Murray’s Shilling Library

aka/ Murray’s 1/- Library

John Murray (London, UK)
Series dates: 1910-1929
Size: 5″ x 7.5″

The publisher John Murray was founded in 1768 by John Murray I  (1745–1793) and became the publisher of many literary luminaries, including Jane Austen, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Lord Byron, Charles Lyell, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Herman Melville, Edward Whymper and Charles Darwin. In 2004 it was sold to Lagardère under its Hachette UK imprint. (source).

John Murray had many reprint series over the years, including:

1844-1900: Murray’s Home and Colonial Library
1829-1834: Murray’s Family Library
1869-1872: Murray’s Reprint
1898-1929: Murray’s Imperial Library
1902-1909: Murray’s Home & School Library
1922-1932: Murray’s Fiction Library

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Murray’s Shilling Library was more or less the end of the line in the sequence of reissues of Murray’s back catalog. After the initial editions of a title had exhausted demand for the book, a title would be repackaged in a cheaper series, such as Murray’s Home and Colonial Library or Imperial Library. The cheapest of Murray’s series was its Shilling Library.

For example: Dean Stanley’s Memorials of Canterbury was originally published in December of 1854 by Murray. The original price was 7s/6d. It was reprinted in nine editions, the last in September of 1900. In 1904 it was reissued as a “Popular Edition” at 2s/6d. Finally, in 1912 it was issued in Murray’s Shilling Library, unsurprisingly at 1s/-. In 1911 Dent and Dutton issued the title in the Everyman’s Library series. A U.S. edition was published by Anson D.F. Randolph and Co. of New York in 1912. The point was to squeeze as much out of a title as possible, by issuing cheaper editions, and, eventually, allowing other publisher’s to reprint the book.

This copy of Memorials of Canterbury has a March 1912 date. The jackets for this series surprisingly (given the cost) have unique jackets with illustrations related to the book (in this case, Canterbury Cathedral). The shilling price is prominently printed on the jacket spine and the front of the jacket, at the bottom with the series name. The flaps are blank.

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A list of titles in Murray’s Shilling Library is printed on the rear of the jacket. All seem to be Murray back catalog titles, some of which appeared in other series (or as cheaper reprints) previous to inclusion in the Shilling Library.

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The series sports red cloth bindings with gold stamping and debossed designs:

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The half title page:

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Previous printings of the title are, oddly, on the reverse of the half-title page (not on the copyright page):

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An illustration faces the title page. The title page also includes the date of printing (1912). The book has several dozen illustrations, printed on semi-glossy, heavier paper.

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The copyright page includes printing information.

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An annotated catalog of titles in the series is included in the back of this title. 26 titles are included in this list; three more are listed as the “Works of Samuel Smiles.” The 26 plus the three Smiles titles are the 29 titles included on the rear of the jacket.

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Cheap reissues of titles by Samuel Smiles and George Borrow are listed after the Shilling Library list; some of these titles are listed as being in the series, some not.

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Additional John Murray titles in the “Popular Editions” are advertised on the last page in the book.

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Reprints of Murray’s Shilling Library appear through about 1929.