Thursday, October 12, 2017

"Let Us Now Praise Dover Books"

Michael Dirda has reviewed books for The Washington Post, The American Scholar, The New York Review of Books, and many others. He likes books and, importantly to me, books I like. I trust his taste. Several years ago he wrote an appreciation of Dover Books, a publishing house I discovered in high school or before. I still have many of Dover's products. Dirda:
.... I started to think about Dover Books and their importance in my own reading life. Because of Dover paperbacks, I was introduced to M.R. James’s Ghost Stories of an Antiquary and to the adventures of Ernest Bramah’s blind detective Max Carrados, marveled at the great cases of Jacques Futrelle’s Professor S.F.X. Van Dusen, known as The Thinking Machine.... Because of Dover Books I was gradually able to accumulate a small library of wonderful and unusual titles, ranging from the mysteries and ghost stories of Sheridan Le Fanu, to H.P. Lovecraft’s groundbreaking essay, Supernatural Horror in Literature, to Martin Gardner’s first great debunking classic, Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science.
In those days of yore, Dover proudly trumpeted that their paperbacks were “designed for years of use,” that the paper wouldn’t deteriorate, and that the pages consisted of sewn signatures, with ample margins. Sometimes the outer cellophane layer of the covers would delaminate, but this didn’t affect the book in any serious manner: It would still open flat, and the type face, except in those publications that reproduced the actual pages of old magazine serials, would always be large and legible. In short, a Dover book was “a permanent book.” Best of all, the company’s offerings were cheap—only a few dollars new and often findable in thrift shops and second-hand bookstores. There must still be a couple of dozen Dover editions scattered around this house. Even now I sometimes take one out and study the lists of the many other Dover titles printed either on the inside covers or as an appendix. 
.... In my copy of Best Ghost Stories of Algernon Blackwood, the inside cover carries an extensive list of “Dover Mystery, Detective, Ghost Stories, and Other Fiction,” including Lafcadio Hearn’s Kwaidan, G.K. Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday, and Five Victorian Ghost Novels, edited by E.F. Bleiler.

Everett F. Bleiler! Even as a boy, I noticed that this Bleiler guy introduced many of the books I most cared about. He seemed to have read everything, and, as I later learned, he actually had. ....

.... For more than 20 years Bleiler worked as an editor, later an executive vice president, at Dover, and was responsible for resdiscovering and making available some of the greatest names in Victorian and Edwardian popular fiction. ....
The images are of a few of the Dover books that are still in my library. They are all in remarkably good condition for large-format paperbacks printed in the 1960s. And the paper has not deteriorated.