About Blumenthal Bindings

- Barry Neavill

(From the thread Early Blumenthal Bindings, July 6 2001 discussion on the ML Mailing List)

The Blumenthal binding was introduced in fall 1939. Individually designed title pages weren't introduced until spring 1940. First printings of the four fall 1939 titles (Six Plays of Clifford Odets, Steinbeck's In Dubious Battle, Fielding's Joseph Andrews, and Fineman's Hear, Ye Sons) have title pages within double rules. The plates for the Kent endpapers were designed for the smaller balloon cloth format. A few titles during the balloon cloth period were printed in a slightly larger format than usual in order to accommodate the original publisher's text plates; the Kent endpapers of these titles have a white border around the endpaper design. The endpaper design would have looked silly printed in the middle of a substantially larger page than it was designed for. So blank endpapers were used for all of the fall 1939 titles. (Blank endpapers were also used for two spring 1939 titles published in the larger format in balloon cloth bindings: Stone's Lust for Life and Dinesen's Seven Gothic Tales. It was the pleasing appearance of these volumes that caused the ML to go ahead and bring out all titles in the larger format.) Larger plates for the Kent endpapers were ready by the end of the year and spring 1940 titles were the first to fully implement the new design: Blumenthal binding, individually designed title pages (many designed by Blumenthal), and larger Kent endpapers. Three of the fall 1939 titles got new title pages (and Kent endpapers) in their second printings. Hear, Ye Sons was a total failure in the series and was never reprinted. The text plates of Joseph Andrews weren't reset but were positioned better on the pages in later printings.

The larger format was so well received that the ML decided to convert the entire series as expediciously as possible. They could have put existing titles into the new format as they were reprinted, but that would have taken a period of years. Instead, they offered to take back existing balloon cloth volumes from booksellers. These were eventually sold off at remainder prices at Macy's--accounting for some of the more spectacular ML prices ever seen. I think the entire series was available in the new format by the end of 1941 or so...