Zodiac Books

Chatto & Windus (London, UK)
Series dates: 1937-1942, 1946-1955
Size: 4.75″ x 7.25″

zodiac_books_designA pre-WW2 series of nicely designed short titles sold as gift books, The Zodiac Books reached 28 titles before the series was ended around 1942 by the war. Enid Marx designed many of the books in the series.

The distinctive, patterned jackets and bindings are reminiscent of the Curwen Press books, used on the post-WW2 Hamish Hamilton Novel Library series.

The Zodiac Books were revived with some design differences in 1941. According to a 1941 Publishers Weekly (vol. 139) A full line of the Zodiac Books, the English series of little gift books published in London by Chatto & Windus, is now being distributed in the United States by Transatlantic Arts, owned and managed by Dr. George Vajna.” A few Zodiac Books titles show up on WorldCat with the Transatlantic Arts imprint. About 25 titles in the series appear after the war.

A 1937 copy of Cobbett’s Advice to a Lover is from the first six titles issued in the series. The distinctive jacket design maximizes the graphics and includes only the series name, author and title, and publisher.

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The first six titles are listed on the front jacket flap. They are numbered in series, but those series numbers are not on the jacket or jacket flap. Price is 1s. net.

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The bindings are heavy boards and mimic exactly the jacket designs. It is difficult to tell if the jacket is on these books or not.

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Title page includes the printing date.

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Copyright page includes only printing information.

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A copy of a selection of Shakespeare’s Lyrics and Shorter poems was also published in 1937. The same design is used for the jacket as the Cobbett title.

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The entire jacket:

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The binding, mimicking the jacket:

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A copy of Herrick’s Hesperides & Noble Numbers published in the series in 1938.

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The list of titles has expanded to 16 titles. The series would reach 28 titles before WW2.

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The binding:

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The distinctive design of the Zodiac Books probably influenced the design of the post-war Novel Library series published by Hamish Hamilton. Alas, the Zodiac Books were seemingly influenced by the earlier designs of Oliver Simon / Curwen Press, the designer for the Novel Library.