Blue Ribbon Books

Blue Ribbon Books (New York, US)
Series dates: 1930-1933
Size: 5.5″ x 8.5″

Blue Ribbon Books, imprint of Reynal & Hitchcock (New York, US)
Series dates: 1933-1939

Blue Ribbon Books, imprint of Doubleday (New York, US)
Series dates: 1939-1949


Blue Ribbon Books was established in 1930 by a consortium of publishers (Dodd & Mead, Harcourt & Brace, Harper, and Little Brown) as a reprint publisher to compete with Grosset & Dunlap. Titles were drawn from the back catalog of the publishers involved in the enterprise. Blue Ribbon Books established the Halcyon House imprint for higher price reprints. The manager of Blue Ribbon Books was Eugene Reynal, who established the firm Reynal & Hitchcock in 1933 and purchased Blue Ribbon Books the same year. In 1937 reprint publisher A.L Burt and its series (Burt’s Home Library) were purchased by Blue Ribbon Books. In 1939 Reynal & Hitchcock sold the firm including the Burt and Halcyon House imprints to Doubleday.

A sub-series of Blue Ribbon Books aimed at children was distinguished by innovative bindings, imprinted with a rainbow, and durable enough to be cleaned as needed. Called Rainbow Bindings the series consisted of children’s classics illustrated by Louis Rhead. The advertising ephemera below was shared with me by Maxfield Shay. These books were introduced around 1930.

Anatole France’s Penguin Island, shown below, is undated beyond a 1909 Dodd Mead copyright but was most likely issued around 1930 when the Blue Ribbon Books series began publishing. Literary classics like Penguin Island were included in the series early on, but the vast majority of titles were contemporary fiction and non-fiction.

This Blue Ribbon Books copy has the promotional paper band wrapped around the jacket as an added emphasis on the key selling point of these books: their cheap ($1) price: “The success of this book as originally published at $3.00 makes possible the Blue Ribbon edition for one dollar.”


The band wrapped around the back of the jacket:


Jackets for the Blue Ribbon Books were unique to each title, typically reusing the original dust jacket art and design. Blue Ribbon Books is noted on the spine, along with the small series logo. A blurb about the book is printed on the front jacket flap.


A catalog of the first 29 titles in the series is printed on the jacket back. A blurb for the series is on the rear jacket flap.


Solid, dark blue cloth bindings with gold typography. The paper used in the book has deckled edges.


The half-title page. This particular reprint was out of a series of France reprints, “The Works of Anatole France” in a translation by James Lewis May and Bernard Miall, originally published in 1909.


The title page with the translator and publisher imprint.


The original copyright date is included on the copyright page.


Blue Ribbon Books continued to be published in copious numbers as imprints of Reynal & Hitchcock (1933-1939) and Doubleday (1939-1949). The series seems to have been discontinued in 1949.