Columbia Library columns (v.35(1985Nov-1986May))

(New York :  Friends of the Columbia Libraries.  )



Jump to page:

Table of Contents

  v.35,no.1(1985:Nov): Page 15  

The Crcwn Octavos
and Their Authors


HOUSE of Books Ltd. was founded in 1930 out of neces¬
sity by Captain Louis Henry Cohn and his wife Mar¬
guerite (always called Margie with a hard 'g'). They
had been married only a short while and had planned on living a
life of ease in Paris where they had both spent a considerable
amount of time, but the stock market crash changed all this, and
they had to find a way of earning a living. They decided that, to
use Margie's words, "Louis's avocation for collecting books should
become his vocation," so they became booksellers, specializing in
first editions of contemporary writers because they couldn't afford
to stock the older writers such as Dickens and Kipling whose work
was commanding high prices.

Most of the modern authors prized by collectors during the
1920s had had some, at least, of their books published in limited,
signed editions, and the Captain felt that issuing a series of limited
editions of his own would not only prove profitable but would
also attract attention to the newly established firm. He envisaged
a series of books by well-known writers issued in small editions,
each signed and each printed by a fine press. The books would
measure approximately yVi x 5 inches, and the series would be
called the Crown Octavos, the British term for books of this size.

As the Captain already had the manuscript for L.A.G. Strong's
essay A Defense of Ignorance in bis collection, this seemed like a
good place to start. Strong, an author much collected at the time
but one whose name is not often encountered today, agreed to let
House of Books publish it, and it came out in 1932 in an edition of
200 numbered copies, each signed by Strong, and priced at $2.00,
the first of the Crown Octavos.

  v.35,no.1(1985:Nov): Page 15