Everyman's Library

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Everyman's Library is currently a series of reprinted classic literature published by Alfred A. Knopf (a division of Random House) in the United States, and Weidenfeld and Nicolson in the United Kingdom. The series began publishing in 1906. It was conceived of in 1905 by London publisher Joseph Malaby Dent, whose goal was to create a 1,000 volume library of world literature that was affordable for, and that appealed to, every kind of person, from students to the working classes to the cultural elite. Everyman's Library books were pocket-sized hardcovers that sold initially for what was then the remarkably low price of a shilling apiece.

The first title published was Boswell's Life of Johnson, published with a quotation on the title page from the works of John Milton: "A good book is the precious life-blood of a master-spirit, embalmed and treasured upon purpose to a life beyond life." In 1910, 500 books had been published under the Everyman trademark, and in 1956 the thousandth volume (Dent's original goal) was published, with Aristotle's Metaphysics selected for the honor. By 1975, Dent's vision had been well surpassed, as Everyman's Library consisted of 994 titles published in 1,239 volumes. After ceasing the publication of new titles in the 1970s, Everyman's Library was relaunched internationally by Knopf in the fall of 1991, a move which was praised by many notable authors. The current membership of the Honorary Editorial Committee includes Harold Bloom, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Seamus Heaney, Toni Morrison, Cynthia Ozick, Simon Schama, and John Updike.

The name of the publication series was suggested by poet and editor Ernest Rhys, who was named head editor of the series initially, and asked to find a suitable name to encompass Dent's goal. Rhys tried and discarded many ideas before recalling a quotation from the medieval play Everyman in which the character of Knowledge says to Everyman:

Everyman, I will go with thee
and be thy guide,
In thy most need to go
by thy side.

That quotation appears on the title page of all Everyman's Library volumes.

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