Book League of America (New York, US)
Series dates: 1928-1932
Size: 5.5″ x 7.75″
Literary Guild (New York, US)
Series dates: 1932-1936
Doubleday (New York, US)
Series dates: 1936-1945
The Book League of America was a subscription-based book club established in 1928 by Samuel Craig, former owner of the Literary Guild. For $18 a year, subscribers received the Book League’s literary magazine and a hardcover, reprint book. This early book club contained reprint books that were very much like other reprint series of the mid-20th century, with a common format, jacket, and binding along with a series number.
Struggling due to the Great Depression, the Book League was sold to the Literary Guild in 1932. In 1936 Doubleday purchased the Literary Guild along with The Book League and Dollar Book Club.
Book League reprint titles were published in large numbers from 1928 to 1932, then slowed to fewer than 10 a year between 1933 and 1935. After Doubleday purchased the series, a significant number of titles were published until 1943, after which few titles were issued. A few books with the Book League of America imprint show up in WorldCat and other sources through 2009.
This copy of James Barnes’ Yankee Ships and Yankee Sailors is dated 1929. The earliest Book League titles (1928-1929) featured jackets common to the series, with a series logo on the jacket front, a series number on the jacket spine, in addition to the author and title of the book. The front jacket flap listed titles in the series, broken into categories (fiction, biography, etc.)
The “120 Standard Books” in the series continue to be listed on the rear of the jacket and back flap. 123 are actually listed.
Book bindings are some kind of plasticized material and seem to be unique to each title.
The half title page includes the book’s subtitle.
An illustration faces the title page. The date of publication is included under the publisher’s imprint.
The original copyright by Macmillan Co. is indicated on the copyright page, along with a detailed printing history. This is the second printing of the book in the Book League of America.
The above (earliest) jacket and book design for the Book League of American titles is phased out around 1930 when books and jackets are replaced with an abstract, art deco inspired series of designs used until 1936 when Doubleday purchased the imprint. This copy of Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Master of Ballantrae from 1931 includes the new series colophon (stylized BLA) and the geometric and typographic design used until 1936 when titles get unique jackets mostly derived, it seems, from the jacket designs on the original printings of the books.
The rear of the jacket describes the book. The rear jacket flap lays out details of the Book League of America book club, including its board of editors. A form is included at the bottom of the rear jacket flap. A yearly subscription includes two books per month and is $20 (payable in one sum, or on a monthly plan).
The book, dark blue cloth with red-orange typography and decorations, follows the art deco design of the jackets.
The geometric endpaper design, with the stylized BLA colophon.
The half-title page:
A statement about this edition of the book faces the title page. The date, 1931, is included under the publisher imprint.
“Manufactured by the H. Wolff Estate in the United States of America.”