Zodiac Books

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

Transatlantic Arts (New York, US)
Series dates: 1942

Lighthouse Books: Distributed by Chatto and Windus (London, UK)
Series dates: 1948-51

zodiac_books_designA pre-WW2 series of sophisticatedly designed short titles sold as gift books by. Chatto and Windus, The Zodiac Books reached 28 titles (and some reprints) before the series ended in 1942. Enid Marx designed many of the jackets and books in the series. The series was issued, using the same titles and serial numbers, in the US in 1942 by Transatlantic Arts Publishers. A new series was issued beginning in 1948 under the Lighthouse Books imprint.

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

The original run of Zodiac Books included 28 titles issued between 1937 and 1941, with at least one reprint in 1942. The titles are below, organized by year:

1937
1. Lyrics and Shorter Poems, by William Shakespeare
2. Miscellaneous Poems, by Andrew Marvell
3. Love Poems, by John Donne
4. Selected Poems, by John Keats
5. Advice to a Lover, by William Cobbett
6. Sir Roger de Coverley, by Addison and Steele

1938
7. Songs of Innocence and Experience, by William Blake
8. Nonsense Songs, by Edward Lear
9. The Gioconda Smile, by Aldous Huxley
10. Hesperides and Noble Numbers, by Robert Herrick
11. Selected Poems, by Alfred Lord Tennyson
12. A Book of Ballads
13. Florence Nightingale, by Lytton Strachey
14. Three Letters on the English, by André Maurois
15. Books to Read and Films to See. (A notebook)
16. Recipes to Remember. (A notebook)

1939
17. A Book of Nursery Rhymes, by Enid Marx
18. A Book of Modern Verse
19. Prayers Written at Vailima: Christmas Sermon, by Robert Louis Stevenson
20. The Gardener’s Calendar, by E.H.M. Cox

1940
21. Vulgarity in Literature, by Aldous Huxley
22. … And the Gatepost, by Fougasse
23. Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, by Edward FitzGerald
24. King and Country: Selections from British War Speeches, 1939-1940

1941
25. Everyman: A Morality Play
26. The Hunting of the Snark, by Lewis Carroll
27. Cavalier Lyrics and Other 17th-century Love Poems
28. A Country Zodiac, by Thomas Bewick


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.” Ther is evidence that titles through #26 were published (source) and most likely all of the original 28 titles were issued in New York with the Transatlantic Arts imprint. Only few Zodiac Books titles show up on WorldCat with the Transatlantic Arts imprint, with 1941 and 1942 dates.

The Zodiac Books were revived in 1948, with 18 titles issued before the series ended in 1951. The imprint changes to Lighthouse Books: Distributed by Chatto and Windus. Some of the titles are the same as the pre-war series, but with different series numbers. New titles are also included. Titles and series numbers, including year of issue, are below:

1948
1. A Book of Modern Verse
2. Prayers Written at Vailima: Christmas Sermon, by Robert Louis Stevenson
3. A Country Zodiac
4. The Hunting of the Snark, by Lewis Carroll
5. Some Observations and Judgements Upon Life and Letters, by Samuel Johnson
6. Ann of Oxford Street, by Thomas De Quincey

1949
7. The Young Visiters or, Mr. Salteenas Plan, by Daisy Ashford
8. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
9. Nonsense Stories, by Edward Lear
10. A Book of Nursery Rhymes, by Enid Marx
11. Les Cris de Paris
12. Selected Essays of Sir Francis Bacon, by Francis Bacon

1950
13. Party Food and Drink, by Rosemary Hume
14. The Love Poems of John Donne, by John Donne
15. Sport in Art, by Oliver Warner
16. Rubaíyat of Omar Khayyam, by Edward FitzGerald

1951
17. A Book of Carols
18. Sweets and their Sauces, by Rosemary Hume

With a 1957 date, A Yankee at the Court of King Arthur, by Mark Twain is listed in WorldCat as part of the Zodiac Books series. This is late for the series, which otherwise ends in 1951. Also, the size of the book is larger (22cm vs 19cm for other titles) and has 342 pages, many more than the 40-60 pages in the typical Zodiac Books series. For now, an anomaly.


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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The title page includes the printing date.

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The 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 in 1941 before being discontinued.

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The book’s binding:

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