real leather MLs?

Gordon Neavill aa3401 at
Mon Nov 24 09:50:14 EST 2003

I have a copy of Sons and Lovers with a red leather spine, olive green cloth over the boards with the front cover stamped with a fountain design, and good quality grayish endpapers.  The free endpaper is inscribed Christmas 1939.

Specially bound copies of ML titles were occasionally offered in the 1930s as Christmas specials, especially to department stores.  I've seen correspondence in the archives about ML's bound in leather for Womrath's department store in New York City (1932) and selected titles specially bound for Macy's (13 regulars in 1931, an unknown number of Giants in 1936).  

The ML bound selected Giants in leather (some half leather, others three quarter leather) in the late 30s, mostly between 1936 and 1938.  They sold for $5.00 and were primarily intended as Christmas gift books.  There is also a reference to Doubleday Doran bookstores binding up Giants in three-quarters Levant morocco in 1935; they started out selling them at $7.50, then dropped the price to $6.00 and then $5.00.

I have a couple of Giants (Keats & Shelley and Gilbert & Sullivan) in full leather in slipcases with specially printed title pages with the imprint Coronet Press; the versos of the title pages (and the publisher's note facing the title page) are identical to standard Giants.  One of these is inscribed Christmas 1937.  The archives indicate that 10 Giants (including the two I have) were bound in morocco in 1937.  I assume the ML used the Coronet Press imprint to distinguish these books from from regular Giants selling at a fraction of the cost.  I'm not aware that the Coronet Press imprint was used on other occasions--unlike Carleton House, which RH used regularly over a period of decades as an imprint for similar ventures.  It's also possible that Coronet was an outside publisher that simply rented the Giant plates, but that seems unlikely since the ML was peddling leather bound Giants itself that year.  But there were a number of occasions when the ML rented its plates to other reprint publishers.

The "Bound for THE MODERN LIBRARY by H. Wolff" statement on the verso of the title page doesn't mean that Wolff did the special bindings.  Wolff was the ML's regular binder and may have done the special bindings.  But it's possible--perhaps likely--that the special bindings were done by another firm, and no one thought--or considered it worthwhile--to alter the plates for the verso of the title page.

The leather bound regulars sold in 1939 may have been a way of clearing the warehouse of a few copies of the smaller format after it was superseded by the new Blumenthal format.


----- Original Message ----- 
  From: John 
  To: modlib at 
  Sent: Monday, November 24, 2003 8:23 AM
  Subject: RE: real leather MLs?

  Any chance they were being offered by Mike & Lee, dealers from Long Island who sell mostly at book fairs?  I saw those two at the Cooperstown Book Fair in June but passed on the $20.00, I believe, asking price.

  As to alternate bindings, I found a hardcover copy of 131.2, Thackery's Vanity Fair.  About the size of the number 7 covers, it has a black leather spine with the title sideways, the author at the top and lines at the top and bottom, all in guilt. The front cover has what appears to be a fountain.  The "guts" of the book are the same as the ML with the page opposite the title page indicating it was "Manufactured in the United States of America    Bound for THE MODERN LIBRARY by J. Wolff"

  John Wolansky

  jwol at

  -----Original Message-----
  From: owner-modlib at [mailto:owner-modlib at] On Behalf Of Printmat at
  Sent: Monday, November 24, 2003 12:27 AM
  To: modlib at
  Subject: real leather MLs?

  Yesterday I came across two unusual copies of ML titles: Merejkowski's Da Vinci and Cellini's Autobiography (not firsts, but early prinings), both with real leather spines with gilt floral decoration, paper-covered patterned hard boards with matching endpapers, and pink ribbon markers. Normally I would figure these for the (quite nice!) products of a bookbinding class, but since they are both titles that appeared in the same gift set in at least one other alternate binding, I thought I'd ask whether these are legitimate ML issues.

  Ign'ance on display,
  Bob Riedel
  Print Matters! Used & Rare Books
  42 Washington Street
  Dansville, NY  14437

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...

More information about the ModLib mailing list