OT:Just for giggles - how many EL collectors?

j b krygier jbkrygie at owu.edu
Sat Dec 13 09:10:51 EST 2003

Sharon Biederman wrote:

>      For those who particularly enjoy British history and literature,
> Everyman's library offers a large number of outstanding titles that are
> unavailable elsewhere; however the standardization of the dust jackets
> makes the books less aesthetically appealing than MLs.  I tend to buy them
> for content, pretty much as Joe described.  

I do collect both.  With over 1000 titles, the EL does offer
many more titles than the ML, and if the goal is to flesh out
a personal collection of classics, the EL seems necessary!

Instead of publishing contemporary 'potential classics' (as the
ML did) the EL broadened the scope of the series with many
biography, history, theology, philosophy, and childrens titles.
The seemingly obscure titles are my favorites: 'Mopsa the
Fairy' by Ingelow, 'The Philosophy of the Atonement' by Robinson,
'Boy Hunters of the Mississippi' by Reid, 'Organon of the Rational
Art of Healing' by Hahnemann, 'Gatherings from Spain' by Ford,
'Essay on the Principles of Translation' by Tytler, and so on,
Plus, the EL has nearly complete runs of Dickens, Scott, Hakluyt,
Trollope, etc.

The aesthetics of the EL are more subtle than the ML.  Yes the
EL did not typically have pictorial DJs (until the 50s), but
the dust jacket was just packaging, and EL were much nicer
books under the DJ.  Early ELs have full gilt designs on the
spine, have flat spines (look better on the shelf than the
typical rounded spines), and spectacular Morris-esque designs
for the title page.  In addition, as far as I know, the text
of each EL was completely reset for the series, so you don't
see the variation in text/formatting from title to title (as
you do with the ML, which often reused existing plates).  The
EL was also better at commissioning scholarly introductions.
The EL run of 22 Dickens titles each has an extensive intro.
by G.K. Chesterton, for example.

So my 2 cents: the ML wins with DJs, the EL wins with the book
itself. Both series are great, and they are complementary in many
ways. The ML more brash and flashy and contemporary and a
bit more superficial, very American; the EL more subtle,
reserved, refined and scholarly, maybe bordering on the
blandly intellectual, very British.

>      A larger topic, and a fascinating one, is the obsession
> of book collecting in general.  Very few of the ML collectors I have known
> collect only the Modern Library.  Most collect another author, another
> series, etc.  Assuming that the Modern Library is one's primary
> collection, what is the secondary one?  Mine is Charles Dickens.

Once I let ELs mix with my MLs I decided to collect any other small
format classic reprint series (but only one's with DJs).  At this
point, I have at least one book from 80+ different series that were
published from about 1905 thru the 1960s.  Just about every publisher
had one or even several series to compete with the EL and ML.  I
know of another 30-40 series.  I guess my goal is to get at least
one title in a DJ from all these other series.


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