Handy Volume Classics

aka/ Handy-Volume Classics

Thomas Y. Crowell Co. (New York, US)
Series dates: 1892-1917
Size: 4″ x 6.25″

Thomas Y. Crowell began publishing books in 1876 after running a bindery under his name for 6 years. His company was acquired by Harper and Row in 1979. While not primarily a publisher of cheap reprints, Crowell published a significant number of series with many binding variations. The Handy-Volume Classics were first issued in 1892. An advertisement in The Publishers’ Weekly indicates the first titles in the series along with a diverse array of binding options:


Crowell’s 1905 catalog, over 100 pages, details the Handy Volume Classics (and subseries) as well as dozens of other series. By 1905, as evidenced in the catalog, the series had been diversified into a somewhat bewildering series of subseries; in essence, the same titles but in different bindings, sizes, boxed, etc. at different price points:

Handy Volume Classics, Pocket Edition (.35 cents)
Handy Volume Classics, Full Limp Leather binding (.75 cents)
Handy Volume Classics, Padded Leather binding ($1)
Handy Volume Classics, Limp Ooze Calf, boxed, ($1)
Handy Volume Classics, Bangalore Edition, boxed, ($1.25)
Handy Volume Classics, Segovia Edition, boxed, ($1.50)
Handy Volume Classics, Padded Silk binding, boxed, ($1.50)
Handy Volume Classics, Padded Ooze Leather, with metal ornaments, boxed ($1.50)

This copy of Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac from the low-end Handy Volume Classics Pocket Edition (.35 cents) has an 1899 copyright date but is probably 1906 or so (given the 178 titles listed on the jacket; 168 are listed in the 1905 catalog linked above). Jackets are generic. Despite the jacket damage, I don’t believe the book title/author were included on the spine of the jacket (they are not on the front). Instead, the jacket is meant only to advertise the series. 178 titles are available at this point, and the latest volumes are indicated on the front jacket flap.


Additional titles are listed on the back of the jacket.


Bindings are red cloth with gold stamping. There is no indication of the series name on the binding.


A frontispiece author portrait faces the title page. There is no indication of the book series name in the book itself.


The copyright date is not the date of printing, which is about 1906. The paper, after more than 100 years, is still white and flexible. These were better than average cheap reprint books.


The series is advertised until around 1917.