Arden Library

Concord Books (New York, US)
Series dates: 1933-1937
Size: 5.5″ x 8.25″

Concord Books was a bookstore in New York’s Times Square:

“The first bookshop in the Times Square area was Concord, which opened in 1933, next to the Paramount Theater on Broadway. Allan J. Wilson (not the original owner) shepherded this well-respected place (in 1965, the New York Times did it the honor of a eulogy) through most of World War II, the gray flannel suit era, and the heady de-censorship period of the early 1960s. Allan was able to carry the first legal editions of Lady Chatterley, Tropic of Cancer, Fanny Hill, and, earlier, the books of the “pinko” Citadel Press, which featured socialist analysis of American politics. Concord was one of the first shops to feature publishers’ remainders. Movie and theater patrons and office workers had visited steadily until paperback bookstores drew them into their nets.” (Bookstores of Times Square, by Jay Gertzman)

The Arden Library consists of illustrated titles published by the Concord Books bookstore using plates from the Illustrated Editions series (itself published between 1930-1942). The same plates were used for books sold between 1930 and 1942 at Macy’s for .65 cents under the Macy Classics name (Publishers Weekly, Vol. 122, 1933) and also as the Cameo Classics (distributed by Grosset and Dunlap) from 1935-1948. All these series were based on the same collection of repackaged illustrated titles.

The Concord Books imprint appears on reprint titles until 1937. I believe that all Illustrated Editions titles published by Concord Books were most likely part of the Arden Library, but I don’t have evidence for four titles (listed below). In addition, of the ten Arden Library titles listed on the book jacket below, I can’t find evidence that three of the titles were published. One additional title, not on the list, is part of the Arden Library according to an external source. My tentative assessment is that there were twelve titles published in the Arden Library (with three ghost titles, announced but not published).

The Arden Library series is obscure, with only one relevant hit on Google and no books listed in WorldCat under the series name. In part, this is because the books were most likely sold only at the Concord Books bookstore in Times Square. The books were not typical library purchases. The series name appears only on the jacket (without the jacket, you would not know the book was part of a series). The distinctive binding of the Arden Library titles makes them obvious in a photograph, and a half dozen copies can be seen on Abebooks.com. Thus the series is obscure, but not that rare.

Jackets for the Arden Library series are unique to each title and, at least in the case of Nana, differ from the illustrations used on other related series. This copy of Emile Zola’s Nana has a copyright date of 1933 (most of the others, if they have a year of publication, indicate 1932). Given that the Concord Bookstore opened in 1933, the books are likely printed between 1933-1935. They were, possibly, ready to sell when the store opened in 1933. The jacket is laminated with a thin clear material (now yellowed and cracking). This covering is most likely original (it was used on the jackets from the 1930s, such as the Dutton-issued Everyman’s Library (in Modern Dress) titles in the US. “Complete and Unexpurgated” is indicated on the front of the jacket. Illustrations are by Fred A. Mayer. The front jacket flap describes the book.

A related series title (Aphrodite by Louys) is advertised on the rear jacket flap. The only place on the jacket and in the book where the series name is mentioned is on the back of the jacket. An annotated list of ten titles in the Arden Library is below a quick list of series attributes (“Good Books” “Illustrated” “Unexpurgated” “Complete” “Low Price” “Uniform Binding”). I don’t know why the first two titles are separated in the list. They may have been new titles added to the list (one would have to find an earlier list of titles to know for sure).

A comprehensive list of Arden Library titles is elusive. First, there are three titles (marked * below) that don’t seem to have been published. There is one additional title (A Shropshire Lad) that is part of the series according to an external source. Four more titles were published by Concord, with dates between 1932 and 1937, all from Illustrated Editions plates and probably part of the Arden Library series. Thus my current accounting: twelve titles published in the Arden Library (with three ghost titles).

Titles include:

Aphrodite, by Pierre Louys (illustrated by Frank J. Buttera)
*Adventures of Baron Munchausen
Green Mansions, by W.H. Hudson (illustrated by Keith Henderson)
Nana, by Emile Zola (illustrated by Fred A. Mayer)
*Faust, by Goethe
Candide, by Voltaire (illustrated by Mahlon Blaine)
Gilbert & Sullivan Operas (illustrated by W.S. Gilbert)
Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (illustrated by Edmund J. Sullivan)
Sanine, by Michael Artzibashev (illustrations by Cameron Wright)
*Cyrano de Bergerac, by Edmond Rostand
**A Shropshire Lad, by A.E. Housman (illustrated by Elinore Blaisdell)

*I can find no copy on WorldCat or the internet. Probably not published.

**Gilmore Warner, “The Fiftieth Anniversary Of A Shropshire Lad” (Colby Library Quarterly, March 1946) indicates this title was part of Concord’s Arden Library.

Additional titles with the Concord Books imprint that are probably part of the Arden Library series:

Sonnets from the Portuguese, by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (illustrated by Fred A. Mayer) (1937)
Plays by Chekhov (illustrated by Howard Simon) (1935)
The Best-Known Works of W.S. Gilbert (illustrated by W.S. Gilbert) (1932)
A Golden Treasury of English Verse, by Francis Turner Palgrave (1935)

Arden Library books are of higher than average quality, very heavy and solidly bound. The cream cloth binding has distinctive gold bars and leafy designs on the spine (including the title, author and publisher), and a cased design (with title and author) on the front of the book. The design is similar in some ways to the book design used for the Illustrated Editions titles.

Purple endpapers:

The half-title page:

A selling point for some of the Illustrated Editions titles was the mildly erotic illustrations. That Concord Books had been involved in the sale of controversial titles (see the quote that opens this entry) makes their issuing of titles like this illustrated edition of Nana obvious. The Illustrated Editions were, in part, one of the fronts upon which the war against censorship and bowdlerization were fought. One of the silhouette illustrations faces the title page. The illustrator (Fred A. Mayer) is indicated. Concord Books, Times Square is the imprint.

The copyright is 1933 to Illustrated Editions Co., Inc. “Printed in the United States of America by J.J. Little and Ives Company, New York.”

A few of the titillating illustrations:

A list of titles in the Illustrated Editions series is included at the end of the book. This includes titles that were published as part of the Arden Library, but also titles that were not.