Wandering through our stacks the other day, my eye was caught by a small collection of paperbacks with bold modernist cover art and the intriguing publisher “Paper Books” listed on the spine.
The Charles Boni Paper Books series was published by established publisher brothers Charles and Albert Boni with artistic design by Rockwell Kent. The Boni brothers had previously begun the Little Leather Library company in 1916 (they sold their interest in the company in 1917). They ran a successful publishing house, Charles & Albert Boni, from 1923 to 1939, which published many important modernist writers.
The Paper Books series was an experiment by Charles & Albert Boni, in the new fields of American paperback publishing and subscription book clubs. Members paid a subscription fee of $5 per year and received a new book on the 25th of each month. Publication began with a prototype, The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thorton Wilder, and the first monthly installment came out on September 25th 1929. The following statement is printed on the last page of each book (along with a title list)
The PAPER BOOKS was founded in nineteen twenty-nine by Charles Boni, to place good books, well designed and carefully made, within the reach of any reader”
The series lasted for 16 issues (including the prototype), but was not able to weather the financial strain of the great depression and ceased publishing in 1930. Along the way, the brothers created the spin-off paperback series Bonibooks. Bonibooks reprinted many of the Paper Books titles (and shared end paper and title page design) and a number of other titles but was not sold by subscription.
For a more in-depth look at the cover art in the Paper Book series see: