Blackie & Son Ltd. (London, Glasgow, UK)
Series dates: 1924-1930
Size: 4.75″ x 7″
Juvenile series called the Casket Library was published by Henry A. Young & Co. (1857), Henry V. Degen (1858-1862), Degen & Estes (1864-1865), William H. Hill, Jr., & Company (1867-1868) and Clark and Fiske (1869). All were probably part of the same series published by a sequence of Boston publishers in the mid-nineteenth century.
Blackie’s Casket Library reprinted some titles from an earlier series, The Warwick Library of English Literature (see advertisement below: The Publishers’ Circular and Booksellers’ Record, Volume 84, January 6, 1906).
In 1925, five titles from the Warwick Library and one additional title were advertised as the Casket Library of English Literature, typically called the Casket Library. Several of these titles seemed to have been first issued in the series in 1924. Over the next six years more literary titles were added to the series, with a total of 16 announced and at least 14 published (see list below).
The name “Casket” Library may seem odd as the term is used as a euphemism for a coffin in the US. Casket in its original sense means a “small box for jewels, etc.” Thus a series of small containers (books) with jewels (literary jewels). Many of the titles are edited collections.
Jackets for the Casket Library are printed on heavy linen paper. The jacket designs are common to the entire series, varying only the titles of the books. “A Unique Library of English Prose and Poetry, beautifully produced, 2s. 6d. net per volume.” A charming model holds forth a lovely casket on the front of the jacket. Later jackets (see below) added color to this jacket design.
The back of the jacket lists the initial 11 titles issued in the series. The rear jacket flap is blank.
The books are of blue cloth binding with minimal detail.
The half-title page:
The title page:
The copyright page.
The book below (not in my collection) is a 1930 edition of A Book of Characters in the Casket Library series. It contains the most extensive list of titles I’ve seen. I’ve listed titles below, with the year of publication if I was able to find the date on WorldCat and other sources. Most Casket Library titles did not include dates.
Titles in Blackie’s Casket Library (in the order found on the 1930 dust jacket above). 16 titles were announced, and at least 14 were published.
Browning’s Ring and the Book as a Connected Narrative, compiled from the poem by Alexander Haddow (I can find only a 1924 original edition of this title on WorldCat and elsewhere. It does not appear on earlier Casket Library series jacket lists of titles and might be a ghost title – announced but not published)
A Book of Characters: from Theophrastus, Hall, Overbury, Earle, Butler & Others, selected by W.H.D. Rouse (1930)
Poems of Shelley, selected and arranged by Arthur Symons (I can find only a 1926 original edition of this title on WorldCat and elsewhere. It does not appear on earlier Casket Library series jacket lists of titles and might be a ghost title – announced but not published)
Island Nights’ Entertainments, by R.L. Stevenson (published, but unknown date)
Travels with a Donkey, by R.L. Stevenson (published, but unknown date)
Virginibus Puerisque, by R.L. Stevenson (published, but unknown date)
Charles Dickens, A Critical Study, by George Gissing (1926, original edition, 1898)
English Masques, selected and with an introduction by Herbert Arthur Evans (1926)
English Literary Criticism, collected and edited by C.E. Vaughn (1926)
*English Tales in Verse, collected and edited by C.H. Herford (1924, 1925)
*English Satires, collected and edited by Oliphant Smeaton (1924, 1925, 1930)
*English Pastorals, collected and edited by Sir Edmund K. Chambers (1924, 1925)
*English Essays, collected and edited by J.H. Lobban (1925, 1926)
*English Lyric Poetry, 1500-1700, edited by Frederic Ives Carpenter & Gerald Cinamon; illustrated by Talwin Morris (1924)
*Letters of Great Writers, collected and edited by the Reverend Hedley V. Taylor (1925)
A Book of Border Verse, collected and edited by George Burnett (1926)
*Firsts five titles issued in 1925