Library Series

A number of the early twentieth century copies of Jane Eyre I looked at in Cambridge University Library were part of a publishing series so I thought it would be interesting to look into the history of some of these series a bit further.

New Century Library series

(Thomas Nelson & Sons, London)

This series dates from 1899 to 1950 and was introduced to celebrate the dawn of the new century, with the majority designed and printed between 1899 and 1910. Nelson and Sons released a huge number of great Victorian novelists including box sets of key writers: Scott had a beautifully boxed series of 25 volumes, Dickens 15 volumes, Thackeray 14 volumes. They also produced individual copies of novels by Austen, Lytton, and, as here, Bronte. This copy was in Cambridge University Library and was published 1902. It had a plain red cover with a gold peacock feather on the spine. It is quite a small book with very thin bible paper. You can read more on the history of this series on this excellent blog.JE27

York Library Series

(George Bell and Sons, London)

This series dates from 1904 to 1909. (They also published the beautifully illustrated ‘untouched’ copy in earlier post). A quick search of the British Library catalogue suggests this series encompassed a large variety of works, including: Amelia by Henry Fielding (1906 edition), Transformation or the Romance of Monte Beni by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1906 edition), Evelina by Fanny Burney (1904 edition), Adam Bede by George Eliot (1906 edition) and this 1906 edition of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte which has a blue cover with a gold leaf/vine design.JE33

The New Universal Library

(Routledge, London)

This series was published from 1884–1931 one of the many library series Routledge produced in the twentieth century, including (the intriguing) Half-forgotten Books series (1903–1907), Library of Standard and Historical Books (1908) and Broadway Medieval Library (1928–1931). This edition of Jane Eyre was published in 1907 and has a plain green cover with golden embossed spine (the dust jacket, if there was one, has not survived).


The People’s Library

(Cassell, London)

This series was published 1907 to 1933 and was extremely popular for Cassell reaching 120 volumes and selling more than 3 million copies. The books were relatively cheap and the library was intended to allow people to collect classic volumes at a relatively low cost. According to this website on publishing series the books were colour-coded with red covers for ‘fiction’ and green for ‘serious works’ – it is interesting to note that this copy of Jane Eyre in the Cambridge University Library from 1907 has a red cover (whereas today I think it would be classed as a ‘serious’ work of fiction). The paper in this copy certainly seems much thinner and cheaper than in other editions I looked at and the cover is more lightweight and only has a bit of embellishment on the spine, making it a noticeably lower quality volume.



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