Jonathan Cape (London, UK)
Series dates: 1932-1945
Size: 5″ x 7.25″
Along with the Travellers’ Library, Cape’s Florin Books series encompassed contemporary fiction drawn largely from Cape’s back catalog in a nicely designed book at a low-cost. The series reached at least 104 titles by 1938. A few reprints occurred through the early 1945 before the series disappeared in the WW2 era.
The design of the Florin Books dust jackets and books varied little over its decade in print. Jackets used a geometric design, common to the series, in varying colors. A series logo is included on the front of the jacket. The spine and jacket front include the series number. The price is printed on the jacket spine. A summary or quote from a review of the title is found on the front jacket flap. The price, in this case 2s., is also printed on the bottom of the front jacket flap.
This copy of Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms is a first printing in the series in 1932, the first year of the series. This title is an example of a reprint series book that might have some value: it is a first reprint edition (in a jacket) of a collectible author. Such titles are an affordable alternative to actual first editions.
The rear jacket includes the initial titles in the series; the catalog in the back of the book goes up to #48 (Whitechurch’s The Canon in Residence).
Bindings remain the same throughout the series life: a coarse tan cloth binding with simple, modern type stamped on the spine and front of the book. The series name is not included on the cover of the book.
A typical half-title page includes the series name.
A brief advertisement for the series faces the title page.
The copyright page includes the original printings of the title and history of printing in the Florin Books series. Subsequent printings are noted. This copy, however, is a first printing in the series.
A jacket for Alfred Aloysius Horn’s Trader Horn is a 4th printing in the series, the first from 1932. The title had previously appeared in Cape’s Life and Letters Series. 56 titles have been published at this time, with the newest titles (49 to 56) listed on the back of the jacket.
Also printed in green, this 1935 first printing in the series of Liam O’Flaherty’s The Assassin indicates 77 titles in the series, with new additions from 70-77 on the back of the jacket.
Another first printing for 1935 is Hugh de Selincourt’s The Game of the Season. This jacket includes series titles up to #83, and the rear of the jacket lists titles #78 to #83.
Leo Walmsley’s Three Fevers is a 1935 first printing in the Florin Books series. Like de Selincourt, the jacket lists 83 titles in the series.
Mary Webb’s Gone To Earth is a 1937 first printing in the series. The back of the jacket lists new titles from #88 to #95, another Webb title, Seven for a Secret. On this title, black paper circles have been glued over the price on the jacket spine and the series logo (which also indicates the book price).
A 1937 third printing in the series (first series printing, 1932) of Andre Maurois’ Colonel Bramble lists the same 95 titles as the 1936 copy of Webb’s book above.
E. Arnot Robertson’s Ordinary Families is one of the last titles added to the series, in 1937. The back of the jacket lists 99 titles, this being the 99th in the series.
A catalog from the back of the Robertson title is similar to catalogs in most copies of the Florin Books, with descriptions of all the books in the series.
Additional titles beyond those listed among the 99 in the Robertson title catalog include:
Linklater, White Man’s Saga (1937)
Sinclair, Dodsworth (1937)
Mitchison, The Conquered (1938)
Nichols, Down the Garden Path (1938)
Kastner, Three Men in the Snow (1938)
A sticker from Gardner’s Books in Stratford covers the price on the spine on this particular copy:
Gardner’s also glued a bookmark on the back of the book; this can be folded over and into the book to keep one’s place.