Modern Student’s Library

Charles Scribner’s Sons (New York, US)
Series dates: 1917-1931, 1955-1964 (reprints)
Size: 4.5″ x 7″

Sub-series include:

Modern Student’s Library French Series (1928-1936, 1956-1961 [reprints])
Modern Student’s Library Philosophy Series (1927-1940, 1950-1967 [reprints])


Scribner’s Modern Student’s Library series was scholarly in tone and content with seemingly meticulous editing. The books themselves had higher quality binding and paper. Aimed primarily at educational (high school, college) buyers, most of the books were edited by scholars who provided introductions, notes, and, when necessary, guidance in selecting content (in collections of poetry or letters). Reviews of books in the series in educational or academic journals tended to offer high praise for titles in the series.

The series was first issued in 1917 and its debut was noted in Scribner’s promotional periodical The Book Buyer. The price is noted as .75 cents, but subsequent advertisements (later in 1917) indicate a $1 price per book.

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A copy of the abridged Boswell’s Life of Johnson is not dated, but from the first year of the series, 1917. Given the fading of the jacket, it is difficult to assess the color but possibly red, like later jackets (red tends to fade the most on jackets). Jackets are common in design and the jacket flaps are blank. At this point, the books in the series do not have series numbers (like they do later).


The rear of the jacket describes the first eight titles and four more in preparation.


Blue cloth binding with gold stamping. The series logo is pressed into the front book cover.


Half-title page has the series name, series editor (Will D. Howe) and title.


Facing the title page is a list of the ready and in preparation titles, same as the jacket.


Copyright 1917, with this 1917 printing (given the titles listed as in print on the dust jacket).


A copy of the Autobiography of David Crockett has a 1923 copyright but is probably from 1929 given the newest volume in the series advertised on the jacket flap (#49, Contemporary Essays, first published in 1929). Jackets from this era have the same repeating pattern of series colophon overprinted by the book title and author, but the text has been moved to a box on the front of the jacket. The jacket flaps and rear are devoted to advertising the series.


The jacket back includes titles up to #40. The complementary Modern Student’s Library Philosophy Series is advertised on the back jacket flap. Books from this and the French Series had a slightly different jacket and book design but largely followed the form of the regular series.


Bindings are moderately heavy cloth with gold stamping.


A prospectus of the series is printed facing the half-title page. The half title page also includes the series name. “American Division” may refer to the fact that Scribner, around 1930, was publishing some books (primarily from the Philosophical Series) in London.


The title page also includes the series name.


Copyright (in this case 1923) is indicated, but not a date of printing. It seems that Scribner reprinted books from the Modern Student’s Library long after the series stopped adding titles (around 1931) and after the series was not being advertised.


This 1929 book has an extensively annotated catalog in the back. It indicates the editors of each book and includes a description of the book.







A copy of a title published around 1931 includes a revised, shorter catalog organized by novels, poetry, essays, and biography. It also includes the Philosophical Series, edited by Ralph Barton Perry and the French Series, edited by Horatio Smith.





The books below are all from the late 1920s and early 1930s.





The Modern Student’s Library seems to fade somewhat during the depression of the 1930s with no new titles and only a few reprints. Some titles show up in Books in Print but the series as a whole seems to be dormant. In 1955 books in the series are reprinted in large numbers, responding to the growing demand for college texts. The number of reprints peaks around 1960 and by 1965 the series seems to be once again dormant. Books listed as being part of the series are printed through the 1980s, but not in large numbers.

For an illustrated history of Scribner’s, see Charles Scribner’s Sons: An Illustrated Chronology.

Other Scribner’s series include the Bric-a-Brac Series (Memoirs, 1870s), the Sans Souci Series (1870s), Scribner Illustrated Classics series (1911), the Twentieth Century Library series (1950) and The Scribner Library (paperbacks, 1960).