The Silver Stallion

James Branch Cabell in the Modern Library


The Modern Library was founded in 1917 by Albert Boni and Horace Liveright, with the idea of making good literature available at affordable prices. It continues to this day, as an imprint of Random House. The company's website is Perhaps the best short history of the Modern Library is a short talk given by noted Modern Library historian Henry Toldano in 2002. It is available HERE, on the premier Modern Library collector's website, Collecting the Modern Library, operated by Scot Kamins and Ron Holl.

Three Cabell titles (Beyond Life, The Cream of the Jest, and Jurgen) were issued by the Modern Library. In addition, Cabell wrote an introduction for the Modern Library edition of Anatole France's The Queen Pedauque, and one of Cabell's short stories ("Porcelain Cups") was published in a Modern Library anthology.

For each of the longer works, The Silver Stallion has developed an index page for all of the variations of that title we've been able to locate, while the short story has its own page:

Beyond Life
The Cream of the Jest
The Queen Pedauque
"Porcelain Cups"

The index page for each title lists its specific (to the extent we know them!) Modern Library printings. Refer back to this page for more general information about Modern Library printings and practices.

Modern Library Printings

In general, collectors and scholars of the Modern Library don't often try to differentiate between the various ML printings, except to note the first printing, and then only in those cases where it is possible to determine. Instead, the various issues of ML titles are ordered by the chronological sequences of binding, title page, and endpaper styles (dust jackets are a special case, as discussed below). A site like The Silver Stallion, on the other hand, dedicated to a single author, must take the extra step and at least attempt to differentiate between the various printings where possible, although it must be admitted that we will likely never be able to be certain that ALL printings of a particular title have been described.

Determining the number and order of printings for titles in the Modern Library can be both difficult and contentious. Traditional Cabell bibliographers such as Matthew Bruccoli and James Hall have used binding types, plate damage, and other expected methods to make their determinations. Today, though, we have a more reliable resource in addition, at least for those titles published 1925-1970. This is a dating key developed by Dr. Barry Neavill of Wayne State University. It is available HERE, again on the Collecting the Modern Library site. We have used this key as a primary source in assigning dates and ordering printings for each post 1924 title we list.


Various James Branch Cabell titles were available in The Modern Library from 1923 to about 1941. All of these were released in the "regular" bindings. See this Quick Guide to Regular Binding Styles 1917-1991 for details of the most common styles of bindings. Cabell titles are known to have been issued in these bindings:

Style 2: Beyond Life, The Queen Pedauque
Style 3: Beyond Life, The Queen Pedauque
Style 4: Beyond Life, The Cream of the Jest, The Queen Pedauque
Style 4.5: Beyond Life
Style 51: Beyond Life, The Cream of the Jest
Style 52: Beyond Life, The Cream of the Jest, The Queen Pedauque
Style 7: Beyond Life, The Cream of the Jest, Jurgen, The Queen Pedauque
Style 8: Jurgen

We would be very surprised if there were not Cabell titles in bindings that we have not yet seen.

Regular bindings were generally issued in different colors of leatherette (up to early 1929) or cloth (1929 and later). We have shown the color variations we have encountered, but again this list is almost certainly not exhaustive.

The short story "Porcelain Cups" was published in 1953 by the Modern Library in an anthology titled An Anthology of Famous American Short Stories. This title was part of the Modern Library's "giants" series. Details of "giant" binding styles can be found in the Quick Guide to Giant Binding Styles 1931-1991. The 1953 anthology was first published in binding style G5, but later printings are known in other bindings.

Title Pages

nl titlesFor some Cabell titles, the format of the title page recto has been significant in determining different printings. Because these are not covered in detail on the Collecting the Modern Library site, we have used the title page types listed by George Andes in his A Descriptive Bibliography of the Modern Library: 1917 - 1970, pp. 6 & 8. Click on the thumbnail at left to see details of his title page styles.





Endpaper styles changed over time in the Modern Library. The Quick & Dirty Guide to Endpapers on Collecting the Moden Library lists all of the endpaper styles found on Cabell titles in the Modern Library. We list and ilustrate them for each entry, but endpaper styles have not so far proven to be significant in determining variations of Cabell titles.

Dust Jackets

All collectors of modern books are fixated on dust jackets, and Modern Library collectors present with an extreme case of the dust jacket obsession. The Quick & Dirty Guide to the Major Styles of Early DJ Fronts & Spines 1917 - 1939 lists most of the jacket types used on Cabell titles. There are in most cases variations of these major types, and we have noted these when we have encountered them. Jacket rear panel styles vary too, and these are also addressed on the Collecting the modern Library site, on the Quick Guide to Regular Dust Jacket Backs 1917-1986 page.

Just as with bindings, dust jackets in many styles were issued in various color combinations. We have shown these when we have seen them.

It's also well worth noting that the Modern Library had a process of refreshing dealer stock by issuing new jackets to replace existings ones on the shelves. This means that identical printings in identical bindings are sometimes found with jackets of very different ages. Dust jackets issued 1925 and later usually had Modern Library catalogs printed on the inside. These can be used to date the jacket using the Dating Key listed above for the different printings.

Note: Regardless of the seller's descriptions one occasionally sees on-line and in catalogs that claim "without jacket, as issued", ALL Modern Library printings of Cabell titles were issued with jackets.

Bibliographies of The Modern Library:

Toledano, Henry. The Modern Library Price Guide 1917-2000; 2nd Revised Edition. Printed by Thomson-Shore Inc., Dexter, Michigan, 1999. Written for the specialist Modern Library collector, this is the best readily available paper resource for information on the Modern Library.

Andes, George M.. A Descriptive Bibliography of the Modern Library: 1917-1970. Boston Book Annex, Boston, 1989. The best known "academic" bibliography of The Modern Library's publications, but in many ways outdated by more modern resources.

In addition to these book length works, Dr.  Gordon (Barry) Neavill, Professor of Library Science at Wayne State University, has published a number of articles on The Modern Library in scholarly journals. The Silver Stallion has been in contact with Dr. Neavill, and he has kindly agreed to provide us with photos and scans of his own copies of JBC's Modern Library œuvre, and possibly an article or two as well. So watch this space! We hope to have a real upgrade soon.

There are also at least two excellent ML websites: ModernLib - Collecting the Modern Library, webmaster Scot Kamins; and Modern Library Dust Jackets and Bindings 1917-1939, webmaster John Krygier.