Everyman's Library: The Flatback Era, 1906-1928

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The typical Everyman's Library book bound and jacketed during the "Flatback Era" from 1906 to 1928 is characterized by a plain paper dust jacket covering a rather extravagantly bound and detailed book. Binding colors and interior details vary among the thirteen sections of the library: Biography, Classical, Essays and Belles Lettres, Fiction, History, Oratory, Poetry & Drama, Reference, Romance, Science, Theology & Philosophy, Travel & Topography, and Young People.

New collectors of Everyman's Library are often confused by books that have mismatched dates, bindings, and jackets. Such mismatches are common and are due to the way Dent manufactured Everyman's titles. Books were printed in batches of about 10,000 and stored, unbound, until orders were received. Jackets were also printed and stored. Because of this, slower-selling titles often have mismatched dates, bindings, and jackets: a slow selling title printed in the Flatback Era could be bound late in the Shield Era, but not jacketed until the Ravilious Era.

In order to give a basic overview of the series in the Flatback Era, two typical Everyman's titles from this era are illustrated first in detail below, followed by examples from each of the thirteen sections to show the flatback bindings with matching first-state dust jackets. Unless otherwise noted, all images on this page are from the collection of John B. Krygier.

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Dust Jackets

The earliest Everyman's dust jackets, such as Shakespeare's Comedies, No. 153 (1906) (left, top) are printed in red ink on buff paper with the book price, title, author, series number, and section on the spine. The Temple Press sundial icon and epigram ("Shadows we are and like shadows depart") is centered on the spine, as well as an indication of the binding type (cloth in this case).

In 1911 black ink replaced red, as shown by the Dictionary of English Literature, No. 449 (1910) title (left, bottom). The blocks of text on the dust jacket front were also rearranged, and the price disappears from the spine, but the general design remains the same. Between 1906 and 1928 Dent was noted as the publisher on UK jackets, and Dutton on US jackets. Printed on the dust jackets are advertisements for Everyman's Library, other Dent series, and lists of series titles (all vary over this time period).


Early Everyman's bindings consist of glossy cloth material with a full gilt spine and an embossed Dent floral icon on the cover. These bindings are called "flatback", as they were bound with flat spines (rather than curved, which is more typical). It looks nice on the shelf, but is less sturdy than rounded bindings. The color of the binding indicates which of the thirteen categories the title is from, examples of which are shown below.


Reginald L. Knowles designed the endpapers used on Everyman's Library books until 1935. The pale yellow endpapers illustrate the figure of Good Deeds from the medieval play Everyman, facing her sister Knowledge's pledge, which is the series motto:  "Everyman, I will go with thee and be thy guide, in thy most need to go by thy side."

Half-title Page

Preceding a blank page (or flyleaf), each Everman's book has a half-title page that indicates which section of Everyman's Library the book belongs to, as well as the title and author of the book.

Advertisement Page

The reverse side (verso) of the half-title page contains the series number of the book, and an advertisement for the series. Twelve sections are noted prior to 1907, and a Reference section is added thereafter. Before 1915, no series number appears on this page, as shown by Shakespeare's Comedies (left). After 1915, the series number of the book is included, as shown by No. 449 for the Dictionary of English Literature (right).

Title Pages

An ornate frontispiece and title-page reflects the style of William Morris and is one of the most distinctive elements of early Everyman's titles. Thirteen different corresponding designs and quotes were created for the thirteen sections in the series. Shakespeare's Comedies is in the Poetry and Drama section and the Dictionary of English Literature is in the Reference section.

Copyright Page

The copyright page is on the verso of the title page. No date indicates a first printing, as with Shakespeare's Comedies (left). A single date also indicates a first printing. Most Everyman's titles were reprinted. As with the previous era of Everyman books, printings subsequent to the first are indicated, as in the Dictionary of English Literature (right). Titles with numerous reprints sometimes omit all but the date of first and last printing.

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Biography: Dust Jacket

George Fox

Number 754
No Date (1924) (1st pr.)

Biography: Grey Binding

Biography: Quote

A good book is the precious life-blood of a master spirit, embalmed and treasured upon purpose to a life beyond life.
- Milton

Classical: Dust Jacket

Dramas of Sophocles

Number 114
1925 (6th pr., 1st 1906)

Classical: Pale Green Binding

Classical: Quote

The sages of old live again in us.
- Glanvill

Essays & Belles-Lettres: Dust Jacket

John Ruskin
Time and Tide

Number 450
1921 (2nd pr., 1st 1910)

Essays & Belles-Lettres: Orange Binding

Essays & Belles-Lettres: Quote

Most current for that they come home to men's business and bosoms.
- Bacon

Fiction: Dust Jacket

Walter Scott
Woodstock, or, The Cavalier

Number 72
August 1906 (2nd pr., 1st March 1906)

Fiction: Carmine Binding

Fiction: Quote

A tale which holdeth children from play and old men from the chimney corner.
- Sir Philip Sidney

History: Dust Jacket

The Venerable Bede
The Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation

Number 479
1916 (3rd pr., 1st 1910)

History: Scarlet Binding

History: Quote

Consider history with the beginnings of it stretching dimly into the remote time; emerging darkly out of the mysterious eternity: the true epic poem and universal divine scripture.
- Carlyle

Oratory: Dust Jacket

Charles James Fox
The Speeches of Charles James Fox

Number 759
No Date (1924) (1st pr.)

Oratory: brown Binding

Oratory: Quote

When he sent his great voice forth out of his breast and his words fell like the winter snow. Nor then would mortal contend with Ulysses.
- Homer

Poetry & Drama: Dust Jacket

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Number 715
No Date (1915) (1st pr.)

Poetry & Drama: Olive Binding

Poetry & Drama: Quote

Poets are the trumpets that sing to battle. Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.
- Shelley

Reference: Dust Jacket

John Cousin (compiler)
Dictionary of English Literature
Number 449
1921 (5th pr., 1st 1910)

Reference: Maroon Binding

Reference: Quote

I will make a prief of it in my note-book.
- Shakespeare

Romance: Dust Jacket

Andrew Boyle (translator)
Two Morte D'Author Romances

Number 634
No Date (1907) (1st pr.)

Romance: Blue Binding

Romance: Quote

A romance, and it me took to read and drive the night away.
- Chaucer

Science: Dust Jacket

Samuel Hahnemann
The Organon of the Rational Art of Healing

Number 663
no date (1913) (1st pr.)
Source: Terry Seymour

Science: Fawn Binding

Science: Quote

Hoc solum scio quod nihil scio.
(I only know that I know nothing.)

Theology & Philosophy: Dust Jacket

Thomas Malthus
On the Principles of Population, v. 1

Number 692
1927 (2nd pr., 1st 1914)

Theology & Philosophy: Purple Binding

Theology & Philosophy: Quote

How charming is divine philosophy.
- Milton

Travel & Topography: Dust Jacket

Hector St. John Crevecoeur
Letters from an American Farmer

Number 640
No Date (1912) (1st pr.)

Travel & Topography: Dark Green Binding

Travel & Topography: Quote

To the wise man all the world's a soil.
- Ben Jonson

Young People: Dust Jacket

John Ruskin
The Two Boyhoods & Other Select Passages

Number 688
No Date (1914) (1st pr.)

Young People: Light Blue Binding

Young People: Title Page Icon

Young People: Quote

This is fairy gold, boy; and 'twill prove so.
- Shakespeare

Copyright © 2007, John B. Krygier
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