Modern Age Books (New York, US)
Series dates: 1937
Size: 5.25″ x 7.5″
Richard S. Childs, an economist by training, founded Modern Age Books in 1937. Literary Guild founder Samuel Craig was Modern Age Books general manager and the managing editor was a former Macmillan employee, Louis Birk.
Initially, the books were placed into one of three series, sorted by price-point: Blue Seal Books, Gold Seal Books, and Red Seal Books. The Blue and Gold Seal Books were new titles, the Red Seal Books reprints. The Blue and Gold Seal Books were available in paperback and hardcover, the Red Seal Books only in paperback. By 1938 titles were appearing with the name “A Seal Book” or “Seal Books” as the initial three series approach was discontinued.
See the entry for the Red Seal Books for more background on Modern Age Books.
The Gold Seal Books series consisted of new non-fiction titles issued in paperback and hardcover formats. Jay Franklin’s La Guardia was first published in the series in 1937. Jay Franklin was a pseudonym of John Franklin Carter. The jackets follow the modernist design of most of the titles in the Gold Seal Books and Blue Seal Books. The Red Seal Books had a common jacket design.
Contrasting blue and orange define the jacket design of this title, with the Modern Age Book number (#22) on the jacket spine. This title was censored after a complaint from La Guardia (see below), resulting in a sticker placed on the jacket (below).
The rear of the jacket includs a breif biography of the author, John Franklin Carter. The series colophon is on the back of the book’s jacket.
The paperbound book’s cover largely replicates the jacket design. In this case, the price is left on the front of the book. None of the Red Seal Books and some of the Blue Seal Books included the book price on the front of the book.
This book includes a half-title page, a luxury not afforded to titles in the Red or Blue Seal Books:
The title page:
The copyright page and contents:
The series prospectus:
In all, there were 5 numbered Gold Seal Books and at least 4 additional titles that are listed with the series name, for a total of 9 titles in the series. After the initial titles were issued, Modern Age was rethinking the three-part series and also modified the numbering of the books. Each book has a series number, but also a Modern Age Books number. The individual series numbers were seemingly eliminated after the initial issue. Confusing is the fact that each of the first five books has two numbers: the series number and publisher book number. Even more confusing is the fact that the Modern Age Books numbers for Gold Seal Books (#7-#11) overlap with the Modern Age Books numbers for the Blue Seal Books (#6-#11). Undoubtedly, this confusing dual numbering system was eliminated for efficiency sake, and Modern Age Books were given a publisher number only.
Gold Seal Books (all 1937)
#1, (Modern Age Books #11). The United States: A Graphic History, by Louis M. Hacker, Rudolf Modley & George R. Taylor
#2, (Modern Age Books #10). From Spanish Trenches, compiled by Marcel Acier
#3, (Modern Age Books #9?). Kaltenborn Edits The News, by H.V. Kaltenborn
#4, (Modern Age Books #8). The Labor Spy Racket, by Leo Huberman
#5, (Modern Age Books #7). Men Who Lead Labor, by Bruce Minton And John Stuart
(Modern Age Books #22). Laguardia, a Biography, by Jay Franklin
(Modern Age Books #24). The Story of Odysseus, A New Translation, by W.H.D. Rouse with decorations by Lynd Ward
(Modern Age Books #28). You Have Seen Their Faces, by Erskine Caldwell & Margaret Bourke-White
(Modern Age Books #?). You Are: A Puzzle Book for Children From 8 to 80, by Emery Gondor
The publication of La Guardia’s biography led to one of the bigger controversies surrounding the newly issued Modern Age Books titles. Despite its general “friendly” view of the liberal La Guardia (Modern Age itself was a left-leaning publisher), La Guardia attempted to stop publication of the book via a telegram sent on September 30, 1937. The concern was several “libelous statements.” An immediate withdrawal of the book from publication was the request, but Modern Age offered to remove the two offending parts of the book and move forward with publication of the book (John William Tebbel, A History of Book Publishing in the United States: The Golden Age Between Two Wars, 1920-1940, New York: Bowker, 1978, p. 651).
That the books were already printed (in large quantities) was clear: the solution was to clip out the offending sections and issue the book. A sticker was placed on the front of the jacket explaining the deletions.
A brief mention of the controversy in the Daily News (New York, 12 Oct 1937) along with the sticker on the jacket front.
The deletion from page 58 is below. This method of censorship obviously affected page 57 also.
The slightly larger deletion from page 74:
A 1937 2nd printing of Leo Huberman’s The Labor Spy Racket: