EVERYMAN’S LIBRARY1906 — 2006 From Austen to Nabokov and from Achebe to Updike, from literature to poetry and from history to philosophy, Everyman's Library editions feature original introductions, up-to-date bibliographies, and complete chronologies of the authors' lives and works.
Everyman’s Library was founded on February 15, 1906 with the publication by Joseph Dent (1849-1926) of fifty titles. Dent, a master London bookbinder turned publisher, was a classic Victorian autodidact. The tenth child of a Darlington housepainter, he had left school at thirteen, and arrived in London with half-a-crown in his pocket.
Dent promised to publish new and beautiful editions of the world’s classics at one shilling a volume, ‘to appeal to every kind of reader: the worker, the student, the cultured man, the child, the man and the woman’, so that ‘for a few shillings the reader may have a whole bookshelf of the immortals; for five pounds (which will procure him with a hundred volumes) a man may be intellectually rich for life.’
Milton’s words, “A good book is the precious life-blood of a master-spirit, embalmed and treasured upon purpose to a life beyond life” were printed on the title-pages of the first two Everyman volumes. However, Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson and every Everyman title ever since has carried the motto, ”Everyman, I will go with thee and be thy guide, in thy most need to go by thy side” from the medieval morality play, where the character Everyman is comforted by another character, Knowledge, as he sets out on a journey, long hard and dangerous. These lines had come into the head of Dent’s general editor Ernest Rhys as he walked down Garrick Street one day in 1905, giving him, at last, a name for the new series. As he recalled: “Here, unexpectedly, was the waiting word, Everyman’s Library. It took me ere long into the office of the old Chief saying: ‘Eureka! I have found a title.’ For a moment he stared incredulously, and then repeated: ‘Everyman’s Library, you have it!’”
Jane Austen was to be the first British author to have her complete works included in Everyman’s Library, followed shortly afterwards by Dickens, with introductions by G.K. Chesterton. Then came the great Europeans: Dostoevsky, Rabelais, Rousseau, Flaubert, and Stendhal. Near-contemporaries followed: R.L. Stevenson, Henry James, Joseph Conrad, D.H. Lawrence, Somerset Maugham, Virginia Woolf. By 1956 Everyman’s Library had published more than a thousand titles and sold more than fifty million books.
In 1991 Everyman’s Library was relaunched by a small independent company with the support of Random House in the UK and Alfred A. Knopf in the US. The revived library featured a fine, easy-to-read typographic design, sewn cloth bindings, acid-free paper, silk ribbon-markers, and substantial new introductions and chronologies by leading scholars and writers. Pride and Prejudice was the first of fifty titles to be published in September 1991, and within twelve months 130 titles had appeared, including such major twentieth-century classics as Joyce’s Ulysses, Kafka’s The Trial, Lampedusa’s The Leopard, and Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago, none of which had previously been published in Everyman’s Library. Since then, the Library has published Robert Fitzgeralds’s incomparable translations of Homer and Virgil, an edition of Shakespeare with more than 700 pages of magisterial introductions by Tony Tanner, the only complete edition available of Vasari’s Lives of the Painters, Sculptors and Architects, and Allen Mandelbaum’s fine translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy, the only edition to include Botticelli’s extraordinary pen and silverpoint drawings. In 1992 Everyman’s Library launched a series of children’s classics, bringing back into print illustrators such as Aubrey Beardsley, Ivan Bilibin, Walter Crane, Kate Greenaway, Mervyn Peake, Heath Robinson and his brother Charles. This was followed by a hugely popular Everyman’s Pocket Poets series with more than sixty titles in print ranging from popular poets to anthologies.
By the 100th Anniversary in 2006 the list of authors Everyman’s Library publishes has been joined by Achebe, Allende, Bassani, Borges, Bulgakov, Calvino, Camus, Chandler, Penelope Fitzgerald, Forster, Grass, Greene, Hasek, Highsmith, Levi, Mahfouz, Mann, Marquez, Cormac McCarthy, Toni Morrison, Nabokov, Naipaul, Orwell, Plath, Rushdie, Solzhenitsyn, Steinbeck, Svevo, Updike, and Waugh, a catalogue that few publishers can rival in paperback and of course none in hardcover.
Everyman's Library continues to maintain its original commitment to publishing the most significant world literature in editions that reflect a tradition of fine bookmaking. Everyman's Library pursues the highest standards, utilizing modern prepress, printing, and binding technologies to produce classically designed books printed on acid-free natural-cream-colored text paper and including Smyth-sewn, signatures, full-cloth cases with two-color case stamping, decorative endpapers, silk ribbon markers, and European-style half-round spines.
A Note on the Colored Cloth Binding:
Each Everyman's Library book has a colored cloth binding denoting the period of the work:
Scarlet = Contemporary Classics
Navy = 20th Century
Burgundy = Victorian Literature/19th Century
Dark Green = Pre-Victorian/Romantic/18th Century
Light Blue = 17th Century and Earlier
Celadon Green = Non-Western Classics
Mauve = Ancient Classics
Sand = Poetry
THE HONORARY EDITORIAL COMMITTEE
- John Bayley
- Harold Bloom
- A. S. Byatt
- John Carey
- Peter Conrad
- Robert A. Caro
- James Fenton
- P. N. Furbank
- Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
- Victoria Glendinning
- John Guare
- Seamus Heaney
- Robert Hughes
- Sir Frank Kermode
- Toni Morrison
- Cynthia Ozick
- George Plimpton
- Robert Polito
- Craig Raine
- Arnold Rampersad
- Simon Schama
- Elaine Showalter
- George Steiner
- John Updike
- Edmund White
- Leon Wieseltier