Unicorn Books

Sheed & Ward Ltd. (London, UK)
Series dates: 1938-1939
Size: 7″ x 4.75″

Sheed & Ward Ltd. was established in 1926 with a focus on Catholic books, publishing authors such as Hilaire Belloc, G.K. Chesterton, Christopher Hollis, C.C. Martindale, Ronald Knox, and Christopher Dawson. In 1933 a US branch was established in New York. The firm was buoyed by a significant interest in Catholic literature during the late 1920s and 1930s. Their refusal to sell Catholic bawbles (rosaries, crucifixes, medals, etc.) and an elite array of literary Catholic authors also helped the firms image among the Catholic literati. The firm’s London office was destroyed in a bombing raid on December 30, 1940, but they quickly recovered. The firm was sold in 1973. (source: “Sheed and Ward Limited.” British Literary Publishing Houses, 1881-1965. Ed. Jonathan Rose and Patricia Anderson. Vol. 112. Detroit, MI: Gale, 1991)

The Unicorn Books reprinted 12 Catholic-themed titles from Sheed & Ward’s back catalog in a cheap paperback (and hardcover) series issued in 1938-1939. The series was undoubtedly influenced by the popularity of paperback reprint series such as Penguin Books. The books were issued in both the UK and US. Publishers Weekly announced that the US Unicorn Books would be sold for .50 cents (paperback) and $1 (hardcover). The first six titles were available for $2.50 or $5.

This copy of Daniel Sargent’s Thomas More is #2 in the series, issued in 1938. Jackets are common to the series. The books and jackets all seem to have been printed in the same minty blue-green color. The series name is on the jacket spine and cover. The price (“one shilling”) is on the jacket front. The front jacket flap includes quotes from reviews of the book.

The back fo the jacket lists the 12 (and only) titles in the series. The rear jacket flap is blank.

The 12 titles in the series published in 1938-1939:

1. Karl Adam, The Spirit Of Catholicism (1938)
2. Daniel Sargent, Thomas More (1938)
3. Henri Gheon, The Secret Of The Cure D’Ars (1938)
4. Christopher Dawson, Progress and Religion (1938)
5. Rudolf Allers, The Psychology Of Character (1939, 1943)
6. Amintore Fanfani, Catholicism, Protestantism, and Capitalism (1939)
7. Hilaire Belloc, Survivals And New Arrivals (1939)
8. G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (1939)
9. Ronald Knox, The Belief Of Catholics (1939)
10. Jaques Maritain, The Things That Are Not Caesar’s (1939)
11. G.K. Chesterton, The Thing (1939)
12. William Thomas Walsh, Isabella the Crusader (1939)

The paper covers repeat the jacket design, minus the indication of price on the front.

The half-title page:

The title page, including the year of publication (1938).

“First published in Unicorn Books September 1938.”

“Made and Printed in Great Britain by Purnell & Sons Ltd., Paulton (Somerset) and London.”