Batsford’s Half-Guinea Library

B.T. Batsford Ltd. (London, UK)
Series dates: 1940-1951
Size: 5.75″ x 8.75″

Charles Scribner’s Sons (New York, US)
Series dates: 1940-1951

Bradley Thomas Batsford established his firm in 1843, specializing in architecture, the decorative arts, and UK history and geography. B.T. Batsford Ltd. was known as an innovator in the use of photography in its publications. Scribner’s published many Batsford titles in the U.S.


Batsford’s Half-Guinea Library was a series of sixteen new titles, all published in the 1940-1943 time frame, with a few reprints into the 1950s. Illustrated and of good quality, the series focused on British history and geography and was sold in the U.S. (by Scribner’s) and the UK. The series name shows up in very few places as it is only indicated on the rear flap of the dust jacket, and nowhere in the book. It also seems that the books were advertised individually, and not as part of a series.

Thomas Burke was a British author whose fame rests upon his 1916 collection of stories entitled Limehouse Nights. The stories cover the seedy underworld in the Limehouse district of London. His subsequent books, fiction, and nonfiction tended to focus on the urban cultural and social geography of London. He published The Streets of London (1940) and English Night Life (1941) for Batsford and the Half-Guinea Library.

This copy of English Night Life is a 2nd printing, dated November 1943. Jackets are unique to each title and illustrated, as is the rest of the book, to match the theme of the title. The front jacket flap contains reviews of the book as well as an indication that this is the “Second large printing” of the title. The series name is not noted on the jacket spine, front, or front flap.


The jacket illustration continues on the rear of the jacket. The back flap contains the only mention of the series name, with a brief description of the series and its price (10s/6d). Sixteen titles are listed.


Bindings are plain blue cloth with black typography and minimal decoration.


The half-title page:


A description of Burke’s The Streets of London is included on the reverse of the half-title page.


A color illustration faces the title page. The book is heavily illustrated, with line drawings in the text and with bound-in glossy paper pages with reproductions of illustrations and photographs.


The copyright page includes a list of Burke’s other books, as well as the dates for the first and second printing in the Half-Guinea Library. The book was printed by Jarrolds Inc.