Living Thoughts Library

Cassell & Co., Ltd. (London, UK)
Series dates: 1939-1950
Size: 5″ x 7.5″

Longmans, Green & Co. (New York, US)
Series dates: 1939-1945

David McKay Co. (Philadelphia, US)
Series dates: 1939-1943


A series of commissioned titles focused on “great thinkers” as “distilled and interpreted by kindred thinkers of our day” aimed at intelligent readers who don’t quite have the time to sort through the voluminous works of said authors. The titles were first issued in 1939 and remained in print until about 1950 with a scattering of reprints after that date. Longmans, Green & Co. published titles in the series in the US out of their New York office from 1939 to 1945. David McKay Co. also published some of the titles in Philadelphia from 1939-1941. It’s not clear why there were two US publishers. Fawcett Publications reprinted some titles in the series as paperbacks beginning around 1957, until 1963.

This copy of Andre Maurois’ Voltaire is from 1939, and among the first 10 titles published in the series. Jackets were common to the series, changing in color but not overall design over the decade the series was published. Other jacket colors include orange, mauve, and yellow. The series name is on the top of the front of the jacket. The series number (10 in this case) is on the spine. George Salter designed the jackets. A quote from the book is included on the front jacket flap. UK price is 2s./6d.


A prospectus for the series is included on the back of the jacket, and the first 10 titles are listed on the rear flap. Two additional titles are in preparation.


Red cloth binding with gold decorations.


Endpapers consist of a design incorporating the names of the thinkers included in the series.


The half title page includes the series editor, Alfred O. Mendel.


The rear of the half-title page lists the 10 titles in print and five more in preparation.


An illustration of Voltaire faces the title page.


the copyright page includes a brief biographical note about Voltaire and a note on the Living Thoughts Library and the countries where it is being published, the translator, a copyright note about some selections in the book, a first publication indication, and printer note.