Bestselling Bloopers

In 1931, Viking Press published, under the pseudonym Alexander Abingdon, a "Collection of Schoolboy Wisdom, or Knowledge as It Is Sometimes Written, Compiled from Classrooms in Examination Papers by Alexander Abingdon, and Illustrated by Dr Seuss". Within two months, the book sold almost 100,000 copies, becoming the fourth highest selling non-fiction book of 1931.

The book was so successful that three sequels were fast-tracked the same year. By 1952, the total sale of the various editions had added up to almost 1.5 million copies.

In 1997, Viking Press reprinted, redesigned, and repackaged the 1931 book under the title Herrings Go About the Sea in Shawls: and Other Classic Howlers from Classrooms and Examination Papers. Black Dog and Leventhal reprinted the 1931 book again in 2007.

We are delighted to be able to reproduce a small selection of extracts from these best-selling blooper books, under the following headings.

DefinitionsBestselling Bloopers 1931








Abingdon 1931bThere are enough good specimens in the second compilation by Alexander Abingdon in 1931 that we have uploaded a selection of bloopers just from that compilation, under the following headings:

More Definitions

More History Bloopers

More Science Bloopers

More Miscellaneous Bloopers

The following selection of howlers come from the third book of bloopers published in 1931 by Viking Press under the pseudonym Alexander Abingdon:


The Human Body

Still More Miscellaneous Bloopers


Still More History Bloopers



The fourth book in the series was published in 1932 with the label "Prize". We have reproduced a small selection of the quotes below, in the following categories:

Prize Definitions

Prize Science

Prize History

Prize Miscellaneous Bloopers


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