Harrap Library

George G. Harrap & Co., Ltd. (London, UK)
Series dates: 1909-1947
Size: 5″ x 7″


The Harrap Library was a carefully designed series of reprints mixed with edited collections of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Early copies have various “deluxe” bindings in leather, faux leather, sheepskin, and other materials. Care was taken with the design of the books, jackets, and type used in the series: “The Type chosen is of heavy face, specially made from a new design for the Harrap Library. It is very legible, and will not tire the eyes of the reader even after a lengthy spell. The Paper is manufactured from rag…” (From British Books in Print, Volume 5, 1910).

It’s not clear if the early titles in the series with their gift bindings had jackets or boxes. by the early 1920s, the books were being issued in more traditional cloth buckram bindings with a common jacket design. The copy of Goldsmith’s Essays (selected by A.H. Sleight) below illustrates the 1920s style jacket for the series. This is a 1925 first printing of this title. Information unique to each title is printed in red. An illustration of a used bookstore graces the jacket spine, a reader (maybe in that store) the jacket front. The illustration is by W.M. Geddes, aka Wilhelmina Geddes, an Irish artist best known for her stained glass work. Cogito ergo sum (I think, therefore I am) is also included on the jacket front (and in the book). The front jacket flap is blank.


The rear of the jacket features additional Harrap Library volumes, collections of humor, essays, short stories, and plays. The price of the books is 3s./6d. The rear jacket flap is blank.


Khaki cloth buckram covers include an arts and crafts inspired design.


The half-title page:


The reverse of the half-title page includes a list of 27 titles:


An illustration of Goldsmith faces the title page.


The copyright page includes the year of printing (1925) and printer information.


In 1925 or 1926 the series jackets were redesigned. The new abstract, patterned design is seen on this June 1926 (first in series, June 1925) copy of The Lure of the Sea selected by F.H. Lee. This particular jacket and book design are found on most series titles in the last two decades of the series. The jacket design is similar to Harrap’s Novels Beautiful series and the same designer probably is responsible for both series jacket designs. Roughly similar repeating geometric patterns also show up on the Zodiac Books series and, after the war, The Novel Library, both inspired by the design of Curwen Press books.

The jackets are minimalist, besides the pattern, common to the series (varying in the colors used to print the patterns) and including only the book title, publisher, and series name (on the bottom front of the jacket). The jacket flaps are blank, except for the price (clipped in this case).


The pattern continues onto the rear of the jacket. No text is included at all on the rear of the jacket or rear flap.


Bindings are basic cloth-like boards (“clothette”) have gold printing on the spine and a debossed design on the front of the book. The debossed design on the front of the book follows from the books with the earlier jacket designs.


Facing the half-title page is a list of the first 39 titles in the series. At least 58 titles were eventually included in the series (with The Twentieth-century Drama edited by Lynton Alfred Hudson and first published in 1946). The offset design of the half-title page belies some devotion to contemporary modernist book design.


An image related to the book faces the title page, which is also offset. It also includes a red Cogito Ergo Sum design element (“I think, therefore I am”).


The copyright page includes the month and year of first publication as well as the subsequent printing month and year.


The Harrap Library name was reused in the 1960s in a paperback series published in cooperation with Corgi Books.