Guide to the Little Blue Books

EPH 5017


Collection Summary

Title: Little Blue Books
Dates: 1919-1978
Collection No.: EPH 5017
Creator: Haldeman-Julius, Emanuel, 1889-1951
Extent: 451 books; 6 boxes; 9 linear feet
Language: Collection material in English
Repository: University of Notre Dame. Hesburgh Libraries, Department of Special Collections. 102 Hesburgh Library, Notre Dame, IN 46556
Abstract: The collection includes 451 titles from the Little Blue Book and related series. Among the titles are ten duplicates.

Selected Search Terms

Little blue books
Publishers and publishing--United States--History--20th century
Books and reading--United States--History--20th century
Intellectual life--History--20th century
Socialism and literature--United States--History--20th century

Administrative Information

Restrictions: There are no access restrictions on this collection.

Preferred Citation: The items in this collection are separately published books and can be cited as any book publication.

Acquisition and Processing Note: The circumstances surrounding the acquisition of this collection by the Hesburgh Libraries are not known. Arranged and described by Kenneth Kinslow. Finding aid 2014, by Sheila Smyth.

Biographical Note

Emanuel Haldeman-Julius (1889-1951) was an American publisher and editor, who in 1919 purchased the socialist newspaper, Appeal to Reason, which was published in Girard, Kansas. In response to a request for inexpensive texts for the working man, he used the press to issue several series of inexpensive paperbacks, each of which measured 3 1/2 by 5 inches. The "Little Blue Books" comprised the most popular and best known of the Haldeman-Julius pocket series. The little blue books featured such authors as: Shakespeare, Dante, Tolstoy, Dickens, Goethe, Plato, Pascal, and many others. Besides this pantheon of great authors, the series also offered more politically charged works presenting the debate between communism and capitalism or underscoring the positive aspects of the Soviet constitution. Other series numbers helped educate the public on controversial subjects from birth control to civil rights. Gradually the series included titles on sex education as well as self-improvement titles: how to teach yourself arithmetic, or spelling, or how to form good habits. Despite the Great Depression and later the problems presented by the Cold War atmosphere, Haldeman-Julius's publishing venture thrived, putting an estimated 300 million copies of inexpensive "little blue books" into the hands of working-class and middle-class Americans. Indeed the St. Louis Post-Dispatch called Haldeman-Julius the "Henry Ford of Literature."

Scope and Content Note

The collection consists primarily of "little blue books"; however, it includes examples of the "People's Pocket Series," the "Appeal Pocket Series," the "Ten Cent Pocket Series," etc. In many cases, the series are virtually interchangeable; see, for example, folder 45 where we have two editions of Shakespeare's sonnets; though they are from different series, they are alike with regard to size, pagination, and even series number with the only difference being the series title indicated on the cover. There are no indications in the individual booklets as to exact publication dates.

Arrangement Note

Materials are arranged with one book per folder.

Container List