Societe Des Beaux-Arts (Paris; London; New York, US)
Series dates: 1905-1915
Willey Book Co. (New York, US)
Series dates: 1935-1940
Book size: 5.75″ x 8″
The obscure publisher Societe Des Beaux-Arts variously listed with New York, London, and Paris locations seems to have only published reprint series including the Comedie d’Amour Series and Masterpieces of French Literature Series (1905- 1910). It is not known if the publisher had any connection (beyond the name) to the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts (aka Societe Des Beaux-Arts), the French association of artists.
Copies of the Comedie d’Amour Series published by the Societe Des Beaux-Arts include a color series illustration (right) and have a paper label on the book spine. Many seem to indicate an edition limited to 500 copies. Alas, there are quite a few used copies available suggesting there may have been a series of “limited editions” issued.
The Willey Book Co. of New York reissued the series in the 1930s without the color illustrations and series illustration. The bindings were also changed (see below) with book information printed on the bindings as well as debossed decorations. The Willey Book Co. was established sometime before 1918.
In 1942 the company placed ads in Publisher’s Weekly (Vol. 142, 1942) indicating they purchased overstocks, unbound books and printing plates (below). Thus Willey had purchased the printing plates for the Comedie d’Amour Series and reprinted the series, undoubtedly selling the books as remainders or as sale books.
The Comedie d’Amour Series consisted of ten translated French novels. The copy of Bourget’s A Love Crime is undated but most likely mid to late 1930s. This date is suggested by at least one copy of a book from the series listed in WorldCat for 1937 (long after the publisher Societe Des Beaux-Arts was out of business). Jackets for the books are largely common to the series, except for a brief summary of the book in the center of the front of the jacket. The series name is listed at the base of the jacket spine and front of the jacket. The front jacket flap advertises the Library of World’s Greatest Books, with Willey as the publisher. This is the only indication anywhere on the jacket or book that Willey was the publisher of this particular reprint of a reprint series (along with the physical differences in the two versions of the series).
The ten titles in the series are listed on the rear of the jacket. The rear flap is blank.
Bindings are dark maroon cloth with black printing and debossed patterns on the front of the book.
The title page seems to be printed from the original printing plates, without the date that seems to be included on many of the titles in the series when originally printed. Willey is not listed as the publisher. It was undoubtedly cheaper to just print the books with the original publisher’s imprint, which sounded significantly more exotic than “Willey Book Co.”
The copyright page is completely blank.