An American Bookshelf

Macy-Masius (New York, US)
Series dates: 1927-1935
Size: 5″ x 7.5″

The An American Bookshelf series extended to only six titles, published in 1927 and 1928 and sold for a few years afterward. The series was specifically focused on “accepted classics” of American literature that were, nevertheless, “racy and entertaining, but little known.” Mark van Doren edited the series. An advertisement for the series (below) is from The Saturday Review, March 10, 1928, p. 673. A prospectus, on the rear of the jacket, is also below.


George Macy established the trade publishing firm Macy-Masius in 1923. Macy, apparently tired of the trade book business, sold Macy-Masius to the Vanguard Press in 1928. An American Bookshelf continued to be published for several years after the merger. An American Bookshelf series may have set Macy thinking about the prospects of the reprint series. After Macy-Masius, Macy was responsible for several successful reprint subscription series, including the Limited Editions Club (1929), the Readers’ Club, and Heritage Club.

At 5″ x 7.5″ the series was larger in format. Some of the books and jackets were designed by Clarence Pearson Hornung, although the initials “JG” are appended to the illustration on this particular jacket. The jackets had illustrations unique to each title, as with the strange and hideous jacket for Samuel Sewall’s Diary, below.


A blurb describing the book is included, with the book price, on the front and rear dust jacket flaps. The book itself has a rather exuberant blue and red stars and zig-zags design.


Six titles were announced (listed on the page facing the title page, below), and five were published:

#1: Samuel Sewall’s Diary (1927)
#2: A History of the Life and Virtues of General George Washington, by Parson Weems (1927)
*#3: Father Abraham’s Speech, Poor Richard, and Bagatelles, by Benjamin Franklin
#4: Journey to the Land of Eden, and Other Papers, by William Byrd (1928)
#5. Travels Through North and South Carolina, Georgia, East and West Florida, by William Bartram (1928)
#6: Nick of the Woods, by Robert Montgomery Byrd (1928)

*Probably not published (ghost title)