Although the I-Spy books originated in England, the concept was also licensed to publishers in America and Germany. This page looks at the German series. I do not know how the tie-up came about, and the German publishers went with all new content although they used a few of the English titles, and they are very closely based on the News Chronicle format.
Der Späher (which translates as The Scout) books were launched in 1956, a couple of years after the News Chronicle series began. The covers have a similar layout, with an eye logo and a beam spreading out from this into which the cover illustrations fit. There were six titles issued to begin with, then six more appearing in 1957. Two more have been catalogued but the covers have not been seen, so they could be ‘in preparation’ titles which failed to appear. The books were a slightly different size too, taller and thinner than the News Chronicle titles.
The big difference was the dropping of the Red Indian theme. Instead the books were styled as The Scout (singular). The format was otherwise identical, with a points system, certificates available from the Chief Scout (there were two, the German Chief lived in Hamburg and his Austrian counterpart in Wien), secret codes and everything else. Inside the books had similar layout, with neat pen and ink drawings and text. As in the UK, parents of teachers had to check the filled in books and sign the slip before sending it off to the Chief Scout. The books were sold at news-stands and in bookshops. There were also badges, and a smart cast metal badge with the Stern star shape and the I-Spy eye in the middle has been seen.
In Britain I-Spy teamed up with national newspapers (The Daily Mail then News Chronicle) and the German publishers struck a similar deal with Das Sternchen, “Little Star”. This was an eight page children’s supplement printed inside the weekly news magazine Stern. Sternchen was popular and featured the work of many well known German illustrators, writers and photographers. Stern was founded in 1948 and the supplement began in 1953.
Der Späher sometimes took over a number of pages and the cover of Sternchen, so the link must have been well formalised. “70,000 Scouts celebrate birthday,” ran one story in the supplement on November 10th 1956, along with photographs of the Chief Scout in his vintage soft-top automobile ‘Benjamin’. Wearing dark glasses and a cap, and a natty check suit, with (of course) a pipe, the Chief seems to have been driving round so Scouts could spot him.
The Der Späher books were clearly successful, and at least 90,000 Scouts joined up, but they didn’t enjoy the longevity of the British series and although certificates were still being awarded during 1958 nothing has been seen after that date and I assume the publishers dropped the series towards the end of the decade. This means that copies are very hard to find today.
Full listing at bottom of this page. Those titles in bold are ones for which there was an equivalent U.K. title. Curiously a couple of the German titles might pre-date their U.K. version; Land and Pets in particular. Could the German titles have prompted the U.K. ones or were the U.K. titles already in preparation back home and on the list sent to the German publishers? Illustrated listing on a separate page.
I would like to thank Rodney Marshall for both alerting me to this fascinating sideline to the I-Spy story and scanning some of the covers. Other images have been found on the web but we are still missing good scans of three covers. Do get in touch if you can provide any more information, and especially if you were a Scout club member in the late Fifties. We will look at some of the certificates and other memorabilia connected with the German books later.
 Aūto / Automobiles – 1956
 Aūf der Strasse / On The Road – 1956
 Kunst und Geschichte / Art and History – 1956
 Eisenbahn / Railway – 1956
 Auf dem Land / The Land – 1956
 Sport – 1956
 Strassen-fahrzeuge / Road Vehicles
 Haustiere / Pets – 1957
 Das Rad / The Wheel – 1957
 Bäume und Sträucher / Trees and Shrubs
 Vom Fahrrad zūm Kleinstaūto / From The Bicycle to The Microcar
 Werkzeūge / Everyday Work Tools
 Industry (possibly not published)
 Zoo Animals (possibly not published)