Library of New Ideas

Elkin Mathews & Marrot, Ltd. (London, UK)
Series dates: 1930-1931
Size: 4.5″ x 7″

Antiquarian book dealer Elkin Mathews and John Lane formed The Bodley Head in 1887 as a firm to sell antiquarian books. Primarily at the urging of Lane, works of “stylish decadence” were published by the firm starting in 1894. Mathews left soon afterward and continued to publish as Elkin Mathews Ltd. He died in 1921. The firm became Elkin Mathews & Marrot, Ltd. in 1926, separating the antiquarian book dealer from the publisher. Elkin Mathews & Marrot, Ltd. was acquired by publisher Ivor Nicholson & Watson, Ltd. in 1933 and by Allen Unwin in 1945.

The Library of New Ideas was first issued in 1930 at 3s. 6d. net per volume. The volumes were newly written for the series, and thus not reprints. The series prospectus proclaims:

“This is an age of critical examination from which no form of human activity, spiritual or material, can escape. The Library of New Ideas consists of constructively critical books upon matters concerning which no active mind can afford to be ill-informed. The Authors will be men and women with a thorough knowledge of their subject and a new outlook upon it. The majority of books at this price are reprints of previously published work, and the publication of this series which consists of new and unpublished material, at a low price, is a policy which will meet with wide appreciation.”

The series was not particularly successful, with only five titles published in 1930 and 1931.

1. New Wars: New Weapons, by Lt.-Com. The Hon. J.M. Kenworthy, R.N., M.P.
2. Tendencies Of Modern Science by Professor A. M. Low.

3. The Air And The Plain Man, by Colonel The Master of Sempill
4. Money Versus Man, by Professor Frederick Soddy
5. The Mystery Of Life, by Professor J. Butler Burke

This copy of The Mystery of Life by J. Butler Burke was #5 in the series, published in 1931. It was the last title in the series. Jackets are common to the series, with a distinctive design that can be found on many of the firm’s dust jackets at the time. Bold colors, distinctive patterns and, in this case, rather striking contrast between the light blue and brick red ink. The reversed-out typography is actually a bit difficult to read but is eye-catching (due to the strong figure-ground separation of the colors). The title and author and price (here reduced, via a printed sticker, to 2s. from 3s. 6d.) are on the spine, and the title and author on the front of the jacket. There is no indication of the series name. The front jacket flap includes the series name, series number (#5, the last in the series, in this case) and a blurb about the book. The price (3s. 6d) is printed on the lower right corner of the front jacket flap.

The front jacket design continues on the rear of the jacket. The series is blurbed on the rear jacket flap, and the five titles listed. “Other volumes in preparation” – but none appeared.

Basic red cloth binding with black printed typography and the Mathews & Marrot colophon at the base of the book’s spine:

The front free endpaper (ffep) has been torn out (usually to remove a gift inscription when the book was disposed of). The half title page includes only the book title.

The distinguished Professor Burke faces the title page. The year of publication (1931, in Roman numerals) is below the Mathews & Marrot imprint.

The copyright page includes a prospectus for the series (quoted in full above) and list of the five titles in the series.

The printer is included on the last page in the book: “Made and Printed in England by Purnell and Sons, Paulton (Somerset) and London.”