Mermaid Books

Michael Joseph (London, UK)
Series dates: 1952-1956
Size: 5.25″ x 7.5″

Revised 6/4/2023

Michael Joseph worked in Hutchinson’s advertising department in the 1920s and wrote two books on the business of writing that were best sellers in the 1920s: Short Story Writing for Profit (1923) and Journalism for Profit (1924). In 1924 he began work for the Curtis Brown literary agency and soon after published another best-seller, The Commercial Side of Literature (1925). Michael Joseph Ltd. was established in 1935 with Norman Collins and Victor Gollancz as investors. Joseph began with rooms at Gollancz company offices. Gollancz was bought out in 1938.

Michael Joseph himself was instrumental in guiding new authors, including Daphne du Maurier and Monica Dickens, and in publishing, successfully, established authors whose work had not sold particularly well with their original publishers, including C.S. Forester, Joyce Cary, and H.E. Bates. In 1954 Joseph sold the majority of his shares in Michael Joseph Ltd. to Sir John Ellerman. Even in semi-retirement, indulging in horse racing, Joseph continued cultivating authors, including mystery writer Dick Francis.

The Mermaid Books reprinted titles of the firm’s authors and other authors that fit in the category of slightly popular literary fiction that dominated the firm’s lists. The books were bound in laminated boards, somewhere between a hardcover and softcover, more akin to our modern “quality paperback.” For Michael Joseph authors, a “cheap edition” in hardcovers would be issued after the initial printing or two of a new book. Some of these hardcovers carried the Mermaid Books imprint, but not all. The Mermaid Books, bound in laminated covers, were the end of the line for a book: the last and cheapest editions issued. (Source: “Michael Joseph Limited.” British Literary Publishing Houses, 1881-1965. Ed. Jonathan Rose and Patricia Anderson. Vol. 112. Detroit, MI: Gale, 1991. 175-177. Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 112. Dictionary of Literary Biography Complete Online. Web. 5 Dec. 2018.)

The Mermaid Books did not have dust jackets per se, although what was, in essence, a printed paper jacket was pasted to the binding boards and laminated. Thus the Mermaid Books was a version of the quality paperback titles issued in increasing numbers beginning in the late 1930s.

The cover designs for the series follow a common pattern, with varied illustrations and colors. The dark binding with a frilly line pattern is common to all the titles. The series name is included on the top of the front cover. In most cases, an oval is filled with an illustration from the book. A few titles have slightly more adventurous covers, where the illustration breaks the bounds of the oval. This copy of H.E. Bates Colonel Julian and Other Stories was issued in the series in 1952.

The half-title page includes a quote from a review of the book:

A prospectus for the series, facing the title page, lays out the argument for a series of books situated between the initial hardcover titles and paperbound reprints. The first six titles are then listed; both fiction and non-fiction. Both pages are headed by the series name in a series colophon that also graces the front cover of the book.

A list of titles published in the Mermaid Books series follows. A few confusions may lead to errors: some hardcover books were issued with the Mermaid Books imprint; I’ve tried to limit this list to books published in laminated, card-bound covers. I’ve included the year of subsequent printings if known. I started with the list of Mermaid Books found on the Publishing History site. This list is organized by year, rather than the author.

Reginald Arkell, Old Herbaceous
H.E. Bates, Colonel Julian
Vicki Baum, Danger From Deer
Joyce Cary, Mister Johnson
Dane Chandos, Abbie
Monica Dickens, One Pair of Hands
Monica Dickens, One Pair of Feet (1954, 1957)
C. S. Forester, The African Queen (1956, 1965)
C.S. Forester, Mr. Midshipman Hornblower
C.S. Forester, The Ship (1953)
Agnes Keith, Land Below The Wind
Anne Scott-James, In The Mink

Bergen Evans, The Natural History Of Nonsense
C.S. Forester, The General
Paul Gallico, The Lonely (1959)
Eric Hodgins, Mr. Blandings Builds his Dream House
Rachel Knappett, A Pullet On The Midden
Norah Lofts, The Brittle Glass
Vita Sackville-West, The Eagle and The Dove

H.E. Bates, The Purple Plain (1956)
Vicki Baum, Headless Angel
Monica Dickens, The Happy Prisoner
Monica Dickens, My Turn To Make The Tea
Monica Dickens, Thursday Afternoons
C. S. Forester, The Captain From Connecticut
C. S. Forester, The Earthly Paradise
C. S. Forester, Lieutenant Hornblower
Paul Gallico, Trial By Terror
Rumer Godden, The River
Sidney Harrison, Music For The Multitude

H.E. Bates, Love For Lydia
Monica Dickens, The Fancy
Monica Dickens, Mariana
C. S. Forester, A Ship Of The Line
C. S. Forester, The Commodore
C. S. Forester, Flying Colours
C. S. Forester, The Happy Return
C. S. Forester, Lord Hornblower
Rumer Godden, The Dolls’ House
Brigadier James Hargest, Farewell Campo 12
Sidney Harrison, Three Came Home
Vita Sackville-West, The Easter Party

H.E. Bates, The Nature Of Love: Three Short Novels
H.E. Bates, The Scarlet Sword
Vicki Baum, The Mustard Seed
Barnaby Conrad, Death Of A Matador
Monica Dickens, Flowers on the Grass
Monica Dickens, Joy and Josephine
C. S. Forester, Hornblower and The Atropos
Paul Gallico, The Foolish Immortals
Sidney Harrison, White Man Returns
Ira Levin, A Kiss Before Dying
Ted Schaap, Two In A Tub: Humour Without Words

George Lamming’s book Season Of Adventure has a 1960 date, and some sources list it with a Mermaid Books imprint, but as far as I can find, this book was not in the series proper.

The copyright page tracks the publication history of this particular title:

First published by
Michael Joseph LTD.
26 Bloomsbury Street
London, W.C.1
June 1951
Second Impression August 1951
Third Impression September 1951
First Published in Mermaid Books 1952

Made and printed in Great Britain by Purnell & Sons, Ltd.
Paulton (Somerset) and London, and set in
Times New Roman type, 10 point, leaded