OT:Just for giggles - how many EL collectors?

Terry I. Seymour tseymour at ptd.net
Sat Dec 13 10:10:20 EST 2003

J K:

I guess I knew you were almost as sick as I am.  I have a few volumes toward
the same goal as you.  I will go through and see if there is a series you
might not have.  Besides the newer series' that you collect I have the
Bohn's that started publication in the 1840's and the Harper's Family
Library and the Harper's School Library starting also in the 1840's.  I have
about 100 Burt's many in superb dust jackets.  I even took a crack at the
Early English Text Society.

I have been very restrained on these other series, however, in the past
couple of years in order to concentrate my resources on EML.



-----Original Message-----
From: owner-modlib at algol.owu.edu [mailto:owner-modlib at algol.owu.edu] On
Behalf Of j b krygier
Sent: Saturday, December 13, 2003 9:11 AM
To: modlib at algol.owu.edu
Subject: Re: OT:Just for giggles - how many EL collectors?

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
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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