Medieval Towns Series

aka/ Mediæval Towns Series

J.M. Dent & Sons, Ltd (London, UK)
Series dates: 1898-1953
Size: 4″ x 6.75″

“This series was inspired by travels that J. M. Dent had enjoyed during the 1890’s. He was particularly fond of Italy. The series began in 1898 with Perugia. Other cities were added rapidly through 1912. This date coincides roughly with the almost total halt in new titles that Dent experienced as a result of World War I. No new titles were added until 1923. Ultimately there were a total of 39 different volumes, most of which remained in print through the 1930s. Some popular cities such as Florence were reprinted many times, while a handful of cities were never reprinted. The list indicates the older volumes that were never reprinted and thus more difficult to find. One extreme rarity is Santiago de Compostela. I have heard from more than one source that this book had to be pulled from distribution due to some plagiary issues. The story is consistent with the evidence we have. That title was issued in 1912. It was common practice to advertise in each volume the other volumes available in the series. All reference to Santiago disappears shortly after 1912. All of the titles were initially available in two binding styles – a light blue cloth with full gilt spine and a full roan leather with a similar spine. All books were jacketed, initially in a rather plain, beige color. Later (in the mid 1920s) the jackets were more decorative. It is uncommon to see the early jackets survive.” (source)

The jacket style on this 1923 first printing of Alethea Wiel’s The Story of Bologna is the series’ second jacket design (as noted above, the initial jacket design was text-based, the front largely an advertisement for the series). In the 1950s, a few reissues carried a redesigned jacket printed in color. Neither the initial nor late jackets are common. The jackets from the mid-era of the series are unique to each title, in that they include an illustration from the book. The spine includes the series name in addition to graphic elements typical of Dent’s book design of the era. The front jacket flap includes the price (8s./6d.) and a reference to a list of series titles on the rear of the jacket.

The rear of the jacket lists 19 titles, of the 39 published. This list includes the number of editions and last reprint date of all titles listed. The prices varied, with several titles costing a bit more (10s/6d). The rear jacket flap advertises Dent’s very popular Everyman’s Library series.

Bindings in cloth included gold and black graphics and typography in an arts and crafts / art nouveau style. The series name is on the book spine and front.

The half title page:

A quote from R.L. Stevenson is placed on the back of the half-title page.

An illustration faces the two color title page. The book’s date of printing is included on the title page.

The copyright page. Through at least the 1930s Dent typically left the date off the copyright page on first printings of their series books.

The first page of text:

The book was printed in Great Britain at Dent’s Temple Press at Letchworth.