Collecting Everyman's Library

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As with so many monumental endeavours, the dreams and ideas of two men converged in 1905 with the conception of the Everyman's Library. J. M. Dent (1849-1926), bookbinder and publisher, and Ernest Rhys (1859-1946), poet and editor, both had the vision of a large collection of the great books of the world, in a handsome edition that would be affordable by the common man. Both also realized that many difficulties would have to be surmounted. "We were aiming, you see," Rhys wrote in 1932, "at something almost impracticable, almost quixotic, in this transcendental enterprise."

Their grand goal was to produce a collection of 1000 great books, grouped into categories such as Biography, History, Fiction, Essays, and Poetry, to name a few of what ultimately became thirteen sections. For the series' inception, they came up with a list of 100 volumes. The first 50 were published in February 1906, and despite unexpected demand and production problems, they managed in that frenetic first year to publish not 100, but a total of 155 volumes.

Through two world wars and an economic depression, it was not until 1956 that the 1000th volume was finally published—thirty years after the death of J. M. Dent, and ten years after the death of Ernest Rhys. The series underwent many design changes during those years, responding to the pressures of both economic conditions and changing tastes, but remained the standard by which the series' many imitators were measured. The Everyman's Library was basically complete by 1976, but the House of Dent finally closed their doors in 1988 when the firm was purchased by Weidenfeld and Nicolson.

References to Seymour's works are abbreviated Guide or History, followed by page number.  Images are from the collection of Jeffrey S. Anderson unless otherwise noted.

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Design Overview

Flat-back Era, 1906-1928

Shield Era, 1928-1934

Ravilious Era, 1935-1953

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Design Details


Dust Jackets


Title Pages

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Everyman Miscellany

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2008 UNC Exhibit

Seymour on Book Collecting

Ernest Rhys Obituary

Copyright © 2014, Jeffrey S. Anderson
Collecting Everyman's Library - Home Contact the Site Admin