Borzoi Pocket Books

Alfred A. Knopf (New York, US)
Series dates: 1923-1935
Size: 4.5″ x 7″

Alfred A. Knopf (London, UK)
Series dates: 1923-1930
Size: 4.5″ x 7″

Updated 5/22/2023 

early_jacketlogoKnopf’s Borzoi Pocket Books were published in the U.S. (up to #72, 1923-1935) and UK (up to #31 1923-1930) with mostly different titles and different jacket and book designs. Both are discussed and illustrated in turn, below.

The U.S. series, eventually reaching #72 (in 71 volumes; see list below), initially featured striking bindings and jackets at a price and format meant to compete with the Modern Library and other similar reprint series. The majority of the titles in the Borzoi Pocket Books were Knopf’s back catalog, but as a significant publisher, Knopf had an extensive back catalog to draw from.

An advertisement in the American Mercury (vol. 16, issue 62, Feb. 1929) lauds the series’ revolutionary character and lists up through the “two volumes in one” (#65 & #66) of Hamsun’s Growth of the Soil:

The design of the U.S. series was by Claude Bragdon and W.A. Dwiggins, who also designed the Sun Dial Library, the bindings for Knopf’s Albla Books series, the covers of the Evergreen Series, the cover, binding, title page, and typography for Simon & Schuster’s short-lived Inner Sanctum Novels series, and the title page and binding for the Riverside Library) (thanks to Paul Shaw for information about the Dwiggins-designed book series).

Early U.S. jackets (this one, on Benjamin Constant’s Adolphe, is dated 1925) had an extravagant, design (common to all jackets) with author and book title. The book price ($1.25) and a partial list of titles (continued on the rear jacket flap) are included on the front jacket flap. The series number is printed on the jacket spine.


The back of the jacket describes the book (and the flap continues the catalog).


The binding on this title is deep blue with a green oval surrounding the borzoi design. Some titles are bound in brown with a red oval around the dog.


The endpapers have a lovely repeating pattern:


Half-title page:

The title page is prefaced with a blurb for the series:

The copyright page:

A catalog with brief descriptions of books in the series is included at the back of the Constant book. In other series (Modern Library, Everyman’s Library), catalogs were included if there was room to print them, or sometimes they were bound in from a separate set of sheets.

The catalog in the back of this book goes up to #30 in the series, and the catalog on the jacket goes up to #36. Jackets were probably printed more often than the books themselves, making them a more accurate representation of books published in the series.


By 1927 the U.S. series books and jackets were redesigned, as shown on this copy of J.S. Fletcher’s The Markenmore Mystery, published in October of 1927. The series catalog is still listed on the front and rear jacket flaps and includes up to volume 50 (this title). The price remains $1.25. As with the earlier jacket, the back of the jacket describes the book. The series number is not included on the jacket spine.


The bindings are also changed, and less extravagant than the earlier bindings.


Endpapers have been swapped out for a Borzoi Books colophon in a contrasting (red/green) pattern.

The half-title page remains the same as the earlier design:

The title page and facing description of the series have been enhanced with red typography contrasting with the black design and typography:

The copyright page. “Set up, electrotyped, and printed by Vail-Ballu Press, Binghamton, N.Y. Paper manufactured S.D. Warren and Co., Boston, Mass. and furnished by H. Lindenmeyr & Sons, New York. Bound by H. Wolff Estate, New York.”

By 1930, in the early part of the Depression, the U.S. jackets were redesigned, and the price was reduced to $1. The list of titles is removed from the jacket flaps, and replaced by a description of the effort put into the design of the Borzoi Pocket Books to make them readable: an essay-ette on “Peril in thine eye.” Some of the jackets in this design have a serial number printed in the white oval in the lower half of the jacket; some (like this one) don’t.


The rear flap describes the process whereby once 10,000 copies of a book have sold, the title is suitable for a reprint series. I guess that may have been Knopf’s rule. Other publishers used reprint series to salvage some money from poorly selling titles. The rear jacket continues to describe the book.


The catalog lists up to series number 70, but several (65, 66) are not included. This catalog is printed on the reverse of the dust jacket, along with an order form. (right-mouse click to enlarge)


Bindings are redesigned, a coarse blue cloth (in this case) with gold decorations and typography.

End-papers are redesigned:

The title page and facing series description modified slightly from the earlier versions:

The half-title page:

The copyright page:

The final page includes a diamond-shaped typographic ode to the typography of the books in the series:

A list of the 72 U.S.-issued Borzoi Pocket Book titles (in 71 volumes) is below:

1. TARAS BULBA, by N. V. Gogol
2. PETER JAMESON, by Gilbert Frankau
3. THE HAPPY END, by Joseph Hergesheimer
4. HUNGER, by Knut Hamsun
5. ANDALUSIA, by W. Somerset Maugham
6. THE GREEN GODDESS, by Louise Jordan Miln
7. PREJUDICES I. by H. L. Mencken
8. CAESAR OR NOTHING, by Pio Baroja
9. LONDON RIVER, by H. M. Tomlinson
10. THE POPULAR THEATRE, by George Jean Nathan
11. 170 CHINESE POEMS, translated by Arthur Waley
12. THE ROOM, by G. B. Stern
13. THE ANTICHRIST, by F. W. Nietzsche
14. AN ADOPTED HUSBAND, by Futabatei
15. CHELKASH, by Maxim Gorky
16. THE STAG’S HORNBOOK, edited by John McClure
19. THE LITTLE ANGEL, by L. Andreyev
20. A BOOK OF BURLESQUES, by H. L. Mencken
21. RALPH HERNE, by W.H. Hudson
22. A HERO OF OUR TIME, by M.Y. Lermontov
23. THE SOUL OF A CHILD, by E. Bjorkman
24. THE SO-CALLED HUMAN RACE by Bert Leston Taylor
25. THE CABIN, by V. Blasco Ibanez
26. THREE TALES, by G. Flaubert
27. A ROOM WITH A VIEW, by E.M. Forster
28. THE BLIND BOW-BOY, by Carl Van Vechten
29. CASANOVA’S ESCAPE FROM THE LEADS, translated by Arthur Machen
31. JENNY, by Sigrid Undset
32. GREEN MANSIONS, by W.H. Hudson
33. THE FAIR REWARDS, by Thomas Beer
34. PICTURE FRAMES, by Thyra Samter Winslow
35. ADOLPHE, by Benjamin Constant
36. HAGAR’S HOARD, by Geor1e Kibbe Turner
37. TALES OF THE PAMPAS. by W.H. Hudson
38. JEWISH CHILDREN, by Shalom Aleichem
39. THE BLOOD OF THE CONQUERORS, by Harvey Fergusson
40. GREEN THURSDAY, by Julia Peterkin
41. THE CHINA SHOP, by G.B. Stern
42. CAPITOL HILL, by Harvey Fergusson
43. THE THREE-CORNERED HAT, by P.A. de Alarcon
44. THE THREE IMPOSTORS, by Arthur Machen
45. THE LOST MR. LINTHWAITE, by J.S. Fletcher
46. THE WORLD IN FALSEFACE. by George Jean Nathan
48. WHERE BONDS ARE LOOSED, by E.L. Grant Watson
49. WOMEN AND WIVES, by Harvey Fergusson
51. A BOOK OF PREFACES, by H.L. Mencken
52. VAN ZANTEN’S HAPPY DAYS, by Laurids Bruun
53. THE GATES OF LIFE, by E. Bjorkman
55. WAITING FOR DAYLIGHT. by H.M. Tomlinson
56. ZELL, by H.G. Aikman
57. THE PARADISE MYSTERY, by J.S. Fletcher
58. THE HOUSE BY THE RIVER. by A.P. Herbert
59. THE HOUSE OF SOULS, by Arthur Machen
61. STRAIT IS THE GATE, by Andre Gide
63. WANDERERS, by Knut Hamsun
64. SHALLOW SOIL, by Knut Hamsun
*65. & 66. THE GROWTH OF THE SOIL, by Knut Hamsun (“Two Volumes in One” sold at $2.00)
67. VICTORIA, by Knut Hamsun
68. PAN, by Knut Hamsun
69. THE LORD OF THE SEA, by M.P. Shiel
70. ESSAYS OF A BIOLOGIST, by ]ulian Huxley
* Numbering differs in different sources; numbers here based on WorldCat entry 20130829)

Additional titles, series number unknown:

THE RIDDLE, AND OTHER TALES, by Walter De la Mare (1930)

brit_logoKnopf published the Borzoi Pocket Books in a U.K. edition from 1923-1930. The British series had 31 titles, few overlapping with the US series. Thus the U.S. and U.K. series were largely independent of each other. The jackets and books had different designs and series numbering, although the size was the same.

The UK Borzoi Pocket Books series is unusual because the first eighteen titles are The Works and Tales of Guy de Maupassant.

Advertisements for the Borzoi Pocket Books in the Times Literary Supplement (left: Issue 1364, Thursday,  Mar. 22, 1928, p. 203; right: Issue 1377, Thursday,  June 21, 1928, p. 464; bottom: Issue 1381, Thursday,  July 19, 1928, p. 535).

This copy of Maupassant’s A Woman’s Heart is XVII (#17) in the string of 18 Maupassant titles, which are simultaneously part of The Works and Tales of Guy de Maupassant and, eventually, the UK Borzoi Pocket Books series. Searches through WorldCat and internet book sites failed to turn up a single copy of any of the Maupassant titles with the Borzoi Pocket Books series name. This practice was not unheard of: The Phoenix Library, for example, included runs of a single author, bound in the same color, which served as the “Collected Works” and titles in the Phoenix Library series.

The Maupassant titles share a common jacket design (which was also used, with some modifications, on subsequent non-Maupassant titles in the Borzoi Pocket Books series). (The Maupassant set was also sold in the U.S., with a different jacket and book design and not tied to the U.S. Borzoi Pocket Books).


The jacket’s back flap details two additional titles, “uniform with The Complete Novels and Tales of Guy de Maupassant,” which comprise Borzoi Pocket Books #19 and #20, subsequent to the first 18 Maupassant titles. Thus, this jacket catches the transformation of the Maupassant series into the Borzoi Pocket Books series.

The book cover with a design used on all the Maupassant titles.


Half-title page:

The Maupassant titles face the title page:

The translator is indicated on the reverse of the title page:

“Printed in Great Britain by the Edinburgh Press, 9 and 11 Young Street, Edinburgh.”

How the run of Maupassant titles was merged into the Borzoi Pocket Books is unclear. Thus the U.K. Borzoi Pocket Books are a bit of a Frankenstein’s monster of reprint series.

Edward Thompson’s An Indian Day is XXIII (#23) in the UK Borzoi Pocket Books series and borrows stylistically from the Maupassant jacket design.

The jacket, common to the series, has a small illustration of a deer and the series’ name, author, and title. The book is described on the front jacket flap, and the price (3s./6d) is included (with a handy dotted snip line). Series numbers are on the jacket spine with the series name.


Titles in the British series were listed on the rear of the dust jacket, along with glowing reviews of the series. The back jacket flap contained advertising for the Knopf publication of Mencken’s American Mercury periodical.


The UK Borzoi Pocket Book binding differs from the Maupassant titles and consists of a simple gold box including the series name, number, title, author, and publisher. The book spine contains the book title, author, and publisher.

Blank endpapers:

Half-title page:

The title page with series, series number, author, tile, and the publisher (and London imprint).

The copyright page includes copyrights for the UK and US (1927) and a printing indicator (Fifth Impression, July 1928 is the latest). “Printed in Great Britain by Phototype Ltd., Barnet, Herts.

A preface and half-title follow:

After the Thompson title, additional series titles were issued in a more striking red and black jacket, and the binding and book design also changed.

Java Head by Joseph Hergesheimer was issued in January of 1929, probably the first with a new jacket and binding design. The series name is not mentioned on the jacket’s spine or front flap. The front flap describes the book and directs the viewer to the back flap for more titles by Hergesheimer. A price is also included.

The rear of the jacket lists the 29 titles in the UK series. Numbers replace Roman numerals. The rear jacket flap, as promised, details additional Hergesheimer titles.

Orange cloth bindings with red printing on the spine (title, author, publisher). A Borzoi Books colophon is added to the back of the book.

Blank endpapers:

The half-title includes the series name, series number (back to Roman numerals) and title.

The title page with the series name, series number, title, publisher and London imprint:

January 1929 is the latest printing of this title, and the first in the Borzoi Pocket Books. “Printed in Great Britain by the Edinburgh Press, 9 and 11 Young Street, Edinburgh, for Alfred A. Knopf Ltd.”

The list of UK Borzoi Pocket Books. The last title, the only one added in 1930, is Jenny by Sigrid Undset. It’s probably #31.

The Complete Novels and Tales of Guy de Maupassant / Borzoi Pocket Book series titles:

I. Boule De Suif, by Guy De Maupassant
II. Mademoiselle Fifi, by Guy De Maupassant
II. That Pig, Morin, by Guy De Maupassant
IV. A Woman’s Life, by Guy De Maupassant
V. The Sisters Rondoli, by Guy De Maupassant
VI. Miss Harriet, by Guy De Maupassant
VII. Bel Ami, By Guy by Maupassant
VIII. Yvette, By Guy by Maupassant
IX. Day And Night Stories, by Guy De Maupassant
X. Little Roque, by Guy De Maupassant
XI. Mont Oriol, by Guy De Maupassant
XII. The Horla, by Guy De Maupassant
XIII. Pierre And Jean, by Guy De Maupassant
XIV. The Olive Orchard, by Guy De Maupassant
XV. Strong As Death, by Guy De Maupassant
XVI. Useless Beauty, by Guy De Maupassant
XVII. A Woman’s Heart, by Guy De Maupassant
XVIII. The Pedlar, by Guy De Maupassant

Non-Maupassant titles, explicitly part of the U.K. Borzoi Pocket Books with jacket and bookbinding design borrowing from the Maupassant titles:

XIX. Your Cuckoo Sings By Kind, by Valentine Dobrée
XX. Ariane, by Claude Anet (reprint 1933)
XXI. Nigger Heaven, by Carl Van Vechten
XXII. Open All Night, by Paul Morand
XXIII. An Indian Day by Edward Thompson

Titles issued after the jacket and book design changes:

24. Java Head, Joseph Hergesheimer (1929)
25. These Men Thy Friends, Edward John Thompson (1929)
26. The Blind-Bow Boy, Carl Van Vechen (1929)
27. Gold and Iron, Joseph Hergesheimer (1929)
28. Linda Condon, Joseph Hergesheimer (1929)
29. Mountain Blood, Joseph Hergesheimer (1929)
30. Closed All Night, Paul Morand (1929)

#?. Sigrid Undset, Jenny (1930)