Cygnet Books

Longmans, Green & Co. (London, UK; New York, US, Toronto, CA)
Series dates: 1935-1955
Size: 6.75″ x 4.5″

Longmans Cygnet Books series seem to be in part related to their Swan Library series (issued 1931-1940), as a junior version of the series (eg., for a younger audience) and more substantially to several other series, including the Heritage of Literature series (1934-1965), Essential English Library (1946-1962), English Heritage Series (1929-1958) and Clifford Library (1947-1949). Many of these series titles were selected by British headmasters and aimed at the school market. The Heritage of Literature series reached at least 120 titles by 1960 (Raphael Samuel, Theatres of Memory: Past and Present in Contemporary Culture, Verso Books, 2012, p. 232).

The span of years for the Cygnet Books series is not easy to pin down, but I’m guessing, from the small amount of evidence, the series was first issued in 1935, with most titles issued before WW2, but a few offered in the late 1940s. Some titles are listed as in print through the 1950s, but the series was largely defunct by then.

The Cygnet Books series are nearly absent from the diverse sources I use for background research on book series; there is no book entered under the series name in WorldCat, and only a few appear in Google Books. My best guess is that the Cygnet Books were a selection of Heritage of Literature titles issued with a different dust jacket. In essence, packaging books intended for sale to schools as trade books, probably appearing with Longmans Swan Library series in bookstores. There is no indication of the series name on or in the books, making this a series in jacket alone, and an example of how the same books could be marketed as different series aimed at different parts of the market by using different dust jackets.

This copy of the edited collection The Gallant Company was published in 1938.

The Cygnet Books series are smaller in format (significantly smaller than the Swan Books). The jackets are common to the series. The series name, book title, and publisher are included on the jacket spine. The series name is repeated on the jacket front, with an illustration of a swan with offspring. The book title and a list of some of the authors included in this anthology are at the bottom front of the jacket.

The front jacket flap reads: “Under the sign of Cygnet Books Longmans launch a distinctive series gathered from the best classical and contemporary English Literature. Many different spheres of creative writing are represented so that every taste and every age will find pleasure here, whether it be in biography, drama, poetry, history, travel, imaginative prose, detection, the literature of action, or the simple stories of childhood.”

This statement suggests that despite the titles being aimed at a school-age audience under the Heritage of Literature series name, the same books, as the Cygnet Books, were aimed at a general audience.

The rear of the jacket lists titles in the series as of 1938, when this title was published. A few more titles were issued: I’ve documented X titles, but there may be more. I’ve added editors and the initial year of publication when I could find it. Again, these are, I believe, copies of the Heritage of Literature series with different jackets.

Tell Me Another
When Animals Talked
Now for a Play (R.K. & M.I.R. Polkinghorne, 1939)

Adventures on the High Seas (A.R. Moon, Tom Gilfillan, 1937)
Real Adventure Again (E.W. Parker, 1937)
More Tales of Real Adventure (W.T. Hutchins, 1936)
A Gallant Company (A.J. Merson, 1938)

The Imaginary Eye-Witness (C.H. Lockitt, 1937)

Short Stories Old and New (R.W. Jepson, 1935)
Strange Stories (R.W. Jepson, 1938)
English Comic Characters (D.F. Williams, 1938)

Ballads and Narrative Poems (T.W. Moles. 1936)

The Pilgrim’s Progress, Part I.
Selected Essays: Lamb and Hazlitt

Additional titles:
More Modern Essays (R.W. Jepson, 1946)
More Short Stories Old and New (S.H. McGrady, 1946)

Pinkish-red cloth bindings with gold typography.

There is no half-title page. It’s possible that the half-title page included the Heritage of Literature series name, and was left out in printings for the Cygnet Books. The book is edited by A.J. Merson, Headmaster, Carrick Academy, Maybole.

The Longmans international imprints, along with “First published in 1938” and “Printed in Great Britain by Northumberland Press Limited, Gateshead Upon Tyne.”