Murray’s Library

John Murray, Ltd. (London, UK)
Series dates: 1912-1931
Size: 7″ x 5″

John Murray, Ltd. is among the earliest innovators in publisher’s series, beginning at least as early as the 1840s. By the turn of the century, the firm issued numerous series, typically organized by content (fiction vs non-fiction) and price point. The initial year of the Murray’s Library series shown here is a bit difficult to pin down, given the general term “Murray’s Library” was used as shorthand for series with longer names (such as Murray’s Colonial and Home Library) or in reference to an agglomeration of different Murray series: they were, all together, “Murray’s Library.” Someone braver than I must take the time to sort out all the various Murray’s series and appropriate dates and titles.

That said, the origins of this particular form of the series, with the plain old name Murray’s Library, seems to be around 1912. The series had diverse content, both literary and non-fiction, at a price point (initially, it seems, 2s/6d) a bit higher than other Murray series. One way to look at these series is by price point, a title being issued, over time, dropping down into cheaper and cheaper series as interest in the title diminished. The end of the line might be something like Murray’s Shilling Library.

This copy of W.H. Fitchett’s Deeds that Won the War was published in 1928, near the end of the series run. Jackets for the series are on cream paper, and common to titles in the series. The jacket spine includes the price, here raised, with the help of a small sticker, from 2s/6d to 3/-. The jacket front includes, along with the title and author, a blurb singing the praises of the title. The price is also included on the jacket front, here also updated with a sticker. The front jacket flap advertises a selection of titles from Murray’s 2/- Novels, organized by author.

The listing of Murray’s 2/- Novels continues on the rear jacket flap. Titles in Murray’s Library are listed on the rear of the jacket. This is the only place the Murray’s Library name is on the jacket.

The books are bound in green cloth, the decorations largely following the design of those printed on the dust jacket.

The half-title page:

A selected list of Murray’s Library titles faces the title page. This is the only place in the book the series name is indicated.

The copyright page includes the printing history of this particular title, first published by Smith, Elder & Co. in 1897. The first Murray “cheap edition” was printed in 1917. The first publication in Murray’s Library (“Reprinted (2s. 6d)”) at this smaller size, was February 1928. This copy is probably that 1928 edition.

“Printed in Great Britain by Hazel, Watson and Viney Ld. (sic?), London and Aylesbury.”

A catalog of sundry Murray titles organized by author fills the last eight pages of the book.