Chameleon Books

Oxford University Press (London, UK)
Series dates: 1939-1957
Size: 5″ x 7.25″


A product of the Education Department at the Oxford University Press and marketed for a younger audience (and as gift books), the Chameleon Books consisted of at least 32 titles (by 1952) of 64 to 80 pages on a broad range of topics. The books themselves follow the overall design strategy of the earlier Chatto & Windus Zodiac Booksshort titles, bound in boards with distinctive, patterned jacket designs also printed on the boards. The Chameleon Books were also similar to the hardcover King Penguin series (published 1939-1959, in 76 volumes).

Jacket and book design for the series consisted of both abstract and more pictorial patterns of repeating graphics. Some of the designs seem to have been unique to particular titles. Others were reused for related titles, such as A Book of Common Insects by Edmund Sandars (dated 1941). This design is shared with A Book of Common Birds and A Book of Common Beasts (although the latter two were printed with different colors). Jackets have the series name, title, and publisher on the front of the jacket. The jacket spine has the title and series number (17 in this case). Up to 19 titles are listed on the front jacket flap. The series would eventually reach 32 titles in 1952.


The rest of the books in the series:

20: Richard Morse, A Book of Common Trees (1942)
21: E.C.R Hadfield, A Book of Animal Verse (1943)
22: Ivan Andreevich Krylov, Fables from Russia (1943)
23: Richard Morse, Life in Pond and Stream (1945)
24: Charles E Gillham, Beyond the Clapping Mountains: Eskimo Stories from Alaska (1944)
25: Eric Arnold Roberts Ennion, Life on the Sea Shore (1948)
26: Robert Louis Stevenson, A Child’s Garden of Verses (1946)
27: T.W. Sussams, A Book of Town Verse (1947)
28: T Haward Girtin, The Lord Mayor of London (1948)
29: Dorothy A Ward, A Book of Hedgerow Berries (1949)
30: Jo Manton, The Enchanted Ship, and other Greek Legends (1950)
31: Ian Serraillier, Thomas and the Sparrow (1951)
32: Robert Gittings, The Peach Blossom Forest (1952)

The rear flap blurbs the book.


The jacket design is printed on the book boards.


The half-title page includes the series name and number, along with the book title and a graphic (not an insect!).


The title page:


Copyright page with basic publishing and printing information: