Everyman's Library Collector's Items

To celebrate the Everyman's Library centenary, Knopf and longtime Everyman's collector Terry Seymour put together a collection of vintage titles and ephemera. The items were displayed at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, DC briefly and at the New York Public Library during the Fall of 2006, but you can take a virtual trip back in time by clicking through the items below.

Diamond Jubilee Catalog (1966)

This catalog is a good example of a comprehensive catalog available free from the publishers. Dent in the U.K., and Dutton in the U.S. issued separate advertising, sometimes overlapping, but often unique to their own sales strategy. It advertises the current list at $2.25 per volume.

Early Editions

The bindings of three books published between 1905 and 1934.

(From left to right)
Burke's Speeches and Letters on American Affairs (1911)
The earliest leatherette binding (1905-1919); it was very popular, but held up poorly.

The Last of the Barons (1907)
Quarter pigskin binding 1906-1919—the most expensive and scarcest of the four standard binding styles originally offered

Tragedies of Shakespeare (1927)
In order to offer a sturdier leather and reduce the total amount of gilding, this new format was developed in 1920, only available in select titles.

Later Cloth Format (1935-1952)

A major change in the book design began in 1935. Much of the internal and external decoration was removed, and the dust jackets were redesigned. This edition of Gilchrist's Life of William Blake (1942) is one of the few with a front cover design.

In Modern Dress

Around 1933, Dutton designed several Art Deco dust jackets in an effort to boost sales in the United States. These jackets were never used by Dent in the UK. This example is The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius (1935).

Children's Books

In the late 1940s Dent began moving most of its Everyman's Library children's titles to a larger and more colorful Children's Illustrated Classics, but there was a lot of inventory left over. They designed colorful dust jackets as a way to help move out the old stock. This example is Bullfinch's Age of Fable (1960).


From the late 1920s well into the 1960s, bookmarks were inserted into the books. Here are three examples of older book mark advertising:
  • Orange: Everyman's Encyclopedia second edition (1931-2)
  • Cream: Modern Titles (1935)
  • Blue: A general advertisement of 930 titles (1936)
Pictured top right: Dent used "movie tie-in" dust jackets as well as wraparound advertisements to freshen up existing titles that were made into popular movies, or in some cases, even radio programs. This example of Wuthering Heights (1938) is one of the earliest uses of this form of marketing.

From Page to Screen

You may know the characters in your favorite classics, but do you remember who played them on the silver screen? Answer these 14 questions to find out how much you really know know about films based on books published by Everyman's Library.

Take the quiz »

A Conversation with Luann Walther, Vice President and Editorial Director

When did you start working on Everyman's Library?
In 1990, a very enterprising independent British publisher named David Campbell acquired the hardcover rights to Everyman's Library. For about twenty years, the collection had been languishing; almost no new titles were being published. David partnered with Random House UK, and then approached Sonny Mehta, the Chairman of the Knopf Publishing Group in the U.S., who was very interested in the opportunity to bring the series here. When I met David in London, I was excited to see how much energy and enthusiasm he was bringing to resurrecting the library. Soon we were working together with his team to produce a revived list.

What did the new list include? Were the books different from past Everyman's editions?
We started with 46 titles, from Jane Austen to Emile Zola. New introductions were commissioned and a new format was designed. The old books had been charming pocket-sized editions, but that meant that the type fonts were also small. We went to a larger format, and Sonny was determined that the books be beautiful books with sewn bindings, ribbon markers, and full-cloth covers -- books that readers would be proud to own and pass on to future generations. Knopf's Carol Carson came up with a beautiful new jacket design and logo. Within a year or two we had added the Children's Classics and the Pocket Poets series to the imprint. The Pocket Poets have been a special pleasure to work on; it says something wonderful about readers today that we've been able to publish seventy of these small books of poetry and they've all remained in print. It shows that people want to own this work in well-made hardback editions.

How do you keep the price down and the quality high?
It's certainly a challenge. One factor, of course, is that many of the books are in the public domain. We also achieve economies by printing all the US and UK titles at the same time, with the same printer doing all the books in each of the three series.

What is your favorite part about working on Everyman's Library?
Publishing classics at a place like Knopf is special because we're not just doing the standard list. From early on Sonny saw tremendous riches in Knopf's backlist, and we set out to form a much broader and newer canon. We did the Rabbit Angstrom volume with John Updike and Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy. Both are living writers whose works we consider classics. Together with our own archive and by gathering rights to authors we think belong, we've been able to create an illustrious international library of contemporary authors that's unrivalled anywhere.

Our own authors have also led us to exciting one-of-a-kind projects. The Audubon Reader came about because Richard Rhodes wrote a major biography of John James Audubon for Knopf, and brought to our attention to the fact that there wasn't one single Audubon volume for general readers. With Richard's help we were able to collect the best of his writings, and some beautiful colored plates. Sixteen color illustrations are included the volume, and it's still only $27.50.

Whether it's Richard Rhodes writing nonfiction about a figure that people want to know more about or Richard Ford writing fiction, we're just so lucky to have these Knopf authors available to us. This fall, Knopf will publish Ford's third Frank Bascombe novel, The Lay of the Land. Then, in a few years, we'll publish the trilogy in an Everyman's edition.

What else is next for Everyman's Library?
For some years, Sonny had wanted to pull together all of Joan Didion's nonfiction. This fall we will publish We Tell Ourselves Stories In Order to Live: Collected Nonfiction. Coming on the heels of her best-selling memoir, The Year of Magical Thinking, which has been a tremendous publishing event, this book is a natural for all her fans and will give everyone who has read Joan for the first time a chance to go back and discover her previous books. We're also publishing five other contemporary authors this fall: Umberto Eco, Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro, Roald Dahl, and Toni Morrison.

Also, some ambitious translations are coming out including a brand new edition of War and Peace by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky who have won numerous awards for their translations. They've done all of Dostoevsky, they've taken on Chekhov, and now this.

Are there other translated works that have been memorable projects?
We recently published one of my favorite novels, a book that the Italian writer Italo Svevo wrote in the 1920s to little acclaim, but which has subsequently been recognized as one of the great books in Italian literature. This is a book that might never have seen the light of day had the author not happened to take English lessons from James Joyce when he was living in Trieste. Joyce went to a lot of trouble to help get the book published which is an incredible story. Now it was time for a a new translation of the work, and William Weaver, probably the most brilliant of all the Italian translators, wanted to do it. I learned so much working with a translator of his caliber. We'd have fascinating arguments, especially over changing the title. Of course, he won. Historically, it had been translated as Confessions of Zeno, but Bill maintained that the word "confession" was wrong and gave the title too much of a religious echo. The Everyman's version is Zeno's Conscience.

You've also asked for suggestions from visitors to this website about which books to publish next.
We would love to hear from readers because there are still many authors we haven't included, and we want to know what people are interested in. At one point, we didn't have all of the Dickens novels in Everyman's. A reader would write or call every three months and ask when the set would be complete. Finally he said, "I'm in my eighties and I don't want to die without completing my Everyman's Dickens." We listened. We published the final novel and now everyone can have his or her own set of Everyman's Dickens.

Do you have a favorite classic?
I'm really fond of our edition of Dante's Divine Comedy. Allen Mandelbaum, the translator, had been a favorite professor of mine in graduate school, and his was one of the first books I assisted on as a junior editor at Bantam Books back in the 1980s. When I got to Knopf, I suggested that we select this outstanding translation for inclusion in Everyman's. Sonny agreed. David Campbell had the excellent idea to include Botticelli's beautiful line drawings. Now, 15 years later, it continues to be one of our strongest titles and represents the best of Everyman's: beauty, longevity, lasting quality.

As an editor, I've been involved in publishing several series of classics as well as new books. New books are always exciting, but there is something special about publishing classics and with Everyman's we've been able to bring the new and the old together in one library. If you are only reading the newest books, it's not enough. You are getting only the latest brief installment of a literary legacy that spans many centuries and many cultures. It's like looking at only a small detail of a great painting. You may admire it and discuss its artistic merit, but at some point you need to stand back and contemplate the whole picture. Only then can you fully appreciate the detail. In literature, you need to go back and read the books that have influenced our contemprary writers, the books that have led us to this point in time.

Ultimately, we all create our own personal canon, and at the end of the day we all want to go home to our libraries.
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