Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Zodiac Books: A Budget Collector's Dream

As if the Penguin Poets weren't tempting enough, in these straitened times, if you are in need of something to collect that will satisfy the craving and yet not break the bank, you should definitely check out Zodiac Books. Between about the late 1930s and the 1950s, Chatto & Windus issued this series of small hardcover books - similar in size and format to Ladybird Books, always with jackets and with the same wonderful pattern printed on the jacket as on the boards beneath. They were literary 'snippets' from Shakespeare and Donne to Cobbet and Keats. The best thing about them is that nobody seems to have created a 'craze' for them and you can routinely pick them up both online and in real bookshops for £1 or £2, even with jackets. The two above I bought today and they cost me £3.50 for the two. Wonderful stuff!

The two scans below I nicked from Camilla Ellis's blog, but there appear to be a good number of these titles, sometimes with the same pattern printed in a different colourway. No indication that I can find of design credits but they really are very cool books and would make a great collection when completed.


strangeflowers said...

I wonder if Zodiac was inspired by the German publisher Insel-B├╝cherei, which turns 100 this year. The look and format is very similar, as is the content (extracts from the canon). You always find Insel books at flea markets in Berlin, usually for similarly low prices - EUR 3 seems standard for non-rare editions. Some examples here:

Callum said...


good to see you here... Yes, you're quite right of course, I should have mentioned the Insel Bucherei titles which, to be frank, have much better covers even than the Zodiac Books. However, I feel slightly inhibited in collecting them as my German never progressed past "ich habe meine hose an/auf" (probably best not to ask!) Anyway, you are quite right, for those who have a little German and like the idea of serial collecting cool patterned paper covered books: Insel Bucherei are definitely the leading contender. I think there's even a collecting website somewhere...

Stephen Marks said...

from Stephen Marks, Bath
Horne, Dictionary of 20th Century British Book Illustrators, gives Enid Marx as designer of 15 covers for Zodiac Books (also 5 for King Penguins). She is credited in Love Poems of John Donne, but the other seven volumes I have make no mention of her.S

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