National Home Library

National Home Library Foundation (Washington DC, US)
Series dates: 1935-1941
Size: 4″ x 6.5″

nhl_1935_logoThe National Home Library (and its paperback companion series, the Jacket Library) are unusual in that they were published by “a non-profit organization sponsored by a group of noted authors and educators. Its purpose is to bring within the reach of everyone the best that has been thought and said” (from back of 1935 title dust jacket). The books were .25 cents (compare to the Modern Library at the time, which was .95 cents). In addition, the Foundation sponsored a radio show, “The American Fireside” Sunday evenings on NBC where books in the series were discussed.

The National Home Library Foundation still exists. Its history is documented on its web pages:

“The National Home Library Foundation was incorporated in 1932 under the laws of the District of Columbia. The founder, Sherman F. Mittell, declared: ‘The particular business and objects of this corporation are to promote and inculcate in more people the desire to read good literature; to make home libraries more easily available to great numbers of our population; to urge the reading of good literature through printed announcements, radio broadcasts and newspapers; and to these ends to provide for the delivery and holding of lectures, exhibits, public meetings, classes and conferences, calculated to advance the cause of education and promote the general culture of the nation.’ In keeping with these purposes, the Foundation over the next several years, under a Board of Trustees headed by Mr. Mittell, published and distributed books of wide interest at nominal prices. The foundation also sponsored distinguished authors and public figures in so-called “Fireside Talks” on the NBC network, and in other lectures. In 2013, the Foundation celebrated the 50th anniversary of its renewed mission. To date, the Foundation has given away more than $3,000,000.00.”

The first 13 titles in the hardcover “home library” series were published in 1935. One way costs were kept down was by using donated plates. For example, four titles used the plates of discontinued titles from the Modern Library:

Ellis: The New Spirit (1935)
Flaubert: Salammbo (1935)
France: The Queen Pedaque (1935)
Paine: Selections from the Writings of Paine (1935)

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Jackets are specific to individual titles. A description of the book and price (.25 cents) is on the front jacket flap.

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A description of the Foundation and the series is included on the back of the jacket. A coupon for ordering copies is the back flap of the jacket.

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Bindings are cloth with black stamping. A “NHL” logo is stamped on the front of the book.

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Copies of the series were distributed freely for promotion. A slip in one of the 1935 titles came with one of these promotional copies.

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Title pages indicate the book title, author, series, publisher and (in most cases) the date of publication.

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Additional jackets for the first 13 titles are shown below.

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The series expanded after 1935. This list of 30 titles is the most extensive I have, from a book probably published in the late 1930s. The National Home Library Foundation published a few more books after the titles in this list; it’s not clear if they were considered part of the “Library” or not.

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Additional dust jackets from post 1935 titles in the series:

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Non-fiction titles were common among the later titles in the series.

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Another bit of series ephemera came from the copy of Coyle’s Why Pay Taxes? (1937). An envelope with the transcript of US Representative Jerry Voorhis’ comments on the series entered into the record on August 17, 1937. The envelope is below, with both sides of the transcript included in the envelope.

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