FAQ Project: 1st section (seemingly) Completed

j b krygier jbkrygie at owu.edu
Sun Nov 2 17:33:53 EST 2003

Scot Kamins wrote:

> I submit for your amusement and edification the first of at least seven 
> major sections (it will likely grow to 10) meant to comprise the Modern 
> Library FAQ:
> http://www.dogeared.com/General/faq.html

Scot - overall an excellent start to the FAQ.

A few comments:

 >> How do you know that a book is from the Modern Library series?

Not all ML titles have the running torchbearer: this, of course,
became part of the series after B&L.  Maybe a more accurate statement
is that all ML editions state the Modern Library on the book spine,
the bastard title page, or the dust jacket.  You may also want to
show the two B&L colophons.  My overview of bindings and djs from
1917-1939 might be a good link here (shameless promotion, sorry).

You may also want to mention books that are copyrighted by the
Modern Library Inc but are not ML titles.  These include Random
House titles, but also titles printed from ML plates in other
series: Stein's "Three Lives" in the New Classics Series (50s),
Paine's "Selections," France's "Queen Pedauque," Flaubert's "Salammbo,"
and Ellis' "New Spirit" - all in the National Home Library (from
the 1930s).  There may be others.  Can be deceptive when the
listing for such books says 'The Modern Library."

 >> Is a Modern Library title always the "definitive edition?"

You may want to define 'definitive' - unabridged vs bowdlerized
vs definitive translations or complete/corrected texts are all
related but different aspects of a text.  Maybe the title of
this section could reflect that (or be more than one section).

 >> Are Modern Library books expensive to collect?

I think you should stress that ML collecting need not be expensive,
even if you seek B&Ls in DJs or fine firsts in DJ.  I would guess
that many of us have purchased some of the more spectacular items
in our collection for well under the Guide prices.  The great thing
about collecting MLs that newbies should know is that you can turn
up great finds if you spend the time searching - used bookstores,
eBay, ABE and other WWW sellers, etc.  There are plenty of strategies
(like those outlined by Sharon B. in the recent ML Collector) which
will turn up very affordable goodies.

On the other hand, if you must have a rare title and right away,
then collecting MLs can be expensive.

But I still think of it as a very good collecting area for the
stingy, thrifty, and parsimonious (with more time than $$, like

 >> What are the toughest titles to find?

Your list is a bit peculiar!

I might suggest differentiating scarcity from value here.  The
Great Gatsby is somewhat scarce, but there have been three copies
on eBay in recent months.  There is usually a copy to be had
on ABE also.  Same for Catcher in the Rye.  It can sell in the
hundreds, and there are usually a few copies on eBay at any given
time.  These are very valuable MLs, but not the scarcest.

The scarcest are titles with one or two printings that (unlike
Gatsby) maybe no one (short of a fanatic ML collector) cares about.
Here Ye Sons or Jorn Uhl or In a Winter City or Imperial Orgy or
The Cabin or any short run ML with a now obscure author.  Another
indication of scarcity may be the lack of a DJ on your DJ pages.
Bottom line - there can be very scarce MLs that are not highly
valuable (eg., some of the titles that were phased out in the early
1940s after one or two HC printings).

Printing errors (binding from one title on the text of another
or upside down binding) are quite scarce and not valuable.

The early B&Ls are both scarce and valuable - after that, these
two aspects of MLs can diverge.

 >> Are the Everyman series and Modern Library series related?

You may want to mention something Barry either posted to the
list or sent to me - that the ML attempted (sometime soon after
Cerf and Klopfer acauired the series from B&L) to secure the
rights to distribute Everyman's in the US, thus setting Dutton
(the US distributer of ELs from 1906 onward) and the ML at
odds with each other for some time afterward.  A curious
historical connection.  Can you imagine the ML annexing the
800+ titles of the EL in the late 1920s!


More information about the ModLib mailing list