Borzoi Books (Paper)

Alfred A. Knopf (New York, US)
Series dates: 1935
Size: 4.25″ x 7″

Revised 6/4/2023

Borzoi Books is not a series but more of a marketing term applied to a broad range of Knopf books issued in the 20th century (“A Borzoi Book”). In 1935 Knopf applied the name to a short (five-title) series of paperbound titles meant to test the market for inexpensive (50-cent) paperbound titles. The $1 hardcover Borzoi Pocket Books series (competing with the Modern Library and Everyman’s Library) was at the end of its run in 1935, and Knopf was likely assessing if a paperback Borzoi series might draw the same interest garnered by the recent introduction of Penguin Books (also issued in 1935).

Quality Paperback Series documents some quotes on the experiment from Publishers Weekly:

“The paper bound books which Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., published in October at 50c are frankly an experiment to determine whether it’s economically possible to provide American readers with books of high quality but without mass appeal at low prices. . . . The books are manufactured somewhat after the scheme of the Tauchnitz and Albatross editions but have an extra jacket which duplicates the design and coloring of the cover. They are very readable as to type and convenient to handle and carry. If the series has a fairly large sale, additional titles will be added. (Publishers Weekly, Nov. 30, 1935, at p. 1999)

The first quote suggests the motivation for these titles (as for Penguin) were the paperbound Albatross and Tauchnitz titles which (along with Penguin) seem to have shaped the design of the book jackets and covers.

The experiment did not seem to impress Knopf: a few months later:

Reporting on the sale figures of last year’s paperbound experiment, Knopf is “not exactly jubilant over the outcome to date, but the experiment will be continued through the spring and if sales warrant it more books will be added to the series. (Publishers Weekly, Feb. 29, 1936, p. 994).

The experiment was apparently not a success, and the initial five titles were the only titles issued in the Borzoi Books paperback reprint series experiment:

Pedro Antonio de Alarcón, The Three-Cornered Hat (yellow jacket, cover)
James Cain, The Postman Always Rings Twice (red jacket, cover)
Knut Hamsun, Hunger
Thomas Mann, Death in Venice (orange jacket, cover)
W. Somerset Maugham, Andalusia (green jacket, cover)

Jackets have the modernist design of Albatross, Tauchnitz, and Penguin Books of the same era. The spine includes the title, author, and publisher. The front of the jacket uses the Borzoi Books name to create a border around the title, author, review quote, and publisher. The front jacket flap includes a blurb about the title and a longer quote from a review. No price is included on the jacket or book.

The rear of the jacket reproduces the front of the jacket. The back jacket flap blurbs another title in the Borzoi Books paperback series, Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice. 

The covers of the book duplicate the jacket:

The half-title page:

The title page with the year of publication is similar to those used for the Borzoi Pocket Books of the same era.

The copyright page:

A note on the type used in the book is followed by information on the printing: “Composed by Vail-Ballou Press, Inc., Binghamton, N.Y. Printed and bound by the Plimpton Press, Norwood, Mass. Paper manufactured by S.D. Warren Col, Boston, Mass.”