September 2010 | L. D. Mitchell

??? Chapbooks

From 1953 to 1983, Beta Phi Mu, an international "honor society" for librarians founded in 1948, published a series of chapbooks that were intended to provide exemplary examples of graphic artistry, typography, and book binding. Although many of the titles in this series were published in an edition of several thousand copies, it can be surprisingly difficult to put together a complete 15-volume set in Fine condition.  (The plain glassine wrapper in which most of these titles were issued is usually either missing or pretty beat up.)

Among some of the better known titles in the series are the 7th title, Richard Harwell's The Confederate Hundred (1964, reprinted in 1982), an annotated examination of some of the most important Confederate imprints (Harwell's work was printed by the famed Anthoensen Press); the 13th title in the series, The History of A Hoax (1979), in which author Wayne Wiegand put to rest false speculations about the source of a supposedly medieval bibliophilic curse; and the 14th title in the series, David Kaser's A Book for Sixpence (1980), a history of circulating libraries in 18th and 19th century America.

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A number of these titles won awards.  The 3rd book in the series, Desert Daisy (1957), a facsimile of an H. G. Wells story written when the author was a young boy, was acclaimed one of AIGA's Fifty Best Books in its year of publication, an honor later shared by the 9th book in the series, Jack Herring's Browning's Old Schoolfellows (1972, an examination of the influence of the poet's father on the poet's work).  Several other titles won lesser awards.

Folks interested in banned books (Banned Books Week begins in just a few days) probably would be interested in the 15th title in the series, Arthur Young's Books for Sammies (1981), the definitive study of ALA activities during World War I, which includes (among its two appendices) a list of books & pamphlets banned by the War Department during that conflict.

A complete list of the titles in this series can be found in A Service Profession, a Service Commitment: a Festschrift in Honor of Charles D. Patterson (1992).  See pages 129-132....