Little Blue Books

A very popular and cheap collection of works published by the E. Haldeman-Julius Company, of Girard, Kansas in the 1920s, which included ten titles by J.C.P. and two by Llewelyn Powys, but published also Sherwood Anderson, Conan Doyle, Ben Hecht, Emerson or Balzac. They cost between 5 and 10 cents. The company had been started by one Julius A. Wayland who came to Girard, Kansas in 1887 and published a socialist paper, Appeal to Reason. It was then taken over by Louis Kopelin from the New York Call and in 1913, Emanuel Julius joined him. In 1916 Julius added his wife's name, Haldeman, to his own. By 1919 was started the series of Pocket Classics, of which The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam andThe Ballad of Reading Gaol were the first issues. By May 1919 there were 13 titles, and 239 by the end of 1921. After having different names, the series took the name of 'Little Blue Books' in November 1923.

The series reached the 700s in 1924, and 1,260 by the end of 1927. (The ten John Cowper Powys titles are respectively Nos 112, 414, 435, 448, 449, 449, 450, 451, 453 and 1264. The 2 Llewelyn Powys ones are Nos 524 and 702.)

Phyllis Playter worked for them from November 1922 to March 1923. Her job consisted in editing and proof-reading (curiously enough, one of her first tasks was to proof-read some of John's work), and she also wrote articles and, as Anthony Head points out, one book No. 838a, Dialogue of the Dead translated from Bernard le Bouvier de Fontenelle, the great 18th century French philosopher and scientist.

For more information, see The First Hundred Million (1928) and My Second 25 Years (1949), both books by Haldeman-Julius. One can also read 'The Haldeman-Julius "Little Blue Books" as a Bibliographical Problem', by R. Colles Johnson and G. Thomas Tanselle in The Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, 64, 1st Quarter 1970. I am much indebted to Stephen Powys Marks who wrote excellent articles on this problem in The Powys Newsletter23 & 24.

Collectors may be interested in this website.