Direction Series

New Directions Publishing (New York, USA)
Series Dates: 1946-1952
Size: 4.25″ x 6.5″ (hard cover bound, 1949-1952)

James Laughlin’s New Directions Publishing initiated the Direction Series in 1947 as a complement to the New Classics Series and other cutting-edge writing published by New Directions. The Direction Series was the outcome of several attempts by Laughlin to launch a subscription-based literary journal:

“The publication Directions began in 1941 as a quarterly soft-bound journal, with each edition dedicated to a single author or work in prose. Early issues included a collection of short stories by Vladimir Nabokov and a play by William Carlos Williams. The subscription model did not take hold, and later editions in the series were published in more traditional form and sold as individual works, not just to subscribers. Another short-lived New Directions periodical, Pharos, was discontinued after its fourth number was published in the winter of 1947.” (source)

The first six titles of the Direction Series were published from 1946-49 as paper-bound books with a common cover designed by Alvin Lustig. The subscription model still applied to the series, with four books in the series issued a year for four dollars.

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In early 1949 the series was redesigned, with new commonly designed Lustig jackets and in hard cover. Four titles were published in 1949 including Pasternak’s Selected Writings (#9), Enright’s Commentary on Goethe’s Faust (#10), Cossery’s The House of Certain Death (#11), and Connolly’s The Rock Pool (#12).

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A summary of the book is included on the front jacket flap, along with the price ($1.50). Direction series books were sold by yearly subscription, but also individually.

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Rear jacket flaps advertise other New Directions books or in some cases continue the book’s description from the front flap. A catalog is included on the back of the jacket, as well as the price. The first 6 titles (illustrated above) are listed, along with #7 and #8 which were published without the Lustig covers.

The next four titles in the series, for 1950, are also listed as part of the catalog of titles.

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Bindings are sturdy cloth with only the book’s title on the spine and nothing on the front cover.

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A catalog faces the title page within the book. In this case, an error in the translator’s name is fixed by blocking out and stamping the correct name.

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Subscription information is included on the back of the title page.

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The final book in the series seems to be Stendahl’s Lamiel, #23. The price has risen to $2.00 for the last three titles issued in 1952.

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