Cosmos Library

cosmos_germanaka/ Kosmos-Bändchen (Cosmic Ribbon) (as published by Franckh-Kosmos)

aka/ Library of Science for the Workers (as published by Kerr)

Franckh-Kosmos (Stuttgart, Germany)
Series dates: 1903-1960

Charles H. Kerr & Co. (Chicago, US)
Series dates: 1905-1919

Albert and Charles Boni (New York, US)
Series dates: 1923
Size: 5.25″ x 8″

Simpkin Marshall & Co. (London, UK)
Series dates: 1926

Albert and Charles Boni’s short-lived series of popular science titles called the Cosmos Library is a curious example of a series published under three different series names by four publishers in Stuttgart, Chicago, New York, and London from 1903 through the 1970s.

The Boni title (shown below), authored by Dr. M. Wilhelm Meyer, was initially published as Weltschöpfung: Wie Die Welt Entstanden Ist in 1904 by Franckh-Kosmos in Stuttgart (image above). Publisher Franckh-Kosmos Verlags-GmbH & Co., also known as Franckh-Kosmos or just Kosmos, was founded by Johann Friedrich Franckh in Stuttgart, Germany in 1822. Burgeoning interest in nature and science in Germany in the early 20th century led the publisher to establish the “Friends of Nature Club” (Gesellschaft der Naturfreunde) in 1903 with its monthly magazine Kosmos. The publisher expanded this project to include science kits, science-themed fiction, and a series of books on popular science called Kosmos-Bändchen (Cosmic Ribbon).

Three years later Meyer’s book was translated by Ernest Unterman and published in Chicago by socialist publisher Charles H. Kerr as The Making of the World in 1906. Kerr issued a series of at least a dozen titles under the series name Library of Science for the Workers series from 1905 to 1913.

Meyer’s book, with a different translation, was published as part of the Cosmos Library by Albert & Charles Boni in 1923. The origins of publisher Albert & Charles Boni is in the very successful Little Leather Library series, inspired by free small books given away in cigarette packages, was published by Albert and Charles Boni and Harry Scherman beginning in 1914. The Boni’s sold their shares to Scherman in 1918. Scherman would go on to found the Book-of-the-Month Club. Albert Boni partnered with Horace Liveright as Boni & Liveright Co. and began publishing the Modern Library series in 1917. While the series was very successful, and the firm itself landed numerous important authors for its trade publishing, the firm was wracked by contentious disagreements between the partners and Boni withdrew in 1918. By 1925 Liveright had run into financial trouble and sold the Modern Library to Bennett Cerf and Donald Klopfer, who would eventually evolve Modern Library Inc. into Random House.  Liveright maintained the Boni & Liveright imprint until 1928 when Boni’s name was dropped from the imprint.

cosmos_lib_logo1Albert & Charles Boni established their own publishing imprint in 1923, a few years after the split with Liveright. In the early 1920s Albert Boni and his wife Nell had travelled to Germany and Russia. The trip was focused on acquiring the rights to various books for publication in the U.S. Boni ended up in a KGB prison for several months, but was released and he and Nell returned to the U.S. Contacts between Boni and the German publisher Franckh-Kosmos were probably made during Boni’s eventful trip. Albert & Charles Boni issued 20 translated titles from the Kosmos-Bändchen series as the Cosmos Library in 1923 with more promised (but seemingly not published) for 1924. The Meyer title, at least, has a different translator than the Kerr imprint title published in 1906. The translations were possibly done in Germany, where the books were printed. The Cosmos Library was among the first year publications of Albert and Charles Boni. The Boni’s would go on to publish two additional series in the late 1920s, the American Library (1924-1926) and St. Martin’s Library (1925, an import from the UK).

In 1926 UK publisher Simpkin Marshall reprinted at least a dozen titles from the Boni series as the Cosmos Library under their own imprint. Jacket designs were maintained, with Simpkin Marshall instead of Albert & Charles Boni printed on the bottom of the jacket front.

Franckh-Kosmos continued to publish and reprint titles in the Kosmos-Bändchen series through the 1970s. In the 1940s a related series called Kosmos-Bibliothek (Cosmos Library) appears, and is published through at least the 1980s.

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This copy of M.W. Meyer’s Creation of the World was published in 1923. It was #4 in the series out of the 20 published in 1923 (the first and only year for the Cosmos Library series in the U.S.). The Cosmos Library jackets were unique to each title and used illustrations from the German editions. The checkered band and series name was unique to the Boni issues of these titles. The series name is expanded to the Cosmos Library of Nature and Science on the narrow front jacket flap, and the 10 of the initial series titles are listed.

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The rear of the dust jacket contains a prospectus for the series. It paints an image of a growing number of scientific discoveries over the last century and the goal to provide an introduction to these discoveries for the “average reader.” The rear flap continues the titles in the series, with #11 through #20.

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The series is bound in boards, with the book title printed on the very narrow spine. An additional Cosmos Library logo is printed with the book title, author, and publisher on the front of the book.

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The half-title page:

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The title page with the date of publication and the logo from the front of the book. The translator of the book is not indicated.

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The copyright page indicates that the books were printed in Germany in October of 1923. The printer is Jung & Son, Printers, Stuttgart. It is likely that Franckh-Kosmos arranged the translations and printing in Germany, and shipped the books for sale in the U.S.

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