Modern Library (Appleton)

D. Appleton & Co. (London, UK)
Series dates: 1927-1937
Size: 4.5″ x 6.75″


In 1927 Appleton launched their Dollar Library series in the U.S. In 1928 they were advertising Appleton’s Modern Library in the UK. This series is odd for two reasons: first, Appleton’s Modern Library was simply the U.S. Dollar Library books with a different dust jacket and series name (but the name difference was only on the jackets, not in the books). Apparently, Appleton didn’t think that “dollar” in the series name made sense for a series sold in the U.K. Also odd is the use of the series name: the Modern Library was one of the best-known reprint series in the U.S. That Appleton would (or could) use the name is strange. The assumption is that since Modern Library books were not sold in the UK, that the name was free to be used by a different publisher. By the early 1930s, the U.S. Modern Library was sold in the UK in collaboration with Hamish Hamilton, and later, around  1934-1936, with Alan Lane. Neither venture succeeded.

In any case, for awhile in the early and mid-1930s, there were two Modern Library series sold in the U.K.

Jackets on Appleton’s Modern Library were similar to the second design used on their U.S. Dollar Library titles, a common design across the series using a wreath. This copy of K. Waliszewski’s A History of Russian Literature is dated 1927. The series name is on the front of the jacket (on the U.S. versions, a black band contains the Dollar Library name in place of the Modern Library name on the UK version). A series blurb is also included. The front jacket flap contains the price (3/6).


The back of the jacket includes a catalog of titles available in the Appleton Modern Library series. These overlap with the titles in the U.S. series. London is the location of the publisher’s imprint.


When we get to the book itself, it is simply a copy of the U.S. Dollar Library edition, printed in the U.S. Thus the books were shipped to the U.K. and jacketed and sold under the Modern Library name.


The Dollar Library name is (confusingly) used throughout the book itself, on the half-title page, for example:


In the list of titles on the page facing the title page:


The copyright page includes information that the book was printed in the U.S.


Appleton rebranded their Dollar Library as the Modern Library in the UK probably because a U.S. measure of currency was used in the series name. It would have been the same problem if a UK publisher wanted to sell its “Shilling Library” in the U.S. Alas, the potential for confusion with the U.S. Modern Library and having one series with two different names may have been arguments against the name change. In any case, a curious series.