World’s Classics Galaxy Edition

Oxford University Press (New York, US)
Series dates: 1947-1955
Size: 4.5″ x 7.25″

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Oxford’s World’s Classics is among a handful of series that sold many millions of books over much of the 20th century. It is also one of the smallest format series, at a diminutive 4″ x 6″ in size. In 1947 the New York office of Oxford University Press initiated the World’s Classics Galaxy Edition, which they defined as a new edition of the World’s Classics in a larger format, with larger type and margins. The original World’s Classics remained in print, but select titles that had sold well in the U.S. would be included in the new series in addition some new titles aimed at the U.S. market. The series issued only five titles in its first three years, with a few reprints as late as 1952. Titles include:

#1, 1947: Bernard Shaw, Back to Methuselah: A Metabiological Pentateuch
#2, 1947: Henry Bettenson, Documents of the Christian Church
#3, 1947: Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America
#4, 1948: Social Contract: Essays by Locke, Hume and Rousseau
#5, 1949: Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary

Oxford’s New York office began offering Galaxy Books in the mid-1950s, paperbound versions of World’s Classics titles and some new titles. This series was much more successful, suggesting the popular shift to paperback series in the U.S. in the 1950s.

The first title in the World’s Classics Galaxy Edition was Bernard Shaw’s Back to Methuselah, published in 1946. Jackets have a common design in the series. The series name and serial number are on the spine. The series name is also on the front of the jacket. A blurb about the book is included on the front flap, along with the price ($1.50).

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The blurb continues, in this case, to the rear jacket flap. A prospectus for the series, along with the price ($1.50), is on the rear jacket cover. Two additional forthcoming titles are also listed.

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Bindings are of higher quality, blue cloth with gold stamping. A series logo is included on the front of the book.

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Endpapers are on color paper, a galaxy of celestial illustrations.

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Half title page includes the series name, series number, and book title.

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The title page includes the year of publication.

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The copyright page includes the printing history of the title in the World’s Classics (in this case, as #500) and in the World’s Classics Galaxy Edition (in this case, as #1). Performance information about the play is also included.

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