Keystone Library

Thornton Butterworth Ltd. (London, UK)
Series dates: 1922-1942
Size: 6″ x 8.5″


Thornton Butterworth had been a partner with John Long (publisher of the Carlton Classics) when he established his own imprint around 1919. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, the firm published a significant number of biographies, books on travel, and literary criticism. In 1940 Butterworth’s firm was damaged by a German bomb during the blitz. In 1941 Eyre & Spottiswoode Ltd. (publisher of the Century Library) “purchased the great majority of the stock and copyrights of Messrs. Thornton Butterworth and are arranging to take over their premises at 14, 15, and 16 Bedford Street as their own War-time Headquarters.” (British Books, 1941, vol. 154-155, Page 37).

The Keystone Library name was used by at least two other publishers before Butterworth. A hardcover series was published by Strawbridge & Clothier (Philadelphia, U.S.) from about 1900-1905. Strawbridge & Clothier was a department store in Philadelphia that published “dime novels” and cheap series books from the turn of the century until at least 1916. An advertisement from a 1903 copy of the Review of Reviews lists the titles, authors, and 20 volumes for $9 deal on the series books.

Strawbridge & Clothier (Philadelphia, U.S.) Keystone Library advertisement, Review of Reviews, 1903

George Munroe’s Sons (New York, US) also published a paperbound series called the Keystone Library around 1900.


Thornton Butterworth’s Keystone Library was first issued in 1922, and titles were added through 1940. At least 58 titles (see list at the end, below) were issued. A few Keystone Library titles appear under the Eyre and Spottiswoode imprint before they acquired Thornton Butterworth in 1941 (suggesting the publishers had some kind of business relationship). At least one series title was reprinted after 1941 with an Eyre and Spottiswoode imprint, but the series was for all intents and purposes defunct by that time.

Butterworth’s Keystone Library was a larger format, higher quality series priced more than typical reprint series, but still cheaper than the original editions. The series included Butterworth titles that had either gone out of print or, possibly (for slow-selling titles) had leftover sheets from the original printing.

This 1934 edition of the Selected Poems of Sir William Watson is a first in the series. The first publication of this book was in 1928. Watson had fallen into obscurity by the time this Keystone Library title was published, to the point that various literary men had issued an appeal for funds to support him in his dotage.

Dust jackets are on heavy paper with the series name prominently displayed on the spine, jacket front, and front flap. Colors include green (below) but also blue and red. The price (5s.) is included on the spine and jacket front. A series of reviews of the title, probably from the original issue, is on the front jacket flap. Some jackets do not include the elaborate arch and series name logo on the front of the jacket. A few later titles include unique jackets which probably borrow artwork from their original issues.


The rear of the flap contains 17 titles published or to be published in the Spring of 1934. The rear flap has a prospectus for the series.


The binding is heavy, reinforced cloth with gold stamping. The debossed design includes parallel lines and a publisher’s emblem in the lower right of the book front. Binding colors varied, green as below, but also red, orange, tan and blue.


A catalog of series titles is included prior to the book’s title page. Titles are available at several different prices, most at 5s. but one at 7s. 6d. and one at 3s. 6d. 16 titles are included in this list, one less than on the rear of the jacket.


Additional titles by Watson are listed on the reverse of the catalog page. The book has no half-title page, odd for an otherwise traditional, higher-than-average quality book.


A frontispiece containing a portrait of the author faces the title page. The keystone icon for the series is included, in color, on the title page.


The copyright page includes the original (1928) and Keystone Library reprint (1934) dates.


At least 41 titles in the Keystone Library were issued after the 17 listed on the jacket above:

The Regent and His Daughter. Dorothy Julia Baynes. (1934)
The Life and Times of Marc Antony. Arthur E. P. Brome Weigall. (1934)
Florence Nightingale, 1820-1856: A Study of Her Life Down to the End of the Crimean War. I.B. O’Malley. (1934)
Myself and My Friends. Lillah McCarthy. (1934)
Egyptian Tales and Romances, Christian and Muslim. Sir E. A. Wallis Budge. (1935)
Landmarks in French Literature. Lytton Strachey. (1935)
East Again: The Narrative of a Journey in the Near, Middle and Far East. Walter Harris, (1935)
The Crusades: the Flame of Islam. Harold Lamb. (1935)
The Life and Times of Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt: A Study in the Origin of the Roman Empire. Arthur E. P. Brome Weigall. (1935)
Alexander the Great. Arthur E. P. Brome Weigall. (1935)
Baghdad, the City of Peace. Richard Coke. (1935)
The Life and Friendships of Dean Swift. Stephen Lucius Gwynn (1935)
The Wizard of Homburg and Monte Carlo. Egon Caesar Corti. (1936)
Fifty Years: Memories and Contrasts, A Composite Picture of the Period 1882-1932. By twenty-seven contributors to the Times, with a foreword by George Macaulay Trevelyan. (1936)
Five More Famous Living Poets. Coulson Kernahan. (1936)
The Conquest of the South Pole. J. Gordon Hayes. (1936)
The Glory of the Pharaohs. Arthur E. P. Brome Weigall. (1936)
Hudson’s Bay Company. Robert E. Pinkerton. (1936)
Frederick Edwin, Earl of Birkenhead (Volume 1). Frederick Winston Furneaux Smith Birkenhead. (1936)
Frederick Edwin, Earl of Birkenhead (Volume 2). Frederick Winston Furneaux Smith Birkenhead. (1936)
The Life of Sir Walter Scott. Stephen Lucius Gwynn (1936)
Andromeda in Wimpole Street, Containing Extracts from the Browning Love Letters. Dorothy Julia Baynes. (1937)
Varennes; The Flight of Louis XVI (1791). Cesare Giardini. (1937)
Lord Kitchener. Arthur Hodges. (1937)
Under the Bolshevik Uniform. Vl. Lazarevskii, Vl. (1937)
Sappho of Lesbos: Her Life and Times. Arthur E. P. Brome Weigall. (1937)
The Conquest of the North Pole: Recent Arctic Exploration. J. Gordon Hayes. (1937)
Oliver Goldsmith. Stephen Lucius Gwynn. (1937)
The Unknown War: The Eastern Front. Winston Churchill. (1937)
Knave of Hearts: Being the Romantic Adventures of Court de Lauzun, a Gentleman of Gascony. M.S. Coryn. (1938)
Wanderings in Roman Britain.Arthur Edward Pearse Brome Weigall. (1938)
Jeffreys Of “the Bloody Assizes.” Seymour Schofield. (1938)
William Shakespeare. John Masefield. (1938)
Cambodian Glory: The Mystery of the Deserted Khmer Cities and their Vanished Splendour. H.W. Ponder. (1938)
Marie-Antoinette and Axel de Fersen. M.S. Coryn, M. S. (1939)
Ludwig I of Bavaria. Egon Caesar Corti (1939)
Travel and Sport in Many Lands. Percy Marlborough Stewart. (1939)
Potemkin: A Picture of Catherine’s Russia. George Soloveytchik (1939)
Perfidious Albion. Geneviève Tabouis (1939)
Further letters of Queen Victoria: from the Archives of the House of Brandenburg-Prussia. Victoria, Queen of Great Britain (1939)
Louis XIV. Sir Charles Petrie (1940)