Little Leather Library

The Little Leather Library refers to originally leather-bound, miniature editions of classic books printed by the Little Leather Library Corporation between 1916 and the early 1920s. Free editions of Shakespearian plays included in tobacco purchases from a cigarette company inspired brothers Charles and Albert Boni to devise their own prototype of a miniature Romeo and Juliet. The brothers pitched these books in miniature to businessmen Harry Scherman and Maxwell Sackheim of J. Walter Thompson Company. Through inventive marketing, such as by including copies of the Little Leather Library in Whitman’s chocolate boxes and by branding them as gifts for American soldiers oversees, the project was a massive success, selling millions of copies over the next four years. However, direct mail orders beginning in the 1920s signaled the waning of their popularity, as the Boni brothers began to realize the American market for their books was saturating. Robert K. Haas bought out the Little Leather Library Company is 1922, renaming the company to the Little Luxart Company (but owned by Robert K. Haas, Inc.), probably because the original leather bindings had been replaced during soaring war-time leather prices by synthetic and faux materials.

Ad for the Little Leather Library 30 volume set, Feb. 1921. Source.

The 30 Volume Set (1921)

The following is a list of the 30 volume boxed set advertised in 1921. This “redcroft” leather set could be mail-ordered for $2.98.

  1. Short Stories, Guy de Maupassant
  2. Courtship of Miles Standish, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  3. Dreams, Olive Schreiner
  4. Emerson’s Essays, Ralph Waldo Emerson
  5. The Rubiyat of Omar Khayham, Edward FitzGerald
  6. Lays of Ancient Rome, Thomas Babington Macaulay
  7. Bab Ballads
  8. Enoch Arden, Alfred Tennyson
  9. The Coming of Arthur, Alfred Tennyson
  10. The Gold Bug, Edgar Allan Poe
  11. Will O’ The Mill, Robert Louis Stevenson
  12. A Child’s Garden of Verses, Robert Louis Stevenson
  13. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson
  14. Salome, Oscar Wilde
  15. The Happy Prince, Oscar Wilde
  16. Ballad of Reading Gaol, Oscar Wilde
  17. Fifty Best Poems of America
  18. Fifty Best Poems of England
  19. Poems, Robert Burns
  20. Poems, Robert Browning
  21. Barrack Room Ballads, Rudyard Kipling
  22. Lincoln’s Speeches and Addresses
  23. Washington’s Speeches and Letters
  24. The Ancient Mariner, Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  25. Friendship and Other Essays, Henry Thoreau
  26. A Midsummer Night’s Dream, William Shakespeare
  27. The Tempest, William Shakespeare
  28. Greatest Thing in the World, Henry Drummond
  29. Man Without a Country, Edward Everett Hale
  30. Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

More information on the Little Leather Library Corporation and books can be found here and here.

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