Masterpieces of French Romance

William Heinemann (London, UK)
Series dates: 1923-1924
Size: 5.5″ x 8″

aka/ A Century of French Romance (1901-1908) by Heinemann (UK) and Appleton (US).

aka/ Library of French Masterpieces (1902-1914) by Heinemann and the London Book Co. (both UK).

Revised 7/31/2023

“In 1901, William Heinemann, under the influence of Edmund Gosse, who had championed the cause of international publishing at the firm, launched a series which came to be called “Masterpieces of French Romance” and featured twelve famous French authors, each represented by a single volume containing one of their most famous works (Flaubert and Madame Bovary, etc.). Twelve works represent not only the best of French literature, but also the best of each individual author. There is no need to read any more Flaubert once you’ve read Madame Bovary, the masterpiece collection implies. You can “know” Flaubert, and, even more broadly, French literature, once you have read just one book.”

(Gwendolyn J. Blume, “The Reader-Brand: Tolstoy in England at the Turn of the Century.Texas Studies in Literature and Language, Fall 2011, Vol. 53, No. 3, pp. 320-337.)

A slight clarification is necessary. In 1901 the first title from the Heinemann series A Century of French Romance (edited by Gosse) was issued. Titles continued to be published in 1902 and 1903. Twelve volumes in all were published. The series is sometimes called Library of French Masterpieces, and titles are published by Heinemann as well as the London Book Co. Appleton issued the “Century” series in the U.S. In 1923 the twelve titles were reissued as Masterpieces of French Romance. There does not seem to have been a U.S. publisher of the 1920s version of the series. Eleven of the titles were published in 1923, and one, Hugo’s Notre Dame of Paris, was published in 1924.

The titles in both A Century of French Romance and Library of French Masterpieces and Masterpieces of French Romance:

MADAME BOVARY. Gustave Flaubert.
THE NABOB. Alphonse Daudet.
THE TWO YOUNG BRIDES. Honore de Balzac.
PIERRE ET JEAN. Guy De Maupassant.
MAUPRAT. George Sand.
THE BLACK TULIP. Alexandre Dumas, pere.
CARMEN: COLOMBA. Prosper Merimee.
THE LADY OF THE CAMELLIAS. Alexandre Dumas, fils.
RENEE MAUPERIN. Jules and Edmond de Goncourt.

The jacket (and book) below is Renee Mauperin by Jules and Edmond de Goncourt. While I have not seen another series title in a jacket, this seems to be a common jacket for the series. The series name is on the top of the spine, along with the title and author(s). “Three Shillings and Sixpence” is printed on the spine, with the publisher at the bottom. A sticker, in this case, indicates “Offered at 1/-.” Thus a marked down or remaindered copy.

The front of the jacket includes a frame and decorations around the series’ name, title, and authors. The front jacket flap is blank.

The rear of the jacket lists the 12 volumes:

Blank endpapers:

The half-title page includes the series name and title:

The series name (and editor, Gosse) are included on the title page, along with the title, authors, indication of the introduction (by James Fitzmaurice-Kelly) and publisher.

“All Rights Reserved.” “Printed in Great Britain by the Whitefriars Press, Ltd., London and Tonbridge.”

The last printed page in the book repeats the printer information found on the copyright page: