The Nancy Drew Mystery Stories is the first book series to feature Nancy Drew, and consists of 56 books published by Grosset & Dunlap. It is the most well-known series featuring Nancy Drew, and is still in print today.
The Nancy Drew Mystery Stories were first published on April 28, 1930 by publisher Grosset & Dunlap. The series was created by book packaging pioneer Edward Stratemeyer, who died two weeks after the character's debut. Upon his death, his daughters Harriet Adams and Edna Stratemeyer (later Squier) took over his book packaging company, the Stratemeyer Syndicate.
From 1930 to 1957, each volume consisted of 25 chapters, with approximately 200 pages. From 1930 to 1936, each featured three illustrations plus a frontispiece. From 1937 onward, there was only the frontispiece.
Beginning in 1958, the Stratemeyer Syndicate began the process of revising every Nancy Drew book published up to that point (34 volumes). This was driven by complaints of racist behaviors/stereotypes, outdated language and situations, and a desire to shorten the books for printing costs and to compete with television. The first 34 books were revised in a process that lasted from 1959 to 1977.
In the revision process, many titles took on choppy storylines, dropped/changed subplots and characters, and in some cases, completely different plots. Eight titles ended up with completely different plots as a result of this:
- 2. The Hidden Staircase
- 4. The Mystery at Lilac Inn
- 5. The Secret at Shadow Ranch
- 11. The Clue of the Broken Locket
- 12. The Message in the Hollow Oak
- 14. The Whispering Statue
- 17. The Mystery of the Brass Bound Trunk
- 18. The Mystery at the Moss-Covered Mansion
The revised editions each consist of 20 chapters, and are approximately 170-180 pages in length. The illustrations became pencil sketches of various scenes, and there are approximately six of these throughout each book (plus the frontispiece).
Move to Simon & Schuster
By the late 1970s, relations between the Stratemeyer Syndicate and Grosset & Dunlap had become tense. Harriet Adams was often in dispute with Grosset & Dunlap editor Anne Hagan over the series' direction, and was upset with many of the publisher's decisions during the last couple of years of their association. Many of the Syndicate's partners also believed the publisher was withholding proper royalties by using the contract signed by Edward Stratemeyer fifty years earlier for the royalty (which, by the late 1970s, had become a very low figure due to inflation). To cut costs, Adams approached the publishers about switching the Syndicate's series to paperback format. However, Grosset & Dunlap adamantly refused.
In 1979, the Stratemeyer Syndicate announced it would leave longtime partner Grosset & Dunlap for its competitor, Simon & Schuster. The latter not only agreed to print the books in paperback, but also to give more creative control to the Syndicate. Shocked by the move, Grosset & Dunlap sued both the Syndicate and Simon & Schuster (then owned by Gulf + Western) for breach of contract. A judge found that while Grosset & Dunlap could reprint the titles it already had printed up to 1979, the Syndicate was free to take their series to whichever publisher they wanted.
Adams died in 1982, and the Syndicate and its characters were sold to Simon & Schuster in 1986. The Nancy Drew Mystery Stories continued at Simon & Schuster until 2003, lasting 175 volumes across both publishers. In 2005, when both Simon & Schuster and Grosset & Dunlap celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Nancy Drew character, Grosset & Dunlap was allowed to republish books 57 through 64 in hardcover format for the first time.