Continental Books

Continental Books Inc. (New York, US)
Series dates: 1932
Size: 7″ x 5″

Revised 6/15/2023

Continental Books were a series of six paperbound reprint titles issued in 1932 at a dime apiece. They were larger than the typical pocket book (at 5″ x 7″), the cover designs (at least one signed by illustrator Carroll Snell) were stylish, and the book’s quality was relatively high, given the low price. The series may have been emulating the innovative Paper Books / BoniBooks series (similar in format and design) that were themselves, in 1932, struggling for an audience.

No Continental Books appear after the initial six, another seemingly failed experiment in paperback publishing in the U.S. in the 1930s.

The Publishers Weekly indicates the firm’s address was 1775 Broadway in New York (1933, Vol. 123, p. 228). Blurbs about the new series (both probably cribbed from a press release) appear in the New York Times and Washington Post in June of 1932 (see below).

Left: New York Times Book Review, June 19, 1932.
Right: The Washington Post, June 26, 1932, p. 3.

The New York Times Book Review (Volume 1, 1932, p. 12; of which I’ve only seen a small snippet from Google Books) includes the name Frederic Warde along with Continental Books Inc. I believe this is likely book designer, editor, and typographer Frederick Warde. I can’t find any other link between Warde and the Continental Books, but the Wikipedia article does indicate that Warde was active in book design and editing in the early 1930s, and the book design suggests someone with some background in book design was behind the series. More research is required to assess this connection.

The designer of at least one of the jackets (see The Street of Seven Stars below) is Carroll Snell. I believe this is Carroll Clifford Snell, born in 1893 in Medina, NY, and active in the 1930s through 1950s as a book jacket designer, illustrator, and photographer.

Titles in the series, with no series number nor apparent order:

Harriette Ashbrook, Murder of Cecily Thane (1932)
Maxwell Bodenheim, A Virtuous Girl (1932)
John Paris, Kimono (1932)
Mary Roberts Rinehart, The Street of Seven Stars (1932)
Circus Parade by Jim Tully (1932)
Ben Ames Williams, Death on Scurvy Street (1932)

Two copies of Continental Books titles appear below. The first, Mary Roberts Rinehart’s The Street of Seven Stars, has a cover signed by Carroll Snell. The cover illustration wraps onto the spine. The author’s name is at the top of the spine, followed by the title and “Continental Books.” The back of the cover blurbs Mary Roberts Rinehart and the book. “This is a Complete Novel.” Unlike other similar series, the qualities of the series itself are not lauded on the cover or in the book.

There are no endpapers nor half-title page. The title page includes the book title, author, publisher, and date.

The copyright page includes the copyright year of the book itself (1914). “Printed in the U.S.A.”

A second title in the series is Ben Ames Williams’ Death on Scurvy Street. The cover does not seem to be signed, but looks similar to other series titles, suggesting Snell designed all the covers. The blurbing of the author and title is similar to that on the Rinehart title.

The title page has similar content (except no date of publication) but a different design suggesting there were modest changes in the book design over the six titles.

The copyright page includes the year (1929) and the copyright holder (E.P. Dutton). “Printed in the United States of America.”