Odyssey Library

Jonathan Cape (London, UK)
Series dates: 1937-1956
Size: 8″ x 5.75″

The Times Literary Supplement announced Cape’s new Odyssey Library with a brief mention in its issue of Saturday, June 12, 1937 (issue 1845, p. 439). The first three titles in the series are mentioned. An advertisement for the series followed, on Saturday, June 26, 1937. The advertisement (below, left) listed the initial six titles in the series and offered a free descriptive list from the publisher.

A post-WW2 advertisement (TLS, September 28, 1951; below, right) announces a new addition to the Odyssey Library, Prejudice and Judgment, by Sir Percy Grigg. This would be the 35th title in the series and last new title issued in the series (one decade after the 34th title was added to the series). However, while I can find first edition printings of Grigg book from 1948 and reprints in 1956, I can find no edition of this title issued around the time of the advertisement below (1951). The book is a memoir by Grigg, who was private secretary to Baldwin, Chamberlain, and Churchill and British Secretary of State for War during WWII. This content seems at odds with the travel theme of the rest of the Odyssey Library reprints. It is possible that Cape put a new Odyssey Library jacket on leftover copies of the 1948 printing as a way of discreetly getting rid of a poorly-selling book. Or, possibly, the Grigg book was never issued in the series. A very minor mystery.

The Odyssey Library reached at least 34 titles, and possibly 35 (if the Grigg title was added to the series in 1951). I’ve found one reprint (the Hemingway title) published in 1956. That title is the only I’ve seen with a unique jacket.

Jackets are common to the series, varying in color (blue, orange, teal, magenta, green, purple) but maintaining the general design. The series name and series number are included on the jacket spine and front. A rope design encircles the text and graphics on the front of the jacket, and an ancient ship appears a half-dozen times on the spine and front of the jacket. The front jacket flap includes a quote from a review of the original edition of the title. The series number (yet again!) and price, here 7/6 on a sticker, are on the lower part of the front jacket flap.

The back of the jacket lists titles available in the series, here including the initial 12 titles. A price sticker once again covers the original price of the book.

A list of the 34 (or possibly 35) titles in the Odyssey Library with the initial year of publication (and reprints). #24. Ordeal by Hunger, by George R. Stewart, should have been published in 1940 but I can find only 1936 editions of this title on WorldCat and other sources. It’s possible the 1940 edition was reprinted with the 1936 date, or that this title was not actually published in the Odyssey Library series.

1. Desert And Forest, by L.M. Nesbitt (1937)
2. A Plant Hunter In Tibet, by F. Kingdon Ward (1937)
3. White Sails Crowding, by C.M. Butlin (1937)
4. More Profit Than Gold, by Joan Arbuthnot (1937)
5. Sneak-Thief On The Road, by Hippo Neville (1937)
6. The Cruise Of The ‘Teddy,’ by Erling Tambs (1937)
7. Deep Water and Shoal, by William A. Robinson (1937, 1939)
8. Tales Out of School, by Peter Lecky (1937)
9. I’d Live It Again, by Lt.-Col. E.J. O’Meara (1937)
10. North-West by North, by Dora Birtles (1937)
11. Been Places & Seen Things, by Kenneth Mackenzie (1937)
12. Desolate Marches, by L.M. Nesbitt (1937)
*13. Motor Tramp, by John Heygate (1938)
*14. Marine Gunner, by Patrick Mee (1938)
15. A Tramp-Royal in Wild Australia, by Archer Russell (1938)
*16. A Scottsman in Canada, by James H. Walker (1939)
*17. Ramblin’ Jack, by Captain John Cremer (1939)
*18. Living Rough, by Kenneth MacKenzie (1939)
19. Gold Fever, by L.M. Nesbitt (1939)
20. Voyage to Galapagos, by William Albert Robinson (1939)
*21. Smithy, by Alexander Smith (1939)
22. East Monsoon, by G.E.P. Collins (1940)
*23. Japanese Lady in Europe, by Haruko Ichikawa (1940)
*24. Ordeal by Hunger, by George R. Stewart (1940?)
*25. Lasseter’s Last Ride, by Ion L. Idreess (1940)
26. Gulla the Tramp: An Ethnological Indiscretion, by John Carlin (1940)
*27. Man Tracks, by Ion L. Idreess (1940)
*28. Steel Chariots in the Desert, by S.C. Rolls (1940)
29. Naval Odyssey, by Thomas Woodrooffe (1940)
30. Brazilian Adventure, by Peter Fleming (1940, 1941)
31. One’s Company, by Peter Fleming (1940, 1941, 1943, 1944)
32. News from Tartary, by Peter Fleming (1940, 1941)
33. Green Hills of Africa, by Ernest Hemingway (1940, 1956)
34. Stalky’s Adventures, by L.C. Dunsterville (1941)

Unknown series numbers:

Prejudice and Judgment, by Sir Percy Grigg (1951?). The advertisement above indicates this title was added to the Odyssey Library in or around 1951, but I can’t find editions beyond the 1948 1st edition and a reprint in 1956.

*Titles in series added to list thanks to information from Peter Sheridan at Books Bought & Sold (source)

Binding colors vary with minimal information imprinted (in silver) on the cover, including the title and author, the Cape colophon (at the base of the spine), and the boat from the jacket on the front cover.

The half-title page:

A somewhat odd arrangement, with additional titles by the same author on the verso of the half-title page, facing a blank page (probably due to the full-page illustration on the next page, facing the title page):

An illustration faces the title page. The title page includes the series name.

The copyright page includes the original year of publication for this title (1935), the reissue in the Odyssey Library (1937) and a second printing in the series the same year. “Printed in Great Britain by Butler & Tanner Ltd., Frome, and London. Paper made by John Dickinson & Co., Ltd., Bound by A.W. Bain & Co., Ltd.”