Nelson’s Library / Nelson’s Novels

aka/ Nelson Library
aka/ Nelson’s 7d. Library
aka/ Nelson’s 9d. Library
aka/ Nelson’s 1/3 Library
aka/ Nelson’s 1/6 Library
aka/ Nelson’s 1/- Library
aka/ Nelson’s Library of Notable Fiction
aka/ Nelson’s Shilling Library
aka/ Nelson Novels (New Series, after 1929)

T. Nelson & Sons Ltd. (London, UK)
Series dates: 1909-1937
Size: 4.25″ x 6.25″, 5″ x 7.25″ (Nelson’s 1/6 Library)

Known for it’s Nelson’s Classics (later, Nelson Classics) series of mostly classic literature, Nelson & Sons began issuing a series of popular, copyright fiction around 1909.

nelson_novels_logo2Early on confusion reigns as Nelson’s copyright titles are advertised under what seem to be series names, either as Nelson’s Library or Nelson’s Novels or under a name that includes the price of the novel. Examples include Nelson’s 9d. Library, Nelson’s 7d. Library, Nelson’s 1/3 Library, and Nelson’s 1/- Library. But there are also Nelson’s Non-Fiction, Nelson’s New Fiction, Nelson’s Notable Fiction, etc. Sometimes the books have series numbers, sometimes not; sometimes a book’s jacket indicates that it is part of two (or more) different “series” (such as Bell’s Wee Macgreegor title below).

I believe, after at least one hour of pondering, the issue is one of what might be called “quasi-series.” That is, Nelson was not creating a series name (such as Nelson’s Classics) and filling it with specific, classic, enduring titles. Instead they were marketing modern copyright fiction where the titles probably came and went at a relatively rapid rate (some enduring, some not) and where price point was more of a selling point than the name of the series. Other examples of the hypothesized “quasi-series” include the numerous other cheap, modern copyright fiction sold under “series names” that include the price. For now, I include all these Nelson & Sons copyright quasi-series (as listed above) on this page.

A Nelson bookmark (from 1911) lists titles in the “Nelson Library” including books in various price categories:

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A Nelson book order form for their series and titles for 1912 (below) folds into a mailable envelope. The Nelson Classics, Nelson Library (Novels), Shilling Library and their French and Spanish series titles are detailed. The preponderance of books organized by price supports the idea of the quasi-series as discussed above.

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Certain early jackets in the Nelson copyright series follow the Nelson’s Classics in gluing a color illustration from the book to the front jacket cover. The title below, Wee Macgreegor by J.J. Bell, was issued as part of Nelson’s 9d. Library (back of jacket). It is undated but probably mid-teens. Or Nelson Library (front of jacket, catalog in back of book). Or Nelson’s Novels (back of jacket). Titles from Nelson’s 1/3 Library are advertised on the front jacket flap. A French price sticker (1fr. 75) is glued over the British price.

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The jacket back includes lists of more Nelson’s Novels from both the 9d. and 1/- selections.

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Bindings, in cloth, are similar to the Nelson’s Classics in material but designed differently.

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There is no half-title page. The title page:

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A catalog of titles in the Nelson Library is printed over three pages in the back of the book.

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The jacket of W.W. Jacobs’ Ship’s Company is emblazoned with the “sign of good luck” swastika with, on the reverse of the jacket, with text describing the history of the symbol and its relevance to the current (as of the printing of the book) war (World War I) given, as the jacket says, “What better sign can be imprinted on the good books which are being sent so freely to cheer our soldiers and sailors, to refresh the wounded in hospitals, or to relieve the weariness of a long imprisonment?” Thus the book, otherwise undated, was printed at some point in the mid to late teens, during WW1. The jacket is vague as to which particular sub-series this book is from, although it is copyright fiction and in the Nelson’s 1/6 Novels or Nelson’s 1/6 Library. Another Jacobs title is listed (rear jacket flap) as part of the Nelson’s 1/6 Novels series. The jacket is unique to the title, and while unsigned, is probably by illustrator Will Owen.

The jacket spine includes the price as well as the serial number 17. The front jacket flap advertises Nelson’s 1/6 net Library and the rear flap Nelson’s 1/6 net Novels.

The swastika is imprinted on the front of the book, which is cheaply bound and printed in black ink over blue boards.

The half title page:

The title page with Nelson’s colophon. The imprint includes London, Edinburgh and New York.

There is nothing printed on the copyright page.

Another Nelson colophon is printed on the last page in the book:


Also part of the quasi-series Nelson Library, among the 7d selection (slightly obvious from the jacket) is this 1913 edition of Interplay by British suffragette Beatrice Harraden.

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The rear of the jacket details titles in the Nelson Library and new Nelson Shilling Library titles for 1912.

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Bindings are characteristic of Nelson’s other series books:

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A selected list of additional Nelson’s Library titles replaces the half-title page:

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Title page:

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An annotated catalog is included in the back of the Harraden title. It covers 16 pages.

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What seems to be a 1918 copy of Henry James’ Daisy Miller (which also includes “An International Episode” and “Four Meetings”) illustrates the difficulty with these early Nelson copyright reprint series. The title itself is relatively well established and is included in the numerous James bibliographies. The jacket design is somewhat unusual, with the hand lettered typography (reminiscent of the later Readers Library series). The jacket design is unique to the title and does not have any of the common elements that other Nelson Novels / Nelson Library titles have. There is also no indication of the book being in a series on the jacket itself. The size and price and binding of the book, however, suggest it is part of the quasi-series Nelson’s Library / Nelson’s Novels.

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The bindings are cheap cloth and less formal than Nelson Classics and other Nelson Library / Nelson Novels titles:

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The half-title page:

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The title page:

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The catalog in the back suggests the book is in the quasi-series Nelson’s Novels / Nelson’s Library.

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The “war price” of 1s/6d is listed in the book and on the jacket, reduced to 1s/- with what looks like a publisher’s sticker on the front of the jacket.

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1/6 Novels were another price-point for Nelson series copyright fiction. The copy of Newbolt’s Collected Poems (Newbolt was the editor of Nelson’s Classics) is probably from about 1915-1918. It is slightly larger (5″ x 7.25″) than other Nelson Novel books. The heavy paper jacket has a pasted photo of the author with a rather supercilious look about him. A comment on the title is included on the front of the jacket. The price (1/6) is advertised on the jacket spine as is the series number (42). A list of the 1/3 Nelson’s Novels is on the front jacket flap.

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Additional Nelson’s Novels titles are advertised on the jacket back and rear flap.

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The binding is a plasticized material with red stamping and black text.

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The list of 1/6 Nelson’s Novels is also listed facing the title page in the book.

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The back of the book advertises The Nelson Library of Notable Books. It’s not clear if this is a separate series from the various and sundry other Nelson’s Novels price-based sub-series.

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Another 1/6 Novel probably from the 1920s.  The rather dramatic red background design on this jacket is from a significant water stain. It rather works.

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The binding is of cheaper cloth with minimal decoration.

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nelson_novels_logoA copy from July 1929, part of Nelson Novel’s New Series is shown below. Jackets are modern with an attempt to grab potential buyer’s attention. A summary of the book is provided on the jacket flap. One wonders why the garment worn by the aged lady on the jacket cover is no longer fashionable.

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The back of the jacket lists titles in the New Series of Nelson Novels.

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Bindings are attractive and sturdy cloth with gold stamping. There is no mention of the series name in or on the book itself, only on the dust jacket.

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From about the same time, another Nelson Novels New Series jacket.

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The binding of this book is patterned, green faux-leather.

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A book from Nelson’s French series Collection Nelson is below. Jacket front:

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Jacket rear:

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Decorated binding:

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