Among the many books I have collected over the last 50 years, few are so modest and unbecoming – not to say inexpensive – as those in the Everyman’s Library. I mean the original Everyman, not the new one run through Random House and Alfred A Knopf. I was inspired to write this post (the first for many months, in fact as I look back only the third this year) when I pulled The Life of and Works of Goethe from my shelves on Christmas Eve, quite at random. It could as well have been The Heroic Deeds of Gargantua & Pantagruel (two volumes, 1929, with the price £1 in pencil on the endpaper) or A Literary & Historical Atlas of Asia (undated) or one of the many others I have.
Turning to the back cover, I was reminded that these volumes were printed by the Temple Press, Letchworth. This English town was one of the first Garden Cities, established in the first years of the 20th century, and home of many printers and publishers.
Joseph Dent set up the Temple Press there in August 1906, combining printing and book binding, only months after the first 50 volumes had been produced to great acclaim.
You can still pick up Everyman’s in most second-hand bookshops. If you haven’t a few already on your shelves perhaps make 2020 the year you start. You won’t regret it.
Indebted to Letchworth: A town built on a book sourced through Google Books.