Scoop was published by Chapman and Hall in 1938. That was the year Penguin published Waugh's first three novels (
Decline and Fall, Vile Bodies and Black Mischief), but it wasn't until 1943 that Scoop first appeared in Penguin. Below is the cover:

scoop - Version 2
Scoop 1

This is a wartime publication, so the paper is thin. A short biography appears opposite the title page, which culminates in saying:

'Before the war he travelled extensively in most parts of the world. He was received into the Roman Catholic Church in 1930. Is married, with three children, and has a house in Gloucestershire, where he lived until the war. He is now in the Royal Horse Guards, and has been in action in Cyrenaica and Crete.'

The back cover is an advert for an anti-acid product. For those that didn't have the stomach for war that Evelyn Waugh did!

scoop_0001 - Version 2

By the time that Scoop was again reprinted in 1948, everything had changed and yet all was much the same. Below is the new front cover, complete with shell-shocked penguin:

Scoop 2

The back cover contains author photo and a biography. It revises the number of children Waugh had from three to five, and updates his war record to include his time in the Commandos and his assignment in Yugoslavia. It ends with the information that his latest book is
Scott-King's Modern Europe.

waugh scoop bio

There were further editions published in 1950, 1951 and 1954. I don't have the earlier two, but the cover of the 1954 edition suggests that I haven't missed much.

Scoop 3

The little penguin is just a tad more elegant than the one of 11 years before, but there's not much in it. The back cover has been updated but only in the most minimal ways, as I've indicated in black pen. (Proof that I'm not concerned with the re-sale value of items in my Waugh library!)


Penguin loosened up in the late fifties, at last allowing an image other than their own branding to appear on the cover. I think it's Katchen looking over William's shoulder at some bitchy telegrams he's received from
The Beast. I haven't got a copy of this edition, so excuse the poor reproduction.

Screen shot 2019-04-19 at 16.29.16
Scoop 4

What high-flying editor came up with the slick phrase on the cover? I'm forced to imagine a creative discussion in Penguin's Design Studio:

First Designer: "What about: 'Feather-footed through the plashy fen passes the questing vole'?"
Second Designer: "Nobody will get it. Let's stick with 'An amusing story of the workings of the newspaper world'."

By the next edition in 1961, the orange had been dropped for grey. This was the cover used again in 1963, 1965, 1967 and 1969. And why not? The drawing by Quentin Blake is superb, communicating William's gaucheness. His telegrams to the paper from Ishmaelia read, in parts, as if he was writing to an elderly aunt. 'Raining hard'...'Still wet here'... 'Weather improving'.

Scoop 5

In the cartoon, William is surrounded by the kit that he was persuaded by a shop assistant as being essential for a trip to Africa. It's worth quoting from the text:

‘By the time she had finished with him, William had acquired a well-, perhaps rather over-furnished tent; three months rations; a collapsible canoe; a jointed flagstaff and Union Jack; a hand-pump and sterilizing plant; an astrolabe; six suits of tropical linen and a sou’wester; a camp operating table and set of surgical instruments; a portable humidor, guaranteed to preserve cigars in condition in the Red Sea; and a Christmas hamper complete with Santa Claus costume and a tripod mistletoe stand; and a cane for whacking snakes. Only anxiety about time brought an end to his marketing.’

The strange creature bottom left is a crested grebe, subject of a joke in the early pages of the book. William writes a nature column for The Daily Beast and his sister, in a piece about the badger, had changed the phrase 'badger' to 'crested grebe' every time it came up.

For the first time, the back cover is used to describe the book:


That neat little summary goes well with the cover.

In 1971, the cover was changed to the one below, possibly in an effort to keep up with the times. Popular culture was changing fast. And I for one bought the whole series of what I felt were Bowie-inspired covers by the designers Bentley/Farrell/Burnett.

Screen shot 2019-01-31 at 16.20.55
Scoop 6

This one is not as good as the
Decline and Fall or Brideshead covers, for example. At first sight it doesn't look like William Boot, as he is not innocent-seeming enough. It looks more like Lord Copper, perhaps sitting in the Megalopolitan Building. But if so he should be sitting at a massive desk. In fact, I think it is William Boot, in the grand old boat that took him across the Mediterranean towards the Suez Canal.

'The passengers sprawled listlessly on the crimson plush settees of the lounge. Carved mahogany panels shut them in; a heraldic ceiling hung threateningly overhead... William sat in a hot, soft chair, a map of Ishmaelia open upon his knees.'

That's not an exact fit, but I suspect it's the main inspiration for the illustration, which I accept is trying to suggest Africa and Boot Magna Hall, home and away, simultaneously.

The back cover contains the same plot summary as in 1961. Tell a lie, a single 'then' has been dropped from the earlier blurb.


The above was used in many, many reprints up to 1985. Then in 1987, on the back of
Scoop being made into a film, on the back of Brideshead's amazing success on as a TV adaption in 1981, comes this more commercial looking edition.

Screen shot 2019-01-31 at 16.19.13
Scoop 7

The cartoon, by Glen Baxter, is all right, but I wish he'd been given the whole cover to work with. It's not a copy I own so I don't know what the blurb on the back says.

Just three years later, Penguin published the book again, for the first time in a larger format and as a 'Twentieth Century Classic'. This is also the first time a 'found' image has been used, rather than something specifically crafted for the book by an artist. It's a Robert Frank photo, which the publishers have used courtesy of a New York gallery.

Scoop 8

The cover brings to mind Mr Salter, miserable little man in a grey and oppressive world. How about this:

Mr Salter went to work at midday. He found the Managing Editor cast in gloom.
"It's a terrible paper this morning," he said. "We paid Professor Jellaby thirty guineas for the feature article and there's not a word in it one can understand. Beaten by The Brute in every edition on the Zoo Mercy Slaying story. And
look at the Sports Page."
Together, in shame, the two men read the trick cyclist's Sports Page.

The blurb on the back gets given a slight expansion and a quote. The latter being obligatory on most paperbacks these days.


In 2000 the large format book was reprinted with an introduction by Christopher Hitchens.

The cover shows an Imperial Airways Poster. Again it's a 'found' image, it wasn't done specially for
Scoop. That era was over. However, it does conjure up the scenes of William Boot having trouble with his ludicrous luggage.

Screen shot 2019-01-31 at 16.20.31
Scoop 9

The back cover uses more or less the same blurb as 1990, but the quote is from the Christopher Hitchens introduction/essay. It's a great quote.


In 2003 another cover was tried, the 'Modern Classics' being an arbitrary notion of Penguin as to what books are 'modern' and 'classic'. Certain of Waugh's made it onto the list, for example
Scoop, Brideshead, Vile Bodies and Decline and Fall. Others didn't. No doubt for commercial reasons.

Screen shot 2019-04-19 at 15.52.01
Scoop 10

That doesn't work for me, as William was only with Katchen in Addis Ababa, not in London. And anyway, that relationship is hardly fundamental to the book's themes. Nevertheless, according to quick research on Abebooks, it seems to have been reprinted in 2012 and 2018.

Running parallel is the following cover. It first appeared in 2003. Another 'found' historic photo. Another ill-advised use of William Boot and Katchen together in the UK.

Screen shot 2019-01-31 at 16.18.05
Scoop 11

Grey is the new orange? The image is reused in this 2008 edition. Where orange makes a partial comeback.

Screen shot 2019-04-19 at 21.05.50
Scoop 12

Let's be clear about this. That image is completely inappropriate as a cover for
Scoop. The designer should be ashamed. To say that I could do better is the least of it. In fact. I will do better. It'll take me about ten minutes because all I'm going to do is what Penguin's designers have been doing for the best part of thirty years, and source a black and white photo of the period. However, I'm going to select one from Abyssinia. Right time, right place. Evelyn Waugh is probably in this photo!

scoopcover - Untitled Page (1)

What part of
Scoop does that apply to? Well, it applies to that part of Waugh in Abyssinia where war with Italy is announced using Menelik's war drum. But as far as Scoop is concerned, it suggests Doctor Benito, spokesman for the Press Bureau, addressing the gathered press pack as follows:

"Gentlemen... I have a communication to make on the part of the President. He wishes to state first that he reserves for himself absolutely the right to maintain or relax the regulations he has made for the comfort and safety of the Press, either generally or in individual cases. Secondly, that, so far, no relaxation of these regulations has been made in any case. If, as is apparently believed, a journalist has left Jacksonburg for the interior it is without the Government's consent or knowledge. Thirdly, that the roads to the interior are at the moment entirely unfit for travel, provisions are impossible to obtain and travellers would be in danger from disaffected elements of the population. Fourthly, that he has decided, in view of the wishes of the Foreign Press, to relax the restrictions he has hitherto made. Those wishing to do so, may travel to the interior. They must first apply formally to my bureau where the necessary passes will be issued and steps taken for their protection. That is all, gentlemen."

And so every member of the press except William Boot goes to Laku, a place that didn't exist. Somehow William had got it right.

I've checked the Penguin site and see that the copy they're selling at the moment is a re-jig of the 2000 design. But they've done a clever thing and reversed the image so that the plane is pointing 'up' the cover and not down.
Scoop is an incredibly upbeat book and this needs to be reflected in the artwork.

Screen shot 2019-04-19 at 22.11.09
Scoop 13

Here are the actual Penguin covers to date. That is,
Scoop, 1-13:

scoop - Version 2scoop_0004scoop_0003
Screen shot 2019-04-19 at 16.29.16scoop_0002Screen shot 2019-01-31 at 16.20.55
Screen shot 2019-01-31 at 16.19.13scoopScreen shot 2019-01-31 at 16.20.31
Screen shot 2019-04-19 at 15.52.01Screen shot 2019-01-31 at 16.18.05Screen shot 2019-04-19 at 21.05.50
Screen shot 2019-04-19 at 22.11.09

The golden period of covers is the novel-specific, hand-drawn ones from 1957 to 1984. Though it's
Scoop 5 and (to a lesser extent) 6 that are the shining jewels in the sequence.

Why have I gone to the trouble of presenting this? I'm itching to put up my substantive views on
Scoop online, but that must wait until I've given the talk on May 10 at Chipping Campden Literary Festival. See here for full details.

As you'll see Professor Martin Stannard is also contributing. So that's Willam Boot (me) and John Courteney Boot (Martin) on the same bill. I trust our approaches will complement each other's. I trust we will jointly do justice to
Scoop, just as its cover designers just may have done over the years.


Jeff Manley has written to make this valuable point:

'One thing you might try which would give this added bibliographical value is to check the copyright page (if you have it) to see when Penguin adopted the revised versions that Waugh did for C&H in the 1960s. Penguin were sometimes slow to pick those up. The psychedelic
Scoop for example used the original edition and so is missing the 1963 preface and whatever edits he made in the text at the time. He also dropped the subtitle "A novel about journalists" and explains why in the preface. The 2011 Penguin hardback includes that material but doesn't say when they first did so.'

The latest edition of
Scoop I actually have to hand, is the 2000 paperback edition, and that has not been updated for Waugh's 1960s preface and the dropping of its sub-title. Given that the 2011 hardback has this update, I expect subsequent Penguin paperback printings have been updated, but I will check this in due course. The 2011 hardback looks like this:

Screen shot 2019-04-21 at 17.48.51

What can one say? Back to basics.