Twentieth Century Library

aka/ XX Century Library

John Lane | The Bodley Head (London, UK)
Series dates: 1934-1939
Size: 5.25″ x 7.25″

The name “Twentieth Century Library” has been reused several times before and during the 20th century. The Twentieth Century Publications Co. (New York) published a pulp series under that name from 1890-1891. Around 1892 the Humboldt Publication Co. (New York) begins publishing what seems to be a continuation of the series (these titles sometimes carry the Humboldt Library imprint). Rand McNally published a classic fiction series under the name from 1896-1902. The John Lane / Bodley Head series, also non-fiction, appeared in 1934 and was available through WW2. In 1950 Scribner began publishing their Twentieth Century Library of biographies.

John Lane’s Twentieth Century Library series is, according to the book’s jacket, “a new series of books on problems of to-day viewed in light of the changing ideas and events of modern times.” The books were written by experts, and were new titles (eg., not reprints).

Jackets were designed by 20th century graphic designer Eric Gill, and are striking for their use of sans-serif typeface, giving the jackets a very modern look. The jackets are common to the series, with a very distinctive series colophon. According to the jacket: “I can think of nothing more appropriate for a symbol for the Twentieth Century Library than a version of Lacoon, that is Man, fighting with the twin snakes of War and Usury. These are the powers of evil with which man in the twentieth century will have to settle, or perish.”

The jacket spine includes the series name, serial number for the volume, book title author, price (2s./6d.) and publisher. The only place the serial numbers show up on the jackets or in the books is on the jacket spine. The series name, as XX Century Library (and Twentieth Century Library) is next to the series colophon, followed by the book title and author, and price (“half-a-crown net”). The front jacket flap describes the book, in this case #7 in the series, Naomi Mitchison’s The Home (dated 1934).

The rear of the jacket includes the series general editor, V.K. Krishna Menon, and a list of 13 titles. The rear jacket flap describes the series and includes the quote about the design of the series colophon by Gill.

Titles from the list on the jacket are below, with additional titles published later. The serial numbers, which only appear on the jacket spines, are unknown for some of the titles (they are not in the WorldCat description and I have not seen a jacket). At least 19 titles were published, with 2 ghost titles.

#1, Democracy, by J.A. Hobson (1934)
#2, The Jews, by Norman Bentwich (1934)
#3, Prisons, by M. Hambliln Smith (1934)
#4, The School, by W.B. Curry (1934)
#5, War, by C. Delisle Burns (1934)
#6, Money, by M.A. Abrams (1934)
#7, The Home, by Naomi Mitchison (1934)
#8, Art, by Eric Gill (1934)
#9, Women, by Winifred Holtby (1934)
* The Black Races, by J.H. Driberg
Broadcasting, by Raymond W. Postgate (1935)
* Property, by H.L. Beales
The Theatre, by Theodore Komisarjevsky (1935)
#11, Communism, by Ralph Fox (1935)

Additional titles published but not on the dust jacket above:

#17, The Town, by D.V. Glass (1935)
#19, The Press, by A.J. Cummings (1936)
Literature, by Philip Henderson (1935)
Design, by Noel Carrington (1935)
Religion, by Julius Hecker (1935)
Health, by Edgar Obermer (1935)
Sex, by Kenneth M. Walker (1935)

* ghost title: announced, but not published

The books are bound in tan cloth with distinctive typography and the series colophon printed in black and red, as is the jacket.

The half title page, with the series name, editor, and book’s title.

Following the half title page is a list of 13 titles in the series.

The title page.

Copyright page, with indication of the book printer: Western Printing Services, Ltd., Bristol.

The table of contents:

A second half-title page follows (the quarter title?):

And the first page of text:

A series catalog is bound into the rear of the book.