Abbey Library (Murray’s)

Murray’s Book Sales (aka/ Murray’s Sales & Service Co.) (London, UK)
Series dates: 1955-1965
Size: 5.75″ x 8.75″

Seemingly unrelated to the firm of John Murray, the firm of Murray’s Book Sales also appears as Murray’s Sales & Service Co., Murray Remainder Books, Murray’s Children’s Books, and the Murray Group. I suspect the firm was a post-WW2 dealer in remainders that expanded into publishing a few inexpensive reprint series (the Abbey Library and Abbey Classics), possibly using plates acquired by their remaindering business. References to the various names used by the firm are at the end of this entry. I’ve used Murray’s Book Sales as the publisher as this is the name most commonly used in WorldCat entries. The last titles by the firm appear around 2000.

“These famous Classics are the unexpurgated copies of rare books selected from the most sophisticated works of love; great classics hitherto denied to most readers because they were inexpensive editions. Exciting stories by the world’s greatest artists, in attractively produced volumes that you will be proud to have as a complete set in your home. Among the writers represented are such world-famous authors as Balzac, Flaubert, and Voltaire.” (from the rear jacket flap)

A series using the Abbey Library name was issued by Chapman & Dodd between 1922-1927. Murray’s Abbey Classics was a series of post-WW2 larger-format illustrated classics, most likely printed from plates used on a pre-WW2 series purchased by Murray. The books were likely intended as gifts, and are cheaply bound with coarse paper (like Murray’s other series, the Abbey Classics). There were six illustrated titles issued around 1955 and reprinted a few times through the mid-1960s.

An advertisement in the Times Literary Supplement (April 23, 1964) advertises The Complete Works of William Shakespeare.” Soon afterward, a string of books is issued under the Abbey Library imprint, mostly coffee table art books.

The Times Literary Supplement (London, England), Thursday, April 23, 1964, Issue 3243, p.356.

I believe the initial group of Abbey Library titles was issued in 1955. Lucius Apuleius’ The Golden Asse is illustrated by Jean De Bosschiere and is not dated. The jacket covers are unique to each title. The series name is included on the jacket spine. The front jacket flap describes the book. The price is 25s.

The rear jacket flap describes the series (transcribed above). Additional titles in the series are listed on the rear jacket flap. There seem to be six titles in this initial run of the series:

Lucius Apuleius, The Golden Asse (illustrated by Jean de Bosschere)
Henry Fielding, The History of Tom Jones (illustrated by G. Spencer Pope)
Rabelais, The Worlds of Rabelais (illustrated by Frank C. Pape)
Balzac, Ten Droll Stories (illustrated by Jean de Bosschere)
Voltaire, Candide and Other Romances (illustrated by Norman Tealby)
Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary (illustrated by John Austen)

In the mid-1960s more titles are published under the Abbey Library name, including Shakespeare, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (1964). A string of titles follows, most of which are art coffee table books, the last published in 1980.

Yellow cloth bindings have gold typography.

The Abbey Library series name is incorporated in the book endpapers:

The half-title page:

The title page. The illustrations are “in colour and black and white” according to the title page, but are all monochrome in the book.

“Published in Great Britain by Murray’s Book Sales (Kinds Cross) Ltd. 157-167 Pentonville Road, London, N.1.” An undated copyright indication is included.

“Made and Printed in Great Britain by Taylor Garnett Evans & Co., Ltd., Watford, Herts.”


A few notes on the various names used by the firm between 1955 and 2000:

Murray’s Book Sales: 1955-1977

Titles in WorldCat from 1957-1977

Murray’s Book Sales (King’s Cross) Ltd. Head Office: 167 Pentonville Rd., London, N.I, England (The Publisher, vol. 169, 1955)

Murray’s Book Sales (King’s Cross) (Cassell’s Directory of Publishing in Great Britain, the Commonwealth, and Ireland, 1960, 1968, 1970)

Murray’s Sales & Service Co.: 1956-2000

Titles in WorldCat from 1956-2000

“Sell your remainders to Murray’s Sales & Service Co.” (The Bookseller, 1961)

Complete Works of William Shakespeare, The Abbey Library. (The Publisher, 1964)

Murray’s Remainder Books: 1977-1980

Titles in WorldCat from 1977-1980