Century Library

Eyre & Spottiswoode (London, UK)
Series dates: 1947-1950
Size: 4.75″ x 7″

centurylib_logoEyre & Spottiswoode has roots back to the 1840s and was the Kings Printer until 1929 when it continued as an independent publisher. The Century Library was a post-WW2 series of reprints and the project of Eyre & Spottiswoode’s editor Graham Greene. From the British Book News (1946): “The Century Library, a new series announced by Eyre & Spottiswoode, is planned to do for English fiction of the twentieth century what the World’s Classics and the Everyman Library has done for the classics in general. Each volume will appear in an attractive format and will contain a critical appreciation by a well-known critic or novelist and a full bibliography.” (source)

A total of 15 titles were published. Six titles were issued in 1947, five more in 1948, and four in 1950. Series titles were numbered up to #16, but it seems that #13 was never published. In addition, six titles were announced but apparently never published. A few reprints appear as late as 1958.

#1: H.G. Wells. The History of Mr. Polly (introduction by V.S. Pritchett).
#2: Arthur Morrison. The Hole in the Wall (introduction by V.S. Pritchett).
#3: W.W. Jacobs. Dialstone Lane (introduction by Henry Reed).
#4: Herbert Read. The Green Child (introduction by Graham Green).
#5: Saki. The Unbearable Bassington (introduction by Evelyn Waugh).
#6: Eden Phillpotts. Widecombe Fair (introduction by L.A.G. Strong).

#7: Henry James. The Wings of the Dove (introduction by Herbert Read).
#8: H.G. Wells. The First Men in the Moon (introduction by V.S. Pritchett).
#9: Antonia White. Frost in May (introduction by Elizabeth Bowen).
#10: J.D. Beresford. The Hampdenshire Wonder (introduction by Walter de la Mare).
#11: Roy Horniman. Israel Rank.

#12: Arthur Conan Doyle. The Lost World and the Poison Belt.
#13: [apparently not published]
#14: E.W. Hornung. Raffles: The Amateur Cracksman.
#15: E.W. Hornung. Thief in the Night.
#16: John Hampson. Night at the Greyhound.

Ghost titles (announced but not published):
Ford Madox Ford. The Fifth Queen Trilogy.
J. Meade Falkner. The Nebuly Coat.
Robert Graves. Antigua, Penny, Puce.
Leonard Merrick. The Position of Peggy Harper.
Rhoda Broughton. The Wolf’s Progress.
W.B. Maxwell. The Case of Bevan Yorke.

At least one illustrated jacket was created (for James’ The Wings of the Dove). Most jackets are, however, common to the series such as this 1947 printing of Morrison’s The Hole in the Wall. The series name and serial number are indicated on the jacket front. A prospectus for the series is on the front jacket flap. Price is 6s net. F.P. Nichols is noted as the jacket designer.


The back of the jacket lists the initial six titles in the series and additional titles in preparation. According to WorldCat some, but not all of the forthcoming titles were published.


Simple cloth bindings with the author/title on the book spine.


A repeating pattern of the series logo graces the endpapers.


The half-title page includes the series name, serial number for the title, book information and author of the introduction.


The title page:


Copyright page indicates first printing in the Century Library in 1947.


Two more copies of Century Library series books: Jacobs’ Dialstone Lane (1947) and James The Wings of the Dove (1948).


The rear jacket of the James title indicates eight titles in print with more to come.


The jacket below is from a 1948 copy of Antonia White’s Frost in May, #9 in the series.