Hour-Glass Library

Maurice Fridberg (Dublin; London, UK)
Series dates: 1945-1947
Size: 4.5″ x 7″

Maurice Fridberg was a Jewish Dubliner, bookseller, writer, and publisher. The publishing firm in his name was established in 1941 in London, where he was, at the time, operating a bookstore (at Sussex House, Sussex Place, London S.W. 7). The plan was to grow the publishing firm after the war, in Dublin, (while maintaining a London office), with a focus on literature (source: Robert Greacen, The Sash My Father Wore, Mainstream Publishing, 1997). Photo source: Daily Telegraph (London) photo library.

A few titles with Fridberg as publisher appear in 1941-1943 with a London or Dublin imprint. The imprint changes to Dublin & London in 1945, the year the Hour-Glass Library series is first issued. In 1947 the imprint changes to Dublin, and five more titles are published in 1947 and 1948 before the imprint disappears. I can find almost nothing on Fridberg in scholarly literature, his firm fizzling out before it generated much of a literary impact.

Fridberg’s early publications caused some consternation among the members of the unfortunately titled Irish “Sex Board” – a government-appointed censorship panel established in Ireland in the early 1940s. The first book banned by the Sex Board was a translation of poet Brian Merriman’s “Cúirt an Mhean-Oiche” translated by Frank O’Connor and issued by Fridberg in 1945. This title has the honor of being the first book banned in Ireland by the Board. Translation of these poems was, at the time, part of the Irish school curriculum; alas, O’Connor’s translation included a few tweaks to the translation that were perceived, by the Sex Board, as anti-clerical and bordering on blasphemous. Another Fridberg title, Norah Hoult’s Selected Stories (one of the Hour-Glass Library series: Hoult’s writings encompassed working class and women’s issues, as well as prostitution and sex workers), was banned by the panel in 1946. (Source: The Oxford History of the Irish Book, Volume V: The Irish Book in English, 1891-2000, p. 297. Oxford University Press, 2007).

Thanks to Paul Wagner (publishinghistory.com) for the Fridberg photo, Observer advertisements, and idea to compile a preliminary list of Maurice Fridberg titles issued between 1941 and 1948. There were not many!

Maurice Fridberg publications, 1941-1948. Imprints are London, London & Dublin, or Dublin:

1941: Selected Writing (periodical), Reginald Moore, ed., Dublin (#1, 1941- #5, 1946).
1943: Continental Knitting, Esther Bondesen, London (reissued, Dublin, 1948, 1950).
1945: The Midnight Court: A Rhythmical Bacchanalia from the Irish, Brian Merriman, trans. by Frank O’Connor, London & Dublin. Banned by “Sex Board.”
1946-1947: The Hour-Glass Library (13 titles, see list below), London & Dublin.
1946: The Gertrude Stein First Reader & Three Plays, Gertrude Stein, Sir Francis Rose, London & Dublin. Contents: The first reader — In a Garden: A Tragedy in One Act — Three Sisters Who are not Sisters: A Melodrama — Look and Long: A Play in Three Acts.
1946: Happy as Larry, Donagh MacDonagh, London & Dublin (reissued in 1967 in collaboration with Dolmen Press, distributed by Oxford University Press).
1947: The Art of the Theatre, Frank O’Connor, Dublin.
1947: All Men are Neighbours, Leonard Cottrell, Dublin
1948: A Roof Over Your Head, Bill Naughton, Dublin (reissue of 1945 edition published by Pilot Press, London).
1948: Flesh and Blood, John Brophy, Dublin. Reprint of the 1st Dent edition of 1931. A few sources list this jacketed paperback as part of the Hour-Glass Library. The jacket is illustrated. If this is part of the Hour-Glass Library series, it was a departure from the first 12 titles: a novel (vs. short stories) with a unique, illustrated dust jacket.
1948-1954: The Music Masters, Including Lives of the Great Composers, A.L. Bacharach, ed., Dublin. Four volumes. First published by Fridberg and Cassell. Volumes 3-4 all published by Cassell.
1948: #1: From the Sixteenth Century to the Time of Beethoven, by W.R. Anderson and others.
1951: #2: After Beethoven to Wagner, by G. Abraham and others.
1952: #3: The Victorian Age, by G. Abraham and others.
1954: #4: The Twentieth Century, by W.R. Anderson and others.

Advertisements for Maurice Fridberg titles were published in The Observer (London, September 23, 1945, p. 3) and the Times Literary Supplement (September 29, 1945, pg. 460). The yet to-be-banned title The Midnight Court is featured, along with the first issue of the Hour-Glass Library, with general editor Reginald Moore. The first title in the series is Rhys Davies Selected Stories, with six additional collections in preparation.

Eight Hour-Glass Library titles were issued in 1946, and three more in 1947. One more, Brophy’s Flesh & Blood was issued in 1948 and it was a departure from the series, a novel and issued with a unique, illustrated dust jacket. This may have been an attempt to reinvigorate the series. The initial 12 titles were “selected stories” of modern literary authors. Additional advertisements (below) are from The Observer, appearing on February 10, 1946, p. 3 and July 13, 1947, p. 3. The series numbering (advertisement below, right) is the only place I’ve seen series numbers associated with the books. Also, the advertisement on the right indicates that the Pilot Press (publisher of the Pilot Omnibus series) was distributing Fridberg’s titles.

The Hour-Glass series and Fridberg’s imprint disappear after 1948.

The Hour-Glass Library followed the form of mid- to late-1930s paperbound series, such as Tauchnitz Editions, Penguin, Zephyr Books, etc. which were decently-bound mid-sized paperbacks with jackets. Jackets for the Hour-Glass Library were common to the series, with a design leaving open spaces (factotum apertures) where the author and title of each book were overprinted. The spine includes the author and title and the series colophon (not surprisingly, an hour-glass). The jacket front includes the series name, title, author and publisher’s imprint. The front jacket flap includes a blurb about the author and a price (2s./6d.).

The back of the jacket continues the pattern and includes a listing of titles already published and in preparation. The list does not include this title (Elizabeth Bowen, Selected Stories), and is missing two titles (Gerald Bullett, Selected Stories, John Brophy, Flesh and Blood).

Titles in the Hour-Glass Library series:

Rhys Davies, Selected Stories (1945)
Fred Urquhart, Selected Stories (1946)
Norah Hoult, Selected Stories (1946)
John Brophy, Selected Stories (1946)
Ethel Mannin, Selected Stories (1946)
Elizabeth Bowen, Selected Stories (1946)
Malachi Whitaker, Selected Stories (1946)
Frank O’Connor, Selected Stories (1946)
Stephen Vincent Benet, Selected Stories (1946)
Elizabeth Berridge, Selected Stories (1947)
Gerald Bullett, Selected Stories (1947)
James Hanley, Selected Stories (1947)
*John Brophy, Flesh and Blood, John Brophy (1948)

*Listed as part of the Hour-Glass Library in several sources, but a novel and with a unique illustrated dust jacket (over a paperback).

The book’s card covers mimic the jacket. The binding is actually quite solid, making it difficult to scan the entire cover.

The book opens to the book title (actually, the book title for every book in the series).

A list of titles published in the series includes the same five listed on the jacket.

“First Published Nineteen-Forty-Six, Maurice Fridberg, Dublin: London.” I’ve never seen the year of publication spelled out as it is on this copyright page. “Printed by Hely’s Limited Dublin. Set in Ten Point Plantin.”

The final page includes several acknowledgments for publication permission and the series colophon.