Lotus Library

William Collins & Sons (London, Glasgow, UK)
Series dates: 1920-1931
Size: 6.5″ x 4″

Greening and Co. (London, UK) (Imprint of Stanley Paul & Co. after 1913)
Series dates: 1902-1913
Size: 6.5″ x 4″

Stanley Paul & Co. (London, UK)
Series dates: 1913-1920

Brentano’s (New York, US)
Series dates: 1908-1929
Size: 6.5″ x 4″

lotus_collins_logoWith its whiff of the exotic, the Lotus Library name was initially used for a U.S. series (represented by only one entry in WorldCat) published by the Lotus Publication Company in Chicago in 1892.

The 20th century Lotus Library series, issued by four publishers in the UK and US, shared titles (translations) and some design components. Greening initiated the series in 1902. In 1913 Stanley Paul & Co. acquired Greening and maintained Greening as an imprint. At least one Lotus Library title (1920) has the Stanley Paul imprint, but most list Greening as the printer. In 1920 Collins finalized the purchase of the series from Stanley Paul. It seems that Collins was selling the series before 1920, while they negotiated the sale. Brentano’s began publishing the series in the US in 1908, drawing from titles and design from the UK series. Collins UK Lotus Library and Brentano’s US Lotus Library continued for another decade before being discontinued around 1930.


Arthur Greening began publishing  in 1897 with little capital but a few manuscripts and printers willing to take a risk on the new venture. The company became Greening & Co. Ltd. in 1899. In 1902 Greening’s Lotus Library began, after earlier success with a few translated novels. Browning’s series did well until increasing competition from an explosion in both regular price and cheap editions of titles around 1910 led to assets of the company being sold off, including some more successful titles (for example, The Scarlet Pimpernel, in 1912). The firm was fully sold in 1913 (to Stanley Paul & Co.). In 1920 the series, or at least Browning’s interest in it, was sold to William Collins & Sons. One source claims that Collins “discarded the name and format” but it seems that Collins merely bought out Browning’s interest in the series, and became its sole European publisher.  (Source: Cecily Close, “Arthur Greening, Publisher of The Scarlet Pimpernel,” The LaTrobe Journal, 1986).

The book below is undated but no earlier than 1912 given the new books advertised in the back of the book (The Court Series of French Memoirs). This would put the book near the end of Browning’s Lotus Library series (although reprints continued with the Browning imprint until at least 1920). Alas, the binding is the same as that used for Collins’ Lotus Library (above). Thus this may be a later printing, after 1920, by Collins of a Browning series title. Confusing! Series were bought and sold (including plates and unbound and bound stock) and sold or reprinted when demand existed; if it was legal and cheaper to reprint a Lotus Library book with all the Browning indicators on it, that is what would happen.

This jacket is completely generic, with no indication of the title on the jacket itself. A hole was cut (by the printer) in the jacket so that the title on the book’s spine was visible. This kind of jacket could be used on any book in the series, and was probably a cost savings measure. Earlier jackets (from internet sellers) have jackets with the titles and author indicated. The price (1/6) is printed on the jacket spine.

The jacket cover lauds the series and its array of translations. A paragraph describes the growing curiosity among the British about those who live on the Continent and beyond Europe. This series, then, provides insights, via literature, to address that curiosity. Greening’s 1/- Series (of copyright fiction) is advertised on the front and rear jacket flaps.

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A full list of 53 titles is included on the back of the jacket.

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Bindings are an exotic purple, with the same lotus flower design as Collins’ Lotus Library.

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The front of the book contains another list of titles in the series, organized by author.

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The list of titles continues:

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Another advertisement for the series faces the title page.

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Brentano’s began as a news stand in New York City in 1853. Eventually there were stores in New York, Washington DC, Chicago, Paris and London. Brentano’s was eventually acquired by Waldenbooks/Borders (in the mid 1980s).

“From its headquarters at 586 Fifth Avenue, Brentano’s became a publisher, with a specialization in French literature that led it to publish under the imprint “Éditions Brentano’s” many titles by French writers in exile during the Vichy France period. In an attempt to prevent possible liquidation of the company, the publishing department was sold to Coward-McCann in 1933.” (source).

ad_lotus_brentano_TheIndependentVol108_1922Brentano’s Lotus Library series began publication in 1908 and seems to have clearly drawn titles, design, printing plates and even printed books from both the Browning and Collins Lotus Library series. None of the books are dated. The books below are probably in the 1915-1925 era.

An advertisement (from The Independent) in 1922 lists some of the titles in the series and includes a series number (which is not evident on the books themselves). Cost is $1.50 a copy in a flexible leatheroid binding. “Can be carried in a small space.”

Jackets are from Collins Lotus Library series, the simpler, later designs using the A. Farquhar Tyler illustrations. A lotus logo is included on the jacket spine. The flaps are blank,

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Jacket backs include a list of the titles in the series. The series would reach about 70 titles. This is more than either Collins or Browning’s series alone, but just about the total number of unique titles in those two earlier series combined.

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Bindings are maroon with gold stamping. The lotus design continues from the earlier Browning and Collins series.

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The title page indicates the New York imprint. Alas, Collins is listed as the printer, in the UK, in all but one of the five copies of Brentano’s Lotus Library I have. Thus Collins may have been providing the printed books (and possibly even printed and bound books) to Brentano’s to sell in the US. Some titles in the series show both Greening and Brentano’s imprint between 1908-1916.

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The most extensive list on the five copies of Brentano’s Lotus Library I have, with about 70 titles.

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Four additional jacket designs, with artwork borrowed from Collins series. This artwork also shows up on some Browning titles.

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Collins’ Lotus Library was issued from about 1920 to 1931, part of their array of reprint series (including the Collins’ Classics and Collins’ Novels). The jacket design was exuberant, as this undated copy of de Kock’s A Good Natured Fellow shows. The book is probably from about 1918 or not long after. Unique designs included illustrations by A. Farquhar Tyler complemented by bold design (and price of 2s/-) on the jacket spine. Advertising for Collins’ Novels series is included on the front jacket flap.

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Lotus Library titles are listed on the back of the jacket, in this case up to number 15. Collins’ Detective Novels are advertised on the rear jacket flap.

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The reverse of the jacket includes a list of Collins’ Novels and Collins Detective Novels.

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Bindings were somewhat exotic, with a repeating lotus flower pattern in purple cloth.

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The exotic theme continues on the endpaper illustration.

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The title page is also extensively decorated.

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A list of Lotus Library titles is also included in the back of the book.

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In the late teens the Lotus Library books and jackets are redesigned. This copy of Paul Gaulot’s The Red Shirts (#36) is undated, but probably early 1920s. The A. Farquhar Tyler illustrations are maintained on the jackets, but the superfluous decorations around them are removed, simplifying the jackets. The series name and number remain on the spine, as does the price (2/6).

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As with the earlier Collins Lotus Library copy above, the back of the jacket lists titles in the series, now 49 titles. The rear flap advertises Collins’ 2/- Novels.

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The reverse of the jacket expands upon the rear flap and details the titles in Collins’ 2/- Novels series.

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The purple binding with debossed lotus design is maintained from the earlier copy. The endpapers are blank, the designs from the earlier version gone.

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A series list faces the simple half-title page. Two fewer titles are listed versus the rear of the jacket.

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The elaborate title page (and facing page) are greatly simplified from the earlier Collins version.

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There is not date on the copyright page, but as noted, the book is probably from about 1919.

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The Lotus Library is a good example of the reprint book series as a commodity, filling a niche and published by four different publishers (in the UK and US) over thirty years. This series would be a good exemplar to research in more detail, to explore the business of the reprint book series and interrelationships between different publishers.