New Library of French Classics

Prentice-Hall, Inc. (Englewood Cliffs, NJ, US)
Series dates: 1969-1972
Size: 6″ x 9.25″

A short-lived series of seven translated French novels published from 1969-1971. Prentice-Hall, founded in 1931, has long been a publisher of educational books with some popular non-fiction titles. The New Library of French Classics is one of several series published by Prentice-Hall including Prentice-Hall Classics Series (1931-1966) and the Prentice-Hall English Literature Series (1952-1974), all aimed at a higher education audience.

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A prospectus for the series, included in the front of the book shown below, suggests that many literary titles have been cast aside as “minor works” due to archaic choices by literary scholars. This series is intended to remedy those oversights, with new translations of overlooked literary works. The seven titles in the New Library of French Classics include:

The Sin of Father Mouret, Emile Zola (1969)
Nightwalker, Louis Aragon (1970)
Beatrix, Honoré de Balzac (1970)
Vesuvius, Emmanuel Roblès (1970)
Axel, Auguste Villiers de L’Isle-Adam (1970)
The Joyless Years, José Cabanis (1971)
The Insurrectionist, Jules Vallès (1971)

This copy of  Louis Aragon’s Nightwalker is dated 1970, one of four titles published in the series that year. The book, originally published in French in 1923 (but never before translated) was a product of the 1920s surrealist movement.

Jacket design is common to the series, with different patterned designs (somewhat like those used on Hamish Hamilton’s Novel Library and Chatto & Windus’ Zodiac Books, and a bit like wallpaper. The series name is included in the center of the front of the jacket. The front flap includes the price ($7.95) and a description of the book.  The translator (Frederick Brown) is indicated on the front of the jacket. The series editor, Henri Peyre, is noted under the series name. One of the last titles published, The Joyless Years by José Cabanis (1971) has a different jacket design (see below).

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The rear jacket flap continues the description of the book, and also includes a prospectus for and four titles in the series. The jacket is late enough to include an ISBN number (which is also included on the book cover).

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The bindings consist of quarter binding with a black cloth spine and faux marbled paper on the covers.

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The series prospectus by the series editor is placed after the end papers in the front of the book.

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Three published titles and three forthcoming titles are listed facing the half-title page:

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The title page:

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The copyright page, citing the book designer (Janet Anderson), the original 1926 copyright of the book as well as a 1970 copyright for the translation to Prentice-Hall.

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As shown below, The Joyless Years by José Cabanis (1971) has a different jacket design from the common series jacket design shown above. The wallpaper patterns are gone, replaced by a unique design reminiscent of the “mod” late 1960s early 1970s jacket designs found on series such as Harper Perennial Classics. The jacket spine is also redesigned. Unlike the earlier jacket design, there is no mention of the series on the front of the jacket. The price of $7.95 is the same as on the earlier jacket. The front flap retains the description of the book, but reset in a more modern type face.

The rear of the jacket and rear flap no longer contain series prospectus and continuation of the book description, both replaced by an author biography and translator biography.

Beneath the jacket, the book design has not changed, retaining the more traditional design of earlier books in the series. The color of the marbled part of the quarter binding here is blue and black.

The series prospectus remains first in the book, where the half title would typically appear.

At this time, one title (L’Insurge by Valles) remains “in preparation” with five other titles already published.

The copyright page facing the table of contents.

The half-title page prefacing the text of the book: