Modern Library Gift Sets

Modern Library created gift sets starting very early in the Cerf/Klopfer period. The first ones were in standard dust jackets and bindings but housed in special boxes. But later sets had special bindings and/or jackets that distinguished them from the ordinary.

1926 "Standard" Gift Sets

There were ten gift sets in 1926. Each had five titles, all in the standard typographical dust jackets and bindings of the period but in gift boxes. They were priced at $4.75 — a substantial amount of dough for the period! Boni & Liveright advertised the sets heavily with full page ads in Publisher's Weekly. (Click the advertisements below for enlarged views.)

No one has reported having an original box, but here are the titles in each set:

Masterpieces of French Romance

Books of Modern Thought

Dumas, Camille Ellis, New Spirit
Flaubert, Madame Bovary James, Philosophy of William James
France, Red Lily Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra
Gautier, Mlle de Maupin Schopenhauer, Studies in Pessimism
Maupassant, Une Vie Van Teslaar, Outline of Psychoanalysis

Great English Novels

Great Modern Poetry

Bronte, Wuthering Heights Blake, Poems
Butler, Way of All Flesh Dowson, Poems and Prose
Hardy, Return of the Native Swinburne, Poems
Hudson, Green Mansions Whitman, Poems
Meredith, Diana of the Crossways Wilde, Poems

Modern Drama

Five Great Juveniles

Ibsen, A Doll's House, etc. Carroll, Alice in Wonderland, etc.
O'Neill, Moon of the Caribbees Stevenson, Treasure Island
Schnitzler, Anatol, etc. Van Loon, Ancient Man
Tolstoy, Redemption & Two Other Plays Wilde, Fairy Tales and Poems in Prose
Wilde, Salomé, etc. Yeats, Irish Fairy & Folk Tales

Short Stories

Belle Lettres

Balzac, Short Stories Art of Aubrey Beardsley
Best Ghost Stories Lewisohn, Modern Book of Criticism
Best Russian Short Stories Moore, Confessions of a Young Man
Kipling, Soldiers Three Pater, The Renaissance
Maupassant, Love & Other Stories Pepys, Diary

Leading American Authors

Leading English Authors of Today

Anderson, Poor White Beerbohm, Zuleika Dobson
Cabell, Beyond Life Douglas, South Wind
Dreiser, Free and Other Stories George, Bed of Roses
James, Daisy Miller & Interna. Episode Lawrence, Sons & Lovers
Melville, Moby Dick Shaw, Unsocial Socialist

1928 Keratol Set

The 1928 gift set, called "Great Renaissance Romances," was bound in keratol, a material also used to cover musical instrument cases. Each volume had a geometric pattern to it and was bound in a different color. The dust jackets that covered the books were graced with the first pictorial designs of the series. Originally priced at $2.85, the set below sold for just over $500 on June 25, 2005:



In The Gift Box
Note the horizontal printing on the spines.


Even the backs of the dust jackets were custom. They fall between a Toledano type c and type d:

1929 Specially Jacketed Sets

There were three 1929 gift sets — Three Great Renaissance Romances, Three Great French Romances, and Three Great Modern Novels. They weren't bound in keratol, but had pretty impressive dust jackets of their own. The Renaissance Romances set is the one pictured above with the pictorial dust jackets, except in red, blue, and green. (Click here to see an example of the 1929 Leonardo book.) The other two sets follow.

        1929 Great Modern Novels Gift Set

A copy of this title alone (NOT the entire set) in this DJ sold for $474.99 on eBay on March 19 2006. Several of the highest bids—including the winning bid—came from extremely knowledgeable collectors.

      1929 Great French Romances Gift Set

Gift sets were available into the early 30's as evidenced by a notation on the reverse of this receipt laid in to a copy of Balzac ordered directly from Modern Library in May of 1932.

For a more detailed discussion of the gift book sets, see Barry Neavill's article in issue #41 of Alan Oestreich's Modern Library Collector fanzine, reviewed elsewhere on ModernLib.

Thanks to Amy Comeau for suggesting this article and, along with Sharon Biederman, Henry Toledano, and Ron Holl, for supplying scans. And a tip of the ModernLib hat goes to Barry Miller who told us about the 1929 "Great Renaissance Romances" set and to Ed Postal for sending in the 1929 Leonardo image.