is a series of reprinted classic
literature currently published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
(a division of Random House
) in the United States
, and Weidenfeld and Nicolson
in the United Kingdom
. The series began publishing in 1906. It was conceived in 1905 by London
publisher J. M. Dent
, whose goal was to create a 1,000 volume library of world literature that was affordable for, and that appealed to, every kind of person, from students to the working classes to the cultural elite. Everyman's Library books were pocket-sized hardcovers
that sold initially for what was then the remarkably low price of a shilling
apiece. The original U.S.
distribution rights were granted to New York City
publishers, E. P. Dutton
The first title published was Boswell's Life of Johnson
, published with a quotation on the title page from the works of John Milton
: "A good book is the precious life-blood of a master-spirit, embalmed and treasured upon purpose to a life beyond life." In 1910, 500 books had been published under the Everyman trademark, and in 1956 the thousandth volume (Dent's original goal) was published, with Aristotle
selected for the honour. By 1975, Dent's vision had been well surpassed, as Everyman's Library consisted of 994 titles published in 1,239 volumes. After ceasing the publication of new titles in the 1970s, Everyman's Library was relaunched internationally by Knopf in 1991, a move which was praised by many notable authors. The current membership of the Honorary Editorial Committee includes Harold Bloom
, Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
, Seamus Heaney
, Toni Morrison
, Cynthia Ozick
, Simon Schama
, and John Updike
The name of the publication series was suggested by poet and editor Ernest Rhys, who was named head editor of the series initially, and asked to find a suitable name to encompass Dent's goal. Rhys tried and discarded many ideas before recalling a quotation from the medieval play Everyman in which the character of Knowledge says to Everyman:
- Everyman, I will go with thee
- and be thy guide,
- In thy most need to go
- by thy side.
This quotation appears on the title page of all Everyman's Library volumes.
In addition to the fiction series of Everyman's, a multi-volume encyclopedia was added to the range in 1913. Individual volumes could be purchased separately, enabling the set to be budgeted over time. The fifth edition was published in 1967, by which time it consisted of twelve volumes, containing 7763 pages.
The page size was 9 inches by 5 inches, but as the printing was 8 point, so a large amount of information was contained in each volume. As a volume only weighed about 1¼ kg (2¾ lb) it was considered a better size for use by children.