From the FAQ:

How many collectible books
are in the Modern Library?

That, of course, depends on what you call "collectible" and how you count. The Modern Library is rich in variations, not just in major topic areas (novels, short stories, plays, philosophy, history, and so on) but in physical characteristics of books and dust jackets as well. So it comes down to how you define your collecting area.

Some folks are completists; they want a copy of every title. Some folks restrict themselves to just the buckrams. Others want nothing but books with the pictorial dust jackets from 1928 through 1939, while others must have every dust jacket variation for a given set of titles. (For some suggestions on ways to collect, see the Collecting Areas section of the article "Collecting the Modern Library.")

Here are some approximate numbers for you. Up though 1970 the series consisted of:

  • about 750 unique titles
  • about 1000 titles including variations in translation, introduction, and content
  • 24 illustrateds, some in glassine dust jackets, others in a slipcase, some in both
  • 66 numbered paperbacks from the 1950's
  • 138 college editions (115 + 23 updated editions)
  • 72 giant buckrams plus 376 regular buckrams, all from the late 1950's through late 1960's plus an unknown number of buckrams from the 1920's
  • eight major styles of dust jacket for giants and 15 for regulars, plus a huge number of variations depending on whether you're looking at the front, the spine, the back, or the inverse. (Some titles such as Whitman's Leaves of Grass came in at least eight different dust jackets over the years.)

Additionally, between 1917 and 1970 there have been 7 giant and 14 regular binding types (exclusive of buckrams), a unique keritol type for a three-title gift set, an illustrated type, plus at least two transitional binding types.

Consider the variations you could collect for just one long-running title in the series - for example Neietzsche's Thus Spake Zarathrustra which ran from 1917 through 1970. There may be 14 bindings plus at least six dust jackets for this title alone.

The mind reels.

Contributors to this FAQ answer include:

Henry Toledano Scot Kamins

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