Novel Library (London Book Co.)

London Book Co. (London, UK)
Series dates: (1928-1937)
Size: 4″ x 6.25″

The London Book Co. of London in the UK, which may have been an actual bookstore publishing reprint titles (like Hudson’s English Masterpieces) seems to begin publishing around 1906, and among the early titles are those in the variously named A Century of French Romance or A Library of French Masterpieces series of reprinted French literature. By 1909 they begin publishing a broader selection of classic reprints, bound in leatherette bindings and seemingly in sets but I have not found a specific series name assigned to these titles. At some point in the late 1920s the Novel Library appears, popular fiction in very cheap bindings with bright jackets. Collins is listed as printing the books for the London Book Co. in some of the books, and the reverse (London Book Co. printing the titles for Collins) in others. Novel Library titles stop appearing in the late 1930s although a firm under the name of the London Book Co. remains selling books in London, and publishing a few dictionaries and miscellaneous titles until at least the late 1950s. A bookstore in New Delhi, India under the same name publishes some books in the 1940s, and one located in California in the 1970s and 1980s.

This Novel Library copy of G.E. Gurdon’s Wings of Death is a retitled reprint version of WW1 flying ace John E. Gurdon’s Over and Above (published by Collins in 1919). The book has no printing date but probably 1929 (source).

The front and back artwork on the jacket along with the painfully cheap binding is reminiscent of the Readers Library, which had been published since the mid-1920s. Jackets are unique to each title, and include the price (6d) on the front and back of the jacket. The title is blurbed on the front jacket flap, and a few dozen additional titles are listed on the rear jacket flap. I have seen sources listing series numbers on Novel Library books up to 146, so at least that many titles were published. This particular book does not seem to have a serial number (on the jacket or book).

The front, spine and front flap of the book with its blimp attack artwork and parachuting blimp pilot.

The rear of the jacket with a plunging German plane and our intrepid hero’s British plane:

Bindings are cheap cloth with gold typography and decorations. “The Novel Library” appears at the base of the spine.

There is no half-title page. The title page includes a sketch of a war ship sailing off into the sea.

There is no copyright nor date in the book. The back of the title page lists 16 titles in the series, each with a very brief blurb.

The end of the book indicates that it was “Printed for the Publishers by Wm. Collins, Sons & Co. Ltd, Glasgow.” Some titles (found online) have an imprint stating that the series was printed by the London Book Co. for Collins, which is somewhat confusing. It is possible that Collins eventually took over the London Book Co. More research is required to pin down these details.