Blue Seal Books

Modern Age Books (New York, US)
Series dates: 1937
Size: 5.25″ x 7.5″ (paperbound), 5.75″ x 7.75″ (hardbound)

Richard S. Childs, an economist by training, founded Modern Age Books in 1937. Literary Guild founder Samuel Craig was Modern Age Books general manager and the managing editor was a former Macmillan employee, Louis Birk.

Initially, the books were placed into one of three series, sorted by price-point: Blue Seal Books, Gold Seal Books, and Red Seal Books. The Blue and Gold Seal Books were new titles, the Red Seal Books reprints. The Blue and Gold Seal Books were available in paperback and hardcover, the Red Seal Books only in paperback. By 1938 titles were appearing with the name “A Seal Book” or “Seal Books” as the initial three series approach was discontinued.

See the entry for the Red Seal Books for more background on Modern Age Books.

The bookmark below was tucked in the copy of Paul Cade’s Death Slams the Door (1937) (book scans further below). The bookmark, in a slightly cheeky manner, introduces the three “seals” or series – Blue Seal (new books, .25 cents paper / .85 cents cloth), Gold Seal (new books, larger or with illustrations (.35 cents paper / .85 cents cloth), and Red Seal (reprints, .25 cents paper).

The bookmark requests nominations for books to be included in the series. A tiny post-paid card can be detached from the bookmark and sent, requesting new lists and catalogs of Modern Age Books as well as nominations. The three seal publisher colophon is die cut and can be popped out of the bookmark.

The dust jacket for Paul Cade’s Death Slams the Door below is in remarkable condition for an 81-year-old jacket wrapped around a paperback book. Jackets are unique to each title in the series, with a bold, modern design. The Modern Age Books number (#23) is on the jacket spine. Initially, each title also had a series number. This particular title is not listed in the numbered list of titles in the back of the book (thus I am unaware if it was given a Blue Seal Books number). The book price (.25 cents) is on the front of the jacket, as is the series name and logo. The front jacket flap describes the book and includes the publisher’s address.

The rear of the book includes the series colophon. David MacDuff’s Murder Strikes Three (another Blue Seal Books title) is advertised on the rear flap.

The card covers of the book replicate the jacket, minus the price.

The title page:

The copyright page includes the copyright date (1937). “Composed and printed in the United States of America by Union Labor at the Rumford Press, Concord, New Hampshire.” “Typography by Robert Josephy.”

All Modern Age Books I’ve seen have the same series prospectus at the end of the book, followed by a catalog on the next page which appears in several versions.

The catalog following the prospectus (below) is the earliest one I’ve seen and contains six Blue Seal Books (not including Cade’s title). Two additional Blue Seal Books titles were issued, for a total of 8 titles.

Blue Seal Books
#1, (Modern Age Books #6). Babies Without Tails, By Walter Duranty
#2, (Modern Age Books #7). All’s Fair, By Richard Wormser
#3, (Modern Age Books #8). Murder Strikes Three, By David Macduff
#4, (Modern Age Books #9). Old Hell, By Emmett Gowen
#5, (Modern Age Books #10). Red Feather, By Marjorie Fischer (Juvenile)
#6, (Modern Age Books #11). Meals On Wheels, By Lou Willson And Olive Hoover (Cook Book)

#7 (?), (Modern Age Books #23). Death Slams the Door, by Paul Cade
#8 (?), (Modern Age Books #?). 1938 Almanac for New Yorkers*

*A revision of Almanac for New Yorkers was issued for 1939 by Modern Age Books. This later title is no longer part of the Blue Seal Books series. Both Almanacs were supported by funds from the Federal Writer’s Project.

Walter Duranty‘s collection of stories Babies Without Tails, a second paperback printing (September 1937), the entire jacket and (below) binding:

Two copies of David MacDuff’s Murder Strikes Three (1937) are shown below. The first is a paperback copy, and the second a hardcover copy. The jackets and books are similar, but not identical. The jacket design is a very progressive modernist photomontage.

The softcover jacket and book cover:

In this case, the price is included on the book cover:

The hardcover jacket and book cover: Damage to the spine makes it unclear if the author and Modern Age Books series number (#4) are shown on the spine. The Blue Seal Books colophon and price are not included on the front of the hardcover jacket. The price is included on the front jacket flap:

Softcover & hardcover title pages are identical (this is the softcover):

The copyright pages differ.

Softcover: this includes a second printing indication (October 1937):

Hardcover: The elements are the same, but rearranged:

The series prospectus at the end of the book is the same for both soft and hardcover copies:

The list of titles in the three series varies: the softcover, 2nd printing removes the series numbers and includes two additional Blue Seal Books and two additional Gold Seal Books:

This is the earlier list of titles, in the hardcover version of the title: