Cassell’s Shilling Novels

Cassell & Co., Ltd. (London, UK)
Series dates: 1885-1934
Size: 4.5″ x 7″


Cassell’s series of very cheap reprints under the Shilling Novel name can be found in advertisements back to at least 1885. The series consisted of romance, adventure, detective stories and light fiction in low-quality bindings printed on poor paper.

An advertisement for the series in The Teesdale Mercury, July 14, 1915, mentions the “three-colour pictorial paper jacket” as a selling point:


E. Temple Thurston’s The City of Beautiful Nonsense is from late in the life of the series, in September 1931. It is a 2nd “cheap edition” printing, the first being in March of 1931. The novel was the basis of a silent movie (in 1919) and “talkie” in 1935.

Jackets are unique to each title in the series, consisting of a color illustration of the characters in the book. The very faded spine includes the (faded) series name at the top, the book author and title, and an indication that the book is “clothbound” for one shilling (the one shilling type is also faded). It’s not clear if there was a paper-bound version of the series, or if Cassell was advertising that a cloth bound book could be had for the price of some paperback books. The series name is on the front, bottom of the jacket front. The front jacket flap contains other titles in the series, including those by Sax Rohmer, Ethel M. Dell, Baroness Orczy, and Rider Haggard.


The latest additions to the series are advertised on the back of the book. Additional authors include S.S. van Dine, Warwick Deeping, W.W. Jacobs, E. Phillips Oppenheim, Arnold Bennett, and Louis Bromfield.


The books themselves are, as with most other cheap series, of poor quality. The black cloth binding is stamped with fading gold decorations. There is no indication of the series name on the book.


The half-title page shows the coarse, brittle, yellowing paper.


The title page:


The copyright page indicates the dates of printing for the two editions of this book in the series.


The book was printed and bound by the Greycaine Book Manufacturing Company, owned by the Reader’s Library Publishing Company who printed and published the Reader’s Library in the UK.