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TalkModern Library Collectors

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Edited: Aug 14, 2008, 5:24pm

Wanted to start a topic so folks can brag a bit on your latest (hence most exciting) acquisitions.

Last week was a dandy! I snagged an Illustrated ML Don Quixote with the Salvador Dali illustrations. I've wanted one for a long time, as Quixote is one of my favorite novels, and the Dali illustrations just seem to fit. It was on the shelf at a local bookshop... $15. The glassine jacket has a fair sized hunk missing out of the back, but it was in otherwise great shape.

Apr 7, 2008, 4:25pm

I was in the Gold Rush country town of Jackson, CA, where I found a terrific bookstore with a whole ML shelf. I picked up Victory by Joseph Conrad (I already had one, but this one has what I think is the original dust jacket) and a lovely copy of Somerset Maugham's The Moon and Sixpence.

Apr 8, 2008, 4:20pm

You can always check for dust jackets, original and otherwise at

Good work on the finds!

May 24, 2008, 5:01pm

Yesterday I found a terrific copy of The Grapes of Wrath (ML 148) with cover in great shape at a thrift sale in Boonville, CA.

Jun 4, 2008, 9:16am

I've been reading some O Henry and Steinbeck lately. I need to read Grapes of Wrath again. I haven't read it since high school.

Aug 13, 2008, 8:24pm

Today I was at the Friends of the San Francisco Library Book Bay at Fort Mason (in San Francisco, obviously) and picked up a terrific copy of Great Spanish Stories (ML 129) for only $3.00. For anyone else in the Bay Area who might be interested, they had several other ML volumes in good shape for that same $3.00 price. I was on my way out when I saw them and already had an armful of other books, which was why I only bought the one ML volume. Thought I'd pass word along, though.

Edited: Aug 14, 2008, 4:53pm

Actually, last week I found a late 1930s copy of Memoirs of Casanova in a decent DJ for $3. It's one of the wonderful pictorial jackets. It too was at a library sale.

An image of one similar can be found in the middle here:

Aug 14, 2008, 2:14pm

That's cool, Ben. I researched the Great Spanish Stories volume on the modernlib site and found it was published originally in 1956, but the book is published in the binding style in use in 1967-68. That site is terrific, by the way.

Aug 14, 2008, 2:19pm

I sound The Life of Samuel Johnson at a library sale. It had an inscription inside : "to Cathy from Pollly, about our Sam" or something along those lines, written in the 1960's. As Cathy is my first name, it felt like a gift from a friend (sort of).

Aug 14, 2008, 2:28pm

I had been looking for a copy of Anatole France's Penguin Island for years - it is a satire that begins with a vision-impaired priest who baptizes an island of penguins, and that sounded too good to miss. I looked every time I visited the used book stores, and I even looked in the real book stores (unusual for me), with no luck. Finally I found a beautiful Modern Library version in a used book store earlier this month. No dust jacket, but it is lovely anyway. A Mr. John R Howard from Chicago owned it in 1946. I'm not loving the story so far, but the thrill of the chase was enjoyable!

Aug 14, 2008, 4:56pm

I love that! I would be happy to find something like that, especially as I'm a fan of Samuel Johnson too.

I was fortunate enough to find a copy of Penguin Island in the buckram edition and read it. The description suckered me in too. I didn't like it much at all. There was a decent story line toward the end, but it didn't do much for me overall.

If you've not visited, and you love the Modern Library series, drop everything and do it now. Don't expect to get much accomplished in the next hour or two, though.

Aug 27, 2008, 1:17pm

My wife and I went to Seattle (from SF) over the past weekend to hook up with some friends and just generally hang out. During a bookstore crawl I found a nice copy of Barchester Towers and the Warden by Trollope (ML 41).

Edited: Nov 6, 2008, 2:19pm

Yesterday I visited a new (for me) bookstore in Ukiah, CA, and found a nice ML copy of Man's Fate.

It has the most recent (1962: dust cover design, and is in pretty good shape.

Nov 28, 2008, 7:35pm

Today I was searching around in one of the many great used bookstores here in Saint Paul, MN, and I happened across a Fine/Fine first edition of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The cover of the dj is really great, and the book itself is in wonderful shape. In this same store I've found some terrific Modern Library titles, including a mis-bound version of Gide's The Counterfeiters (the first twelve pages are the Mod Lib version of Kafka's The Castle).

Nov 28, 2008, 8:53pm

This week I found a dated pirate edition (1969) of Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. All three volumes in VG/VG+

May 13, 2009, 8:26pm

In a Mendocino County antique shop yesterday I found a moderately good condition copy of Thus Spake Zarathustra which appears to be (front the book lists as per the dating keys) a Spring 1965 edition, but with a Fall 1964 cover.

I also found a very nice ML Giant Ulysses, which I haven't had a chance to date yet.

Aug 2, 2009, 8:02pm

I found a copy of Tono-Bungay and a copy of Moll Flanders, both with nice covers and both evidently Spring 1945 editions, at a used bookstore in Berkeley, CA, over the weekend.

Sep 8, 2009, 2:22pm

I found a nice copy of Six Plays of Clifford Odets (ML 67) at the Labor Day Ice Cream Social and Book Sale fundraiser for the Yorkville (CA) Volunteer Fire Department.

Apr 10, 2010, 12:48pm

Just picked up a very nice 1940 edition of Human Being by Christopher Morley.

Edited: May 11, 2010, 10:21pm

I just scored 4 - Man's Fate, Growth of the Soil, Diana of the Crossways and Introduction to Aristotle for $4.50 at a library book sale!

May 12, 2010, 9:49am

I once loaned (I know, I'm an idiot) a buckram Bros. Karamazov to a friend who needed it. I had a feeling I'd never see it again, and it made me a little sad, since I really like the buckram editions. Well, at a recent library sale, Lo and Behold! Another buckram ed. of Brothers Karamazov, in better condition (once rehabbed) than my original AND in a color I prefer! I was generous and book-karma rewarded me!

May 12, 2010, 12:31pm

#20 & 21> Nice! I've picked up a few nice editions since my last post on this thread. I'll have to run them down and include them here. I'll do so in the next couple of days.

May 28, 2010, 1:55am

Today I found a nice first edition (I think) of The Rhetoric and the Poetics of Aristotle (#246).

Jun 10, 2010, 4:08pm

Yesterday I picked up a copy of Faulkner's Light in August. According to the dating key at, the cover is from the Fall 1955 but the book itself is Spring 1958.

Jun 16, 2010, 10:11am

The date associated with the covers on ModernLib are for the book in that image, not general statement about when the design was in use.

Jun 16, 2010, 10:11am

It's something I've never liked, but haven't been able to convince more of the editors to change.

Jun 16, 2010, 12:45pm

#25> If you're referring to my post # 24, I'm dating the covers based on the ML catalog printed inside the cover, and using the "Includes/Does Not Include" chart on the dating key page of the website.

Jun 17, 2010, 10:41am

Ah, very good. It's a bit odd to have them in that order. Pretty common if it were the other way around as sales people were encouraged to freshen up jackets on books that sat for a bit on the shelf. You may have a married copy.

Jun 26, 2010, 9:51pm

I just grabbed (at an exorbitant $3 apiece), Studies in Murder and The Ordeal of Richard Feverel.

Jul 6, 2010, 9:16pm

Just got my first legit ML today. A copy of the Philosophy of David Hume for $3, Unfortunately I can't seem to find it via any of the

Jul 10, 2010, 3:27pm

I've stopped paying those huge prices (LOL).

I'm back to $2 or less, and grabbed The Making of Society Revised Edition, Swann's Way which is # 59, and Peter Ibbetson

Aug 3, 2010, 2:36pm

While in Cincinnati last weekend I picked up a nice copy of Caldwell's God's Little Acre which I dated from the book list as a Fall 1964 edition.

Oct 16, 2010, 11:53pm

My favorite ML copies are the "Illustrated" books. They only produced about 15 or 20 different ones but boy are they nice. Someone mentioned the Don Quixote with the Dali illustrations....and the now untouchable Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. They ALL have nice illustrations inside and come in a nice box cover. Happy hunting.

Oct 22, 2010, 7:22pm

Today I found a nice copy of The Castle, added to the ML roster in 1969, making it one of the final handful of additions in the series' original lifespan.

A couple of days ago I picked up a copy of Anna Christie, The Emperor Jones and The Hairy Ape by Eugene O'Neill (ML 146) which seems to be from 1959.

Nov 20, 2010, 1:22pm

Just found a nice copy of Descartes Philosophical Writings (ML 43) in a thrift store.

The dust jacket seems to be a Fall 1963 edition according to the dating key (the book list inside the jacket includes Ellison's Invisible Man but not Malaumd's Two Novels). But the book itself looks like it's from Fall 1961 (the list of ML Giants in the back of the book goes up only as far as G84, Thomas Mann's Stories of Three Decades).

Nov 23, 2010, 7:08am

My most recent find is Man's Fate by Andre Malraux. I had a worn library copy I'd been reading when a new friend gave me a nice copy with dust jacket (1962 version). I also found on Amazon The Modern Library Dictionary in "acceptable" condition sans dj. I picked up five others at the Multnoma County Friends of the Library sale a month or so ago. All nice additions to my library.

Nov 24, 2010, 9:05pm

Just found (in a $1.00 rack!) a copy of The Life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson (ML 234). The jacket would seem to be a Fall 1946 printing and the book Spring 1947, although there is an anomaly in the dust jacket:

It bears the number 316 on the inside DJ, and the ML list includes Pere Goriot but not Aristotle's Introduction, which according to the dating key makes it a Fall 1946 printing. But while the price on the back of the DJ says "each $1.10", there is a sticker over the price on the inside front flap that says, "As of April 15, 1947, the price of The Modern Library in U.S.A. is $1.25 a copy. Other markings void. The Modern Library, Inc."

The book's dating keys correspond to Spring 1947, so it seems they used the Fall 1946 DJs and just added that sticker on to them.

Dec 1, 2010, 12:54am

Found a nice copy of The Trial from Fall 1962.

Edited: Jan 9, 2011, 1:22pm

I just nabbed the Summer of 1942 edition of Great Modern Short Stories, selected by Bennett Cerf.

Touchstone is stuck; I know it's in there somewhere...

Jan 9, 2011, 1:41pm

#39> That's a great find!

Apr 26, 2011, 2:15pm

Just found Green Mansions by W.H. Hudson in really nice condition with an intact dust jacket. According to the modernlib cite it's the 1954 edition. Nice Art Nouveau-ish artwork. I found it at the local Goodwill for $1.50. I'll be checking back soon to see if any others turn up on the shelves.

I only have maybe a dozen of these old Modern Library books but I like the format and construction a lot. Occasionally I'll buy a book just because it's a Modern Library release, but usually I pass on the titles that don't interest me. I leave those for someone else to find and enjoy.

Nov 8, 2012, 8:12pm

Yea! I just found a nice copy of the Poems of John Donne (ML 12) in a local Goodwill. The book is a Spring 1957 edition although the dust jacket is Spring 1956 according to dating keys.

Nov 9, 2012, 5:25pm

Nice! It's been awhile since this group saw any action. I can't recall that I've added to my Modern Library stash since last time I posted here. I've run across a few ML books since then, but nothing that I just had to have.

Dec 15, 2012, 5:59pm

A cool pickup yesterday! In the bottom of a box of donated books for my bookstore (yes, people sometimes just give me books!) was a near mint condition first edition Selected Writings of Thomas De Quincey G-9 with excellent dust jacket! Normally, I have a rule that any book brought to the store stays in the store for sale. This was the second time I broke that rule. (The first time was for a signed book by Isaac Singer, not ML though.)

Apr 3, 2014, 9:57pm

Ok, I've dozens of these titles. They are bare hardcover; every shade of green, gray, rose, blue, etc.

But a recent trip to the Goodwill Outlet (a run-in-the-mill Goodwill Store is much too, too, RETAIl, for me) yielded The Greek Way and Absalom, Absalom! - with DUST JACKETS!

'Set me back a whole dollar.

I guess now I've joined the big leagues.

Jun 27, 2014, 8:36pm

A beat up but still nice 1950 copy of The Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Four bits.

Jun 27, 2014, 9:39pm

Someday, I may either get back to collecting modern library books, or let my partial collection go. I had plans at one point of making a semi-complete collection. It looks like I have 79 of them just now.

I think that for a person wishing to build a nice personal library with books that hold up over time and are inexpensive, that one could seek out just Modern Library and Heritage Press books.

I personally want to collect just the ML with dust jackets, as it really does make the book.

One of the advantage of ML books for me, compared to Heritage Press, Limited Editions Club, Easton Press, or Folio Society, is the size of the ML books. I spend a lot of time on the road and on the go, and it the ML books are much more convenient to take when travellng or camping or just outside of the house in general. They can actually fit into the large pockets of my cargo pants.

Jul 1, 2014, 9:13pm

...but when you get old, the small font is hard to read!

Jul 20, 2014, 4:08pm

I just saved an arm load from the Goodwill Outlet bins: The Bostonians, Green Mansions, The Divine Comedy, The Medici, The Age of Innocence, Plays of Moliere, The Turn of the Screw, et al

Dec 23, 2015, 11:23pm

I just got back from a Goodwill run — I needed to unload a box of useless2me kipple — and found two very nice (VG, tho without dust jackets) ML novels: the 1928 run of Kipling's KIM, and a perhaps slightly newer (probably never read) edition of Dickens's first novel.

The Kipling has not too tiny type, as well: should be easy to read.

My collection is still under 50 books, tho if you count the larger-sized Nietzsche and Adam Smith, et al., that I bought in the 1980s, I am over the half-a-hundred mark.

But I don't. The only Modern Library editions that seem worth collecting, to me, are the pocketbook sized hardcovers.

Dec 24, 2015, 3:41pm

Hey, nice to get this thread restarted. Last weekend I found a 1918 or 1919 ML edition of Mademoiselle Fifi and Twelve Other Stories by Guy de Maupassant. Sadly, as is most often the case with these old ML editions, no dust jacket.

Jan 8, 2016, 12:30pm

Great updates!

Feb 3, 2016, 6:16pm

Hey, last week at a library sale I found a copy of the ML Giant The Poems and Plays of Alfred Lord Tennyson with a dust jacket in excellent shape. Via the ML site dating key, it seems to be a Fall 1961 edition.

Jun 4, 2020, 2:56pm

My wife asked if I had a copy of Rebecca, and I thought "Of course!" and ... nope. I found a cheap ML copy online and pleased when it arrived in the dust jacket. Of course, the text block is coming loose from the back cover...