British Publishers Guild (London, UK)
Series dates: 1944-1945
Size: 4.25″ x 7.25″
“Guild Books” series include:
Guild Books (1941-1955)
Guild Books Services Editions (1943-1946)
Guild Books Continental Editions (1944-1945)
Guild Books Guild German (1945-1948)
Guild Books Guild Austria (1945-1948)
Guild Books Australian Editions (1944-1945)
The paperbound Guild Books series (published between 1941 and 1955) was initially intended to compete with Penguin Books, which dominated the low-end of the book market after their initial release in 1935. Individual publishers issued their own Penguinesque paperback series, but paper shortages (due to the war) and the sheer force of the Penguin juggernaut led to a different strategy: collective publishing. The British Publishers Guild, initially led by George Harrap, consisted of publishers banding together to issue a Penguin competitor, first announced in August of 1940. This tactic was similar to Blue Ribbon Books in the US, established in 1930, a coalition of publishers working together to compete with powerhouse (hardcover) reprint house Grosset & Dunlap.
Each of the 8 original publishers involved (Jonathan Cape, Cassell, Chatto & Windus, Dent, Faber & Faber, Harrap, Heinemann, and Murray) were to publish their own contributions to the series, but in a common format. The imprint on the books was, typically, “Published for The British Publishers Guild by …” with the member firm indicated. All titles were to be copyright titles, thus none of the typical classics were included in the series. The first titles were issued in February of 1941. The series was never particularly successful, at least in its original goal to challenge Penguin. Coordinating the collective publishing effort was difficult, and titles were slower to be issued than originally anticipated.
According to Paperback Revolution, the original issue consisted of “36 books, split equally between the Guild Six, Guild Nine and Guild Twelve. The numbers referred to the price – sixpence each for the Guild Six books – colour-coded red, ninepence for the blue Guild Nines and one shilling for the green Guild Twelves. Penguins at the time were still sixpence, so they were matching them only at the bottom end of their pricing, reserved for the shortest and slimmest books, while longer books were up to twice as expensive.”
The Publishers Guild also issued the Guild Books Services Editions, between 1943 and 1946, reaching 230 titles according to Paperback Revolution. I believe these were the same titles as issued under the Guild Books series name, rebranded for the armed forces. Such “services editions” or “service libraries” were issued by many different publishers in paperback and hardcover (Chatto & Windus’ Services Library, Harrap’s Services Edition) during WW2.
By 1947, 26 publishers were part of the Guild: Allen & Unwin, Edward Arnold, Cambridge University Press, Chapman & Hall, Constable, Cresset Press, Peter Davies, Eyre & Spottiswoode, Robert Hale, Hamish Hamilton, Michael Joseph, John Lane, The Bodley Head, Longman, Green, Lutterworth Press, Methuen. Frederick Muller, Oxford University Press, and Seeker & Warburg.
The last title I can find in the Guide Books series is #478, issued in 1955 (by the Guild and Allen & Unwin): Albert Schweitzer, My Life and Thought. A scattering of reprints appear as late as 1978, but the Guild seems to have faded away in the mid-1950s.
Early Guild Books titles were jacketed, like early Penguin titles as well as many other 1930s-1940s paperback series. The extra expense of a jacket is somewhat curious, given that the point of these paperbound reprints was to cut costs and lower prices on books. However, it seems that dust jackets (as well as the size of the books, which was similar to many smaller hardbound reprint series) served as an assurance to buyers that these were legitimate books, via the form (size, jackets) despite being paperbound. The jackets may also have been comforting to the publishers, who seem, by and large, to be a conservative bunch. Subsequently, the jackets disappeared and the size of the books shrunk to the common pocket-sized, no-jacketed paperback that dominated from the 1940s onward.
A copy of Philip Briggs North with the Pintail was first published by Lutterworth Press in 1943, reprinted in 1944, then published in this form in 1945.
The jacket and book below are part of a mid-war experiment by the Guild, consisting of three sub-series: Continential Editions (C1-C10), Guild German, and Guild Austrian. This copy is from the Continental Editions, published by Ljus in Stockholm and shipped to the continent, through Denmark. Sweden remained neutral through WW2, and this allowed them to sell the books in Allied and Nazi-occupied areas.
The jacket design for the Continental Editions is common to the series, with a “factotum aperture” (empty space) left open on the spine, jacket front, and front jacket flap, where specific details (author, title, etc.) could be overprinted. The ten books issued in the Continental (C) Editions have jackets and book covers printed in different colors. The spine includes the series name, title, author, series category (C, for Continental) and number (9). The cover is dominated by the Guild Books colophon, topped by a lion, I think. The front jacket flap describes the book.
The rear of the jacket lists “Some Guild Titles” numbered 1 through 10, of which this title is #9. These were the only titles published in the Continental Edition of the Guild Books series. The rear jacket flap describes the goals of the series and the British Publishers Guild.
At the bottom of the back cover is printed: “ESSELTE. STHLM 45”
This refers to Esselte, the Stockholm-based office supply firm which has a long history of publishing books via several subsidiary publishers. The 45 refers to the year the book was printed. According to The Publishers Weekly, vol. 163, 1953, Esselte, through its subsidiary publishers Ljus and Neuer Verlag, printed books for UK and US firms, which were shipped (through Denmark) as Swedish imports to Allied and Nazi-held territories.
The 10 titles in the Continental Edition of the Guild Books:
The book cover (wraps) design is the same as the jacket, sans flaps.
The half-title page:
“All rights reserved by Lutterworth Press, London and Redhill. First published 1943. Second Impression 1944. Published in this series 1945” faces the title page. The series name and serial number are at the top of the page. The title and author follow, along with the Guild Books colophon. “Published for The British Publishers Guild by AB Ljus Forlag, Stockholm.” For other publishers, the imprint changed and included one of the participating firms after the word “by.”
“Printed in Sweden by Esselte AB, Stockholm 405452.”