Mariners Library

Rupert Hart-Davis Ltd. (London, UK)
Series dates: 1948-1987
Size: 5″ x 7.25″

Essential Books (a subsidiary of Oxford University Press, Fair Lawn, N.J)
Series dates: 1955-1960

Adlard Coles Ltd.
(London, UK)
Series dates: 1971-1974

Rupert Hart-Davis had been a director at Jonathan Cape Ltd. when he established his own firm (in 1946) with David Garnett (author and co-founder with Francis Meynell of the Nonesuch Press).

The firm used a fox in its colophon, a gesture to Garnett’s first literary success, Lady into Fox (1922). The firm was immediately successful, and soon initiated the Mariners Library (1948) and the Reynard Library (1950). Hart-Davis was able to publish best-selling authors such as Alistair Cooke, Ray Bradbury, and Gerald Durrell, but the firm was financially overextended and sold to Heinemann in 1956, where it remained an independent imprint. In 1962 Harcourt Brace and World purchased Hart Davis Ltd. and another British publisher, Adlard Coles, Ltd. and sold both companies to the Granada Group in 1963. Rupert Hart-Davis resigned from the firm in 1964. Rupert Hart-Davis, Ltd. was sold to Collins in 1983, where it remains part of Grafton Books. (Source: Rupert Hart-Davis Limited, British Literary Publishing Houses, 1881-1965, Gale, 1991, pp. 147-149).

The first six titles in the Mariner Library series were advertised in the Times Literary Supplement March 26, 1949 (below, left). The first title in the series (Sailing Alone Around the World) was published in late 1948. An advertisement in the TLS of August 24, 1951, catches the series at 17 titles (below, right).

The Mariners Library eventually consisted of 48 titles published between 1948 and 1968 with scattered reprints through 1987. In all, three publisher imprints appear on Mariners Library titles.

The Rupert Hart-Davis Ltd. imprint appears on all 48 titles in the series, issued between 1948 and 1968.

Essential Books sold Mariners Library titles in the U.S. beginning in 1955 according to The Publishers Weekly (vol. 168). This same source identifies Essential Books as a subsidiary of Oxford University Press. As far as I can determine, these books were imported UK titles with an Essential Books tag or sticker affixed to the book. I’ve marked copies I know were sold in the U.S. with a single asterisk (*). There is a good chance that most or all titles issued prior to 1961 (when Hart-Davis was sold) were available in the U.S. via Essential Books.

Adlard Coles Ltd. was allied with Rupert Hart-Davis Ltd. after 1962, and at least six Mariners Library titles were issued with the Adlard Coles imprint in 1971-1974 (marked with **, ***, and ****, see details below).

The following list of titles is modified slightly (years of initial publication added) from Publishing History: The Mariners Library.

1948
**1. Sailing Alone Around the World & Voyage of the Liberdade, by Joshua Slocum

1949
2. A Child Under Sail, by Elizabeth Linklater
3. The Venturesome Voyages of Captain Voss, by John Claus Voss
*4. Deep Water and Shoal, by William Albert Robinson
5. The Cruise of the Teddy, by Erling Tambs
6. Gallions Reach, by H.M. Tomlinson
7. Down Channel, by R.T. McMullen
8. Across Three Oceans, by Conor O’Brien

1950
*9. Rough Passage & The Adventure of the Faeroe Islands, by R. D. Graham
**10. The Cruise of the Amaryllis, by G.H.P. Muhlhauser
* ****11. Sailing All Seas in the Idle Hour, by Dwight Long
*12. Around the World Single-Handed, by Harry Pidgeon
*13. From Three Yachts, by Conor O’Brien

1951
*14. The £200 Millionaire, by Weston Martyr
*15. The Falcon on the Baltic, by E.F. Knight
*16. Thames to Tahiti, by Sidney Coe Howard
17. A Gipsy of the Horn, by Rex Clements
18. On Sailing the Sea, by Hilaire Belloc

1952
19. 1700 Miles in Open Boats, by Cecil Foster
20. The Mary Celeste and Other Strange Tales of the Sea, by John Gibson Lockhart
21. The Cruise of the Alerte, by E.F. Knight

1953
22. Lis Sails the Atlantic, by Lis Anderson
23. The Cruise of the Kate, by E.E. Middleton

1954
24. The Voyage Alone in the Yawl Rob Roy, by John MacGregor
25. A Mainsail Haul, by John Masefield

1955
26. The Wind is Free, by Frank Armstrong Wightman
27. Blue Water Vagabond, by Dennis Puleston
*28. The Fight of the Fire-Crest, by Alain Gerbault
***29. The Riddle of the Sands, by Erskine Childers
30. In Quest of the Sun: The Journal of the Firecrest, by Alain Gerbault
*31. Vertue XXXV, by Humphrey Barton

1956
*32. Voyage in a Barquentine, by Peter Roach

1957
*33. The Southseaman, by Weston Martyr
*34. Wylo Sails Again, by Frank Armstrong Wightman
*35. Heaven, Hell and Salt Water, by Bill Crowe
*36. The Voyage of the Tai-Mo-Shan, by Martyn Sherwood
37. Sea Stories, by Joseph Conrad

1958
*38. Racundra’s First Cruise, by Arthur Ransome
*39. Sopranino, by Patrick Ellam

1959
40. The Life & Voyages of Captain Joshua Slocum, by Victor Slocum

1960
**41. The Sea is for Sailing, by Peter Pye
**42. Once is Enough, by Miles Smeeton

1961
43. Sail Ho!: My Early Years at Sea, by Sir James Bisset
44. Red Mains’l, by E.A. Pye

1962
45. Solitary Journey: The Third Voyage of the “Nova Espero,” by Charles Violet

1963
46. Kurun in the Caribbean, by Jacques-Yves Le Toumelin
47. The Ship Would Not Travel Due West, by David Lewis

1968
48. The Last Grain Race, by Eric Newby

*Issued by Essential Books
**Issued by Adlard Coles in 1971
***Issued by Adlard Coles in 1971, 1974
****Issued by Adlard Coles in 1974

One source indicates that Lewis Bernicot’s The Voyage of Anahita:
Single-handed Round the World (1953) was part of the series, but this title seems to have been published by Hart-Davis outside of the Mariners Library series.


Unique dust jacket designs graced the Mariners Library for all of its four decades. The jackets followed a general design, with unique illustrations for each title’s jacket. The jacket design was simplified in the mid-1960s. At least one variant of this 2nd jacket design exists (on Childers’ The Riddle of the Sands, 1969).

The Cruise of the Amaryllis by G.H.P. Muhlhauser (below) is a first printing in the series from 1950. It is #10 in the series and was originally published in 1924. The jacket design consists of color bands with an illustration that wraps around the front and spine of the jacket. The series name and number are included on the jacket spine along with the publisher, title and author. The front jacket flap summarizes the book and likely includes a price (clipped here). A compass rose is used as a series colophon, on the jacket, and on the book. This design was used through the mid-1960s.

The rear jacket flap and back of the jacket includes a detailed catalog of titles in the series. In this case, titles through #8 are included. Quotes from reviews of the series (from The Navy and Yachtsman) are also included.

The binding is coarse cloth, oatmeal in color, printed in blue along with a compass rose on the front of the book.

The half-title page:

A list of 11 titles in the Mariners Library faces the title page. The title page includes the series name, compass rose, and year of publication.

The original year of publication for the book is included with the year of first issue in the Mariners Library on the copyright page.


Dust jackets for the Mariners Library were redesigned in the mid-1960s and used on new titles and reissues. The jacket for #22 in the series Lis Sails the Atlantic by Lis Anderson includes only the first year of printing in the Mariners Library (1953), but includes #46 in the series (The Ship Would Not Travel Due West) which was published in 1963, but not #47 (The Last Grain Race) published in 1967, so this printing of #22 is from the 1963-1967 era. The redesign is much simpler with colored bands at the top and bottom of the entire jacket and an illustration in the resulting white space. The series colophon (compass rose) is retained. The series name and number are on the binding of the jacket spine, as is the publisher (Hart-Davis, in this case). A blurb and price are included on the front jacket flap (the price is clipped in this case). The jacket designer is Malcolm Young.

A quote from a review of the book as well as the compass rose, author and title are included on the rear of the jacket. The publisher and address, as well as the Rupert-Hart fox colophon, are on the bottom of the rear of the jacket. A list of titles through #47 (published in 1963) fills the rear jacket flap. One more title was published in 1967.

Several titles are not included in the series list on this dust jacket: #2, #8, #13, #15, #16, #18, #32, #40 (besides #48, published later, in 1967).

The book’s design is the same as the earlier copy, above, but in a different kind of cloth.

The half-title page:

The title page is faced by a list of titles through #22, this particular title, suggesting the book was printed from the first Mariners Library edition plates. The book dates from 1963-67, not 1953 as indicated on the title page and copyright page.

The copyright page.