American Library

Albert and Charles Boni (New York, US)
Series dates: 1924-1926
Size: 5″ x 7.5″

amerlib_james_logoAlbert Boni and his brother Charles owned the Washington Square Bookstore in Greenwich Village in New York, a meeting place for intellectuals and radicals. They began publishing the Little Leather Library in 1916 that eventually sold over 25 million tiny, fake-leather bound titles. Albert Boni and Horace Liveright founded publisher Boni & Liveright in 1917, and in that same year began publication of the Modern Library.

Boni sold his share in Boni & Liveright to Liveright in 1919. In 1923, Albert and Charles incorporated the Albert and Charles Boni Publishing Company.

The relatively short-lived American Library series was undoubtedly an attempt to capture some of the success of the Modern Library (which was sold by Liveright in 1925). In 1924 titles in the series began to appear. The jackets are unique to each title and include a price (here $1.25, but prices varied) as well as a series catalog on the front jacket flap.

amerlib_james_dj

The rear of the jacket includes a blurb about the book and advertisements for other books from the publisher:

amerlib_james_djback

The only mention of the series name on the dust jacket is the small, nearly unreadable series logo at the top of the front flap, and repeated in two lines on the jacket rear and rear flap. Series editors are noted on the jacket and above the title list inside the book.

amerlib_james_titles_inside

Titles in the series are numbered as high as 24, but six titles are missing from the list on this jacket and book (7, 10, 11, 14, 21, 22). It is not clear if these missing titles were published, and were out of print at the time of printing the James title shown above, or if they were not published. One James title, The Turn of the Screw, appears in WorldCat but is not on this list. Thus 24 titles were published or announced, and I can account for 19 actually being published.

The American Library
Robert Morss Lovett
Van Wyck Brooks
Albert Jay Nook
John Macy
Editors

By Christopher Columbus
1. Journal Of Voyage To America, $3.50

By Harold (spelled wrong in book) Frederic
2. The Damnation Of Theron Ware, $2.00

By Herman Melville
3. Israel Potter, $2.00
4. Redburn, $2.00
15. Moby Dick, $2.00
16. Mardi, $2.00

By Ambrose Bierce
5. Can Such Things Be? $2.00
6. In The Midst Of Life, $2.00
18. The Monk And The Hangman’s Daughter $2.00
19. The Devil’s Dictionary $2.00

By Henry James
8. The Aspern Papers, $1.50
20. Washington Square, $1.25
*? The Turn Of The Screw ($?)

By Artemus Ward
9. Selected Works $2.00

By Walt Whitman
12. Poems $1.50

By J. Hector St. John Crevecoeur
13. Letters From An American Farmer, $2.00

By Fitz-James O’Brien
17. Collected Stories, $2.00

Edited By Edna Kenton
23. The Jesuit Relations, $5.00

By E.W. Howe
24. Story Of A Country Town

* Probably one of the missing titles 7, 10, 11, 14, 21, 22

Boni also issued some titles in the U.S. from Chatto & Windus’ UK series St. Martins Library in 1925.

In 1929 Albert and Charles Boni initiated the Boni Paper Books, publishing one soft-cover book per month for 12 months with a yearly subscription price of $5. This soft-covered series with eye-catching cover designs was ahead of its time (the paperback revolution would start in earnest in the late 1930s). The series failed in the depths of the Depression.