Big Dollar Books

Big Dollar Books Co. (New York, US) (William Faro / Samuel Roth)
Series dates: 1932
Size: 6″ x 9.25″

Revised 7/1/2023

For the 500th series at Series of Series, a series made up of a series of titillating titles issued by one of the more amusing and interesting 20th-century publishers, Samuel Roth, in an attempt to stave off bankruptcy. It didn’t work. And the series only issued three of the promised 25 titles. A sexy disaster series!

Ah, Samuel Roth. Among all the characters that appear on Series of Series he undoubtedly is in the running as the most memorable. Thanks to Jay Gertzman’s pair of excellent books – Bookleggers and Smuthounds (1999) and Samuel Roth: Infamous Modernist (2013) – the story of Roth and his myriad efforts in the world of 20th-century publishing are known. Pornographer, entrepreneur, proponent of Modernist literature, anti-pornography law crusader, jailbird, and so on. Goetzman’s books are a wonderful read for anyone interested in 20th-century literature and society.

I cover two other series published by Roth under his William Faro imprint, and both provide more details on Roth and his life and impact on the publications: Modern Amatory Classics (1930-1934) and Ardent Classics (1931-1934). The Ardent Classics were, in particular, a nicely designed series proffering titles that were just at that cusp between literature and titillating pornography.

Among Roth’s many travails, bankruptcy for the William Faro firm loomed early in the Depression. In a move to liquidate stock and raise funds, the Big Dollar Books were conceived. According to Gertzman, Roth rented three storefronts in New York City, all near subway stations, which advertised “1$ – Any Book – 1$” in the front window. The plan was for up to 25 titles, drawing from existing stock, and re-bound with new title pages (removing what was originally a William Faro imprint on the title page).

The plan did not stave off bankruptcy, and the Big Dollar Books ceased the same year they started, with only three titles out of the twenty-five issued with the Big Dollar Books imprint.

The anonymously penned Padlocks and Girdles of Chastity, #11 in the series, is shown below and is representative of the prurient qualities of the Big Dollar Books series. Jackets had unique designs. The jacket spine includes only the book title. The front of the jacket contains a drawing of a nude woman along with the title. “The Big Dollar Books Company, New York, 1932” is included on the jacket front. This is the only time I recall the year of publication being included on the front of the book. The front of the jacket reproduces the title page of the book (shown below) exactly as is, which accounts for the year of publication being included here. The front jacket flap indicates “Originally Published Privately at $7.50” and a long discourse (for flap matter) on the title.

The back of the dust jacket includes a list of the 25 proposed titles in the Big Dollar books. As noted, only #10, #11, and #21 were published under the Big Dollar Books imprint. If Roth had three stores full of dollar books, he was undoubtedly selling off much or all of his stock for $1 a book – but not repackaging the titles under this series name.

In Gertzman’s Joseph Roth: Infamous Modernist, he indicates that the copy of this title he inspected listed only 23 titles. This copy has 25 (the same as the other two titles in the series, according to Goetzman). I’m assuming this indicates there were at least two printings of this title, and the one with the 23 titles is the first. There do seem to be more copies of this particular title around.

The titles listed above as in the Big Dollar Book series. Again, Roth was likely selling these titles for $1 in his three storefronts but only issued three under the Big Dollar Books imprint. All of these titles were issued in earlier William Faro editions. The list is an excellent sample of titles at the limits of what could be published, in the U.S., in the 1930s.

*1. The Private Life of Frank Harris, by Samuel Roth
*2. The Strange Career of Mr. Hoover Under Two Flags, by John Hamill
*3. Celestine, A Chambermaids Diary, By Octave Mirbeau
*4. A Young Man About to Commit Suicide, by Anthony Gudaitis
*5. The Man Who Killed Kitchener, by Clement Wood
*6. Warren Gamaliel Harding; An American Comedy, by Clement Wood
*7. Loose Shoulder Straps, by Alan Dubois
*8. Songs Out Of Season, by Samuel Roth
*9. Lady Chatterley’s Husbands, by Anonymous
10. Self-Amusement and its Spectres, by Dr. Ralcy Husted Bell (1932)
11. Padlocks And Girdles Of Chastity (1932)
*12. Sexual Inversion, by John Addington Symonds
*13. The Intimate Journal Of Rudolph Valentino
*14. Oscar Wilde Three Times Tried
*15. A Gentleman In A Black Skin, by Donna Mckay
*16. The Great Lindbergh Hullabaloo, by Laura Vitray
*17. Lady Chatterley’s Lover, by D.H. Lawrence
*18. The Woman Who Was Pope, by Clement Wood
*19. Venus In Furs, by Leopold Von Sacher-Masoch
*20. Lila & Colette, by Catulle Mendes
21. Sacred Prostitution And Marriage by Capture, by Charles Staniland Ware (1932)
*22. Moon Over Broadway, by Mark Hellinger
*23. Body, by Daniel Quitter
*24. Sword And Womankind, by Edouard De Beaumont
*25. Herbert Clark Hoover, An American Tragedy, by Clement Wood

*Not published under Big Dollar Books imprint

William Faro books typically have titles (authors, etc.) printed on paper and glued to the spine. The cover is red cloth.

Blank endpapers (followed by two blank pages, not shown):

The half-title page:

The title page mimics the design on the jacket front (exactly), suggesting the same plate was used for each to save money.