Library of World’s Greatest Books

Willey Book Co. (New York, US)
Series dates: 1935-1945
Size: 5.5″ x 8.25″

The Willey Book Co. was a New York publisher and dealer in remainders, overstock books, unbound books and printing plates who published at least one other series, the Comedie d’Amour Series. The Willey version of this series was a reprint, ca. 1935, printed from plates used in the original series, published by Societe Des Beaux-Arts around 1905-1910.

The Library of World’s Greatest Books series falls into a grey area: it is a series of classic reprints, but the series name appears nowhere on the books or jackets. Instead, the series name comes from an advertisement on the jacket from the Comedie d’Amour Series. It is not completely clear if the series “name” is actually just a statement about the classic titles Willey was publishing at the time. There does not seem to be any mention of the series anywhere (internet resources search) but on the jacket. Titles in the “series” include:

The Republic of Plato, by Jewett
Philosophy of History, by Hegel
Interpretation of History, by Nordau
Schopenhauer’s Essays
The Divine Comedy, by Dante
Age of Reason, by Paine
Hebrew Literature, by Wilson
Improvement of the Understanding, by De Spinoza
Omar Khayyam, by Fitzgerald
Critique of Pure Reason, by Kant
Plato-Aristotle, by Jewett
The Advancement of Learning and Novum Organum, by Bacon
The Federalist, by Hamilton

It’s not clear that these titles were published together as a single earlier series, but at least some of the copies include earlier copyrights to other publishers, suggesting that Willey had collected together plates for various “classic” titles and published them together in the 1930s.

Jackets are unique to each title in the series. This copy of Thomas Paine’s The Age of Reason is dated 1942. As noted above, the series name is not on the jacket nor in the book itself. The front jacket flap includes a price of $1.25 after a description of the book.

The book’s description continues on the rear jacket flap. The back flap lists additional similar titles, under “Willey Books” with a brief description of each and a price. Several are not included in the listing under the Library of World’s Greatest Books name on the Comedie d’Amour Series jacket:

Basic Writings of Thomas Jefferson
Sacred Books of the East

The books are bound in cloth, red in this case, with basic black typography:

There is no half title page. The title page:

The date of publication, 1942, is included on the copyright page.