Borzoi Pocket Books

Alfred A. Knopf (New York, US)
Series dates: 1923-1935
Size: 4.5″ x 7″

Alfred A. Knopf (London, UK)
Series dates: 1923-1930
Size: 4.5″ x 7″

early_jacketlogoKnopf’s Borzoi Pocket Books, series, eventually reaching at least 72 titles (see list below), initially featured striking art deco bindings and jackets at a price and format meant to compete with the Modern Library and other similar reprint series. The majority of the titles in the Borzoi Pocket Books were Knopf back catalog, but as a significant publisher, Knopf had an extensive back catalog to draw from.

The design of this series was by Claude Bragdon and W.A. Dwiggins (who also designed the Sun Dial Library).

Early jackets (this one 1925) had an extravagant, art deco design (reused on all jackets) with author and book title. The book price ($1.25) and partial list of titles (continued on the rear jacket flap) are included on the front jacket flap. Series number is printed on the jacket spine.

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The back of the jacket describes the book (and the flap continues the catalog).

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The bindings are a deep blue with a borzoi design.

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The endpapers a lovely repeating pattern:

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A catalog with brief descriptions of books in the series is included at the back of the book. In other series (Modern Library, Everyman’s Library) catalogs were included if there was room to print them, or sometimes they were bound in from a separate set of sheets.

The catalog in the back of the book goes up to 30 in the series, and the catalog on the jacket goes up to 36. Jackets were probably printed more often than the books themselves, making them a more accurate representation of books published in the series.

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By 1927 the books and jackets were redesigned. The series catalog is still listed on the front and rear jacket flaps. The price still $1.25. The back of the jacket, as with the earlier jacket, describes the book. The series number is not included on the jacket spine.

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The bindings are also changed, less extravagant than the earlier bindings.

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By 1930, in the early part of the Depression, the jackets are redesigned again and the price dropped to $1. The list of titles are gone from the jacket flaps, replaced by a description of the effort put into the design of the Borzoi Pocket Books to make them readable, “Peril in thine eye.” Some of the jackets in this design have a serial number printed in the white oval in the lower half of the jacket, some (like this one) don’t.

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Some copies have a description of the typography used for the series.

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The rear flap describes the process whereby once 10,000 copies of a book have sold, the title is suitable for a reprint series. The rear jacket continues to describe the book.

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The catalog lists up to series number 70, but several (65, 66) are not included. It is printed on the reverse of the dust jacket, along with an order form. (Click to enlarge image)

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Titles are also included at the rear of the book. Again, two are missing (65, 66, 67). #65 is Victoria by Knut Hamsun. #66 is Growth of the Soil by Hamsun. That title was advertised as “Two volumes in one” so both #66 and #67 may be assigned to that title. In addition, at least two more titles (with unknown series numbers) were added to the series in 1930 (see list below).

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brit_logoKnopf also published the Borzoi Pocket Books in a British edition from about 1923-1930. The British series had at least 29 titles with little title overlap with the US series.  The jackets and books were also designed differently, although the size was the same. The series used roman numbers

The jacket had a more subtle design than the US versions, with a small illustration of a deer along with the series name, author and title. The book was described on the front jacket flap, and the price (3s./6d) was included (with a handy dotted snip line in case you didn’t know where to clip it off). Series numbers, as roman numerals, were placed on the jacket spine with the series name.

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Titles in the British series were listed on the rear of the dust jacket along with glowing reviews of the series. The back jacket flap contained advertising for the Knopf publication of Mencken’s American Mercury periodical.

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Three additional titles seem to have been published after the above list:

Joseph Hergesheimer, Java Head.
#24, 1929

Edward John Thompson, These Men Thy Friends
#25, 1929

Sigrid Undset, Jenny
#?, 1930

The UK bindings were understated compared to the US versions.

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Curiously, the first 18 titles in the British Borzoi Pocket Books series, according the rear jacket on the Thompson book above, were all Maupassant titles. Knopf had published a series called The Novels and Tales of Guy de Maupassant around the same time as the British Borzoi Pocket Books. This collection of 18 Maupassant titles corresponds exactly to the 18 titles in the Pocket Books series.

The jackets for the Maupassant series are similar in design to the Borzoi series. The books are also the same size and price. While there is no indication of the series name on the jacket, the correct serial number (XVII) for the series (see list above) is printed on the jacket front (but not spine).

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Searches through WorldCat and internet book sales sites failed to turn up a single copy of any of the Maupassant titles associated listed with the Borzoi Pocket Books series name. It seems that the run of Maupassant titles was marketed as part of the Borzoi Pocket Books series (with only the small serial number as an indication) and simultaneously as a set of Maupassant titles, a practice not uncommon in such series (see the Phoenix Library, for example).


A list of the 72 U.S. issued Borzoi Pocket Books is below:

1. TARAS BULBA, by N. V. Gogol
2. PETER JAMESON, by Gilbert Frankau
3. THE HAPPY END, by Joseph Hergesheimer
4. HUNGER, by Knut Hamsun
5. ANDALUSIA, by W. Somerset Maugham
6. THE GREEN GODDESS, by Louise Jordan Miln
7. PREJUDICES I. by H. L. Mencken
8. CAESAR OR NOTHING, by Pio Baroja
9. LONDON RIVER, by H. M. Tomlinson
10. THE POPULAR THEATRE, by George Jean Nathan
11. 170 CHINESE POEMS, translated by Arthur Waley
12. THE ROOM, by G. B. Stern
13. THE ANTICHRIST, by F. W. Nietzsche
14. AN ADOPTED HUSBAND, by Futabatei
15. CHELKASH, by Maxim Gorky
16. THE STAG’S HORNBOOK, edited by John McClure
17. THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A SUPERTRAMP, by W. H. Davies
18. VENTURES IN COMMON SENSE, by E.W. Howe
19. THE LITTLE ANGEL, by L. Andreyev
20. A BOOK OF BURLESQUES, by H. L. Mencken
21. RALPH HERNE, by W.H. Hudson
22. A HERO OF OUR TIME, by M.Y. Lermontov
23. THE SOUL OF A CHILD, by E. Bjorkman
24. THE SO-CALLED HUMAN RACE by Bert Leston Taylor
25. THE CABIN, by V. Blasco Ibanez
26. THREE TALES, by G. Flaubert
27. A ROOM WITH A VIEW, by E.M. Forster
28. THE BLIND BOW-BOY, by Carl Van Vechten
29. CASANOVA’S ESCAPE FROM THE LEADS, translated by Arthur Machen
30. YOUTH AND THE BRIGHT MEDUSA, by Willa Cather
31. JENNY, by Sigrid Undset
32. GREEN MANSIONS, by W.H. Hudson
33. THE FAIR REWARDS, by Thomas Beer
34. PICTURE FRAMES, by Thyra Samter Winslow
35. ADOLPHE, by Benjamin Constant
36. HAGAR’S HOARD, by Geor1e Kibbe Turner
37. TALES OF THE PAMPAS. by W.H. Hudson
38. JEWISH CHILDREN, by Shalom Aleichem
39. THE BLOOD OF THE CONQUERORS, by Harvey Fergusson
40. GREEN THURSDAY, by Julia Peterkin
41. THE CHINA SHOP, by G.B. Stern
42. CAPITOL HILL, by Harvey Fergusson
43. THE THREE-CORNERED HAT, by P.A. de Alarcon
44. THE THREE IMPOSTORS, by Arthur Machen
46. THE WORLD IN FALSEFACE. by George Jean Nathan
47. THE GENTLEMAN FROM SAN FRANCISCO, by Ivan Bunin
48. WHERE BONDS ARE LOOSED, by E.L. Grant Watson
49. WOMEN AND WIVES, by Harvey Fergusson
50. THE MARKENMORE MYSTERY. by J.S. Fletcher
51. A BOOK OF PREFACES, by H.L. Mencken
52. VAN ZANTEN’S HAPPY DAYS, by Laurids Bruun
53. THE GATES OF LIFE, by E. Bjorkman
54. THE MIDDLE TEMPLE MURDER, by J.S. Fletcher
55. WAITING FOR DAYLIGHT. by H.M. Tomlinson
56. ZELL, by H.G. Aikman
57. THE PARADISE MYSTERY, by J.S. Fletcher
58. THE HOUSE BY THE RIVER. by A.P. Herbert
59. THE HOUSE OF SOULS, by Arthur Machen
60. THE BOROUGH TREASURER, by J.S. Fletcher
61. STRAIT IS THE GATE, by Andre Gide
62. THE HERAPATH PROPERTY, by J.S. Fletcher
63. WANDERERS, by Knut Hamsun
64. SHALLOW SOIL, by Knut Hamsun
65. VICTORIA, by Knut Hamsun
66. THE GROWTH OF THE SOIL, by Knut Hamsun
67. ? [THE GROWTH OF THE SOIL was advertised as “Two Volumes in One” and may have been assigned serial numbers #66 and #67]
68. PAN, by Knut Hamsun
69. THE LORD OF THE SEA, by M.P. Shiel
70. ESSAYS OF A BIOLOGIST, by ]ulian Huxley

Additional titles, series number unknown:

LORDS OF THE HOUSETOPS: THIRTEEN CAT TALES, by Carl Van Vechten (1930)
THE RIDDLE, AND OTHER TALES, by Walter De la Mare (1930)