editor and considered the inspiration for the series.

  1. The Hobbit, J. R. R. Tolkien (Aug. 1965)
  2. The Fellowship of the Ring, J. R. R. Tolkien (Oct. 1965)
  3. The Two Towers, J. R. R. Tolkien (Oct. 1965)
  4. The Return of the King, J. R. R. Tolkien (Dec. 1965)
  5. The Tolkien Reader, J. R. R. Tolkien (Sep. 1966)
  6. The Worm Ouroboros, E. R. Eddison (Apr. 1967 – later reprinted with colophon)
  7. Mistress of Mistresses, E. R. Eddison (Aug. 1967)
  8. A Fish Dinner in Memison, E. R. Eddison (Feb. 1968)
  9. The Road Goes Ever On, J. R. R. Tolkien and Donald Swann (Oct. 1968)
  10. Titus Groan, Mervyn Peake (Oct. 1968 – later reprinted with colophon)
  11. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake (Oct. 1968 – later reprinted with colophon)
  12. Titus Alone, Mervyn Peake (Oct. 1968 – later reprinted with colophon)
  13. A Voyage to Arcturus, David Lindsay (Nov. 1968 – later reprinted with colophon)
  14. The Last Unicorn, Peter S. Beagle (Feb. 1969 – later reprinted with colophon)
  15. Smith of Wootton Major and Farmer Giles of Ham, J. R. R. Tolkien (Mar. 1969)
  16. The Mezentian Gate, E. R. Eddison (Apr. 1969)

The BAF Series proper (May 1969 – April 1974)

Based on a listing by Lin Carter in Imaginary Worlds (Jun. 1973), with the inclusion of additional of volumes published up the series end in 1974.

  1. The Blue Star, Fletcher Pratt (May 1969)
  2. The King of Elfland’s Daughter, Lord Dunsany (Jun. 1969)
  3. The Wood Beyond the World, William Morris (Jul. 1969)
  4. The Silver Stallion, James Branch Cabell (Aug. 1969)
  5. Lilith, George Macdonald (Sep. 1969)
  6. Dragons, Elves, and Heroes, Lin Carter, ed. (Oct. 1969)
  7. The Young Magicians, Lin Carter, ed. (Oct. 1969)
  8. Figures of Earth, James Branch Cabell (Nov. 1969)
  9. The Sorcerer’s Ship, Hannes Bok (Dec. 1969)
  10. Land of Unreason, Fletcher Pratt and L. Sprague de Camp (Jan. 1970)
  11. The High Place, James Branch Cabell (Feb. 1970)
  12. Lud-in-the-Mist, Hope Mirrlees (Mar. 1970)
  13. At the Edge of the World, Lord Dunsany (Mar. 1970)
  14. Phantastes, George Macdonald (Apr. 1970)
  15. The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, H. P. Lovecraft (May 1970)
  16. Zothique, Clark Ashton Smith (Jun. 1970)
  17. The Shaving of Shagpat, George Meredith (Jul. 1970)
  18. The Island of the Mighty, Evangeline Walton (Jul. 1970)
  19. Deryni Rising, Katherine Kurtz (Aug. 1970)
  20. The Well at the World’s End, Vol. 1, William Morris (Aug. 1970)
  21. The Well at the World’s End, Vol. 2, William Morris (Sep. 1970)
  22. Golden Cities, Far, Lin Carter, ed. (Oct. 1970)
  23. Beyond the Golden Stair, Hannes Bok (Nov. 1970)
  24. The Broken Sword, Poul Anderson (Jan. 1971)
  25. The Boats of the ‘Glen Carrig’, William Hope Hodgson (Feb. 1971)
  26. The Doom that Came to Sarnath, H. P. Lovecraft (Feb. 1971)
  27. Something About Eve, James Branch Cabell (Mar. 1971)
  28. Red Moon and Black Mountain, Joy Chant (Mar. 1971)
  29. Hyperborea, Clark Ashton Smith (Apr. 1971)
  30. Don Rodriguez: Chronicles of Shadow Valley, Lord Dunsany (May 1971)
  31. Vathek, William Beckford (Jun. 1971)
  32. The Man Who Was Thursday, G. K. Chesterton (Jul. 1971)
  33. The Children of Llyr, Evangeline Walton (Aug. 1971)
  34. The Cream of the Jest, James Branch Cabell (Sep. 1971)
  35. New Worlds for Old, Lin Carter, ed. (Sep. 1971)
  36. The Spawn of Cthulhu, Lin Carter, ed. (Oct. 1971)
  37. Double Phoenix, Edmund Cooper and Roger Lancelyn Green (Nov. 1971)
  38. The Water of the Wondrous Isles, William Morris (Nov. 1971)
  39. Khaled, F. Marion Crawford (Dec. 1971)
  40. The World’s Desire, H. Rider Haggard and Andrew Lang (Jan. 1972)
  41. Xiccarph, Clark Ashton Smith (Feb. 1972)
  42. The Lost Continent, C. J. Cutcliffe-Hyne (Feb. 1972)
  43. Discoveries in Fantasy, Lin Carter, ed. (Mar. 1972)
  44. Domnei, James Branch Cabell (Mar. 1972)
  45. Kai Lung’s Golden Hours, Ernest Bramah (Apr. 1972)
  46. Deryni Checkmate, Katherine Kurtz (May 1972)
  47. Beyond the Fields We Know, Lord Dunsany (May 1972)
  48. The Three Imposters, Arthur Machen (Jun. 1972)
  49. The Night Land, Vol. 1, William Hope Hodgson (Jul. 1972)
  50. The Night Land, Vol. 2, William Hope Hodgson (Jul. 1972)
  51. The Song of Rhiannon, Evangeline Walton (Aug. 1972)
  52. Great Short Novels of Adult Fantasy #1, Lin Carter, ed. (Sep. 1972)
  53. Evenor, George Macdonald (Nov. 1972)
  54. Orlando Furioso: The Ring of Angelica, Volume 1, Ludovico Ariosto, translated by Richard Hodgens (Jan. 1973)
  55. The Charwoman’s Shadow, Lord Dunsany (Feb. 1973)
  56. Great Short Novels of Adult Fantasy #2, Lin Carter, ed. (Mar. 1973)
  57. The Sundering Flood, William Morris (May 1973)
  58. Imaginary Worlds, Lin Carter (Jun. 1973)
  59. Poseidonis, Clark Ashton Smith (Jul. 1973)
  60. Excalibur, Sanders Anne Laubenthal (Aug. 1973)
  61. High Deryni, Katherine Kurtz (Sep. 1973)
  62. Hrolf Kraki’s Saga, Poul Anderson (Oct. 1973)
  63. The People of the Mist, H. Rider Haggard (Dec. 1973)
  64. Kai Lung Unrolls his Mat, Ernest Bramah (Feb. 1974)
  65. Over the Hills and Far Away, Lord Dunsany (Apr. 1974)

Additional books associated with the series

Published after the Unicorn’s Head colophon was retired, these are usually included with the series. The first has a Carter introduction and the second lacks Carter’s introduction but completes a set begun under his editorship. None have the series colophon on the cover.

  1. Merlin’s Ring, H. Warner Munn (Jun. 1974)
  2. Prince of Annwn, Evangeline Walton (Nov. 1974)

Companion books associated with the series

  1. Tolkien: A Look Behind the Lord of Rings, Lin Carter (Mar. 1969)
  2. Lovecraft: A Look Behind the Cthulhu Mythos, Lin Carter (Feb. 1972)

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