Riverside Popular Biographies

Houghton Mifflin Co. (Boston, US)
Series dates: 1914-1925
Size: 5″ x 7″

Houghton Mifflin’s Riverside Popular Biographies appear to have been first issued in late 1914 and the series does not seem to include any new titles beyond the first 12 published in 1914 and 1915.  Titles continue to be sold until at least the mid-1920s. The books were originally issued in a series of groupings based on price. An advertisement from the Publisher’s Weekly (November 21, 1914) indicates two groups (A and B) with no explanation as to the difference (except for price: Group A titles are $3 and $1.50, Group B .75 cents):

Publisher’s Weekly, November 21, 1914

A week later, a more expansive advertisement for the series appears in The New Republic (November 28, 1914). The series describes the three groups in the series as such:

Group A: Octavo volumes, reprinting recent works, ($1.50 – $5 per volume in the series).
Group B: Smaller (16mo, 18mo) books, standard biographies (older books) previously sold from $1.25 to $2 (.75 cents in the series)
Group C: Smaller (16mo, 18mo) books, standard biographies (older books) previously sold up to $1 each.

Thus the groupings are a means of distinguishing three categories of prices, from newer, and thus more expensive reprints, to older, less expensive reprints. I can’t find that any of the titles in Group C were ever published. Indeed, the titles listed in the 1914 advertisement seem to be all the titles published in the series:

The Life and Times of Cavour, by William Roscoe Thayer (2 vols., $3, 1914)
The Life and Letters of Martin Luther, by Preserved Smith (1 vol, $1.50, 1914)
William Cullen Bryant, by John Bigelow (.75 cents, 1914)
Ralph Waldo Emerson, by Oliver Wendell Holmes (.75 cents, 1914)
Washington Irving, by Charles Dudley Warner (.75 cents, 1914)
Nathaniel Hawthorne, by George E. Woodberry (.75 cents, 1914)
James Russell Lowell, by Ferris Greenslet (.75 cents, 1914)
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, by Thomas Wentworth Higginson (.75 cents, 1914)
Edgar Alan Poe, by George E. Woodberry (.75 cents, 1914)
Henry D. Thoreau, by Frank B. Sanborn (.75 cents, 1914)
Walt Whitman, by Bliss Perry (.75 cents, 1914)
John Greenleaf Whittier, by George R. Carpenter (.75 cents, 1914)

The New Republic, November 28, 1914

This copy of John Bigelow’s biography William Cullen Bryant contains its original year of publication (1890) but is most likely from around 1918 when the price of the cheaper volumes increased from .75 cents to $1 (as indicated in prices listed in periodicals in Google Books). Jacket fronts are printed with an elaborate design surrounding an illustration of the subject of the biography and the title and author. A generic blurb for the series follows. Thus the jackets are unique to each title but do have common graphic and textual elements. The spine includes the series name and $1.00 net price. The front and rear jacket flaps are blank.

The back of the jacket includes advertising for the American Statesmen series.

Designs printed on the book spine and front mimic much of the design from the jacket including the series name on the spine and front of the book.

The half-title page includes the series name and subject of the biography.

The title page includes the series name, author and title, and publisher imprint.

The copyright page includes the 1890 original printing year for the biography.