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2015 Bookseller Resource Guide

‘Plain But Good’

But the Lakeside Classic most difficult to track down, according to both dealers, is the title printed in 1906, Fruits of Solitude by William Penn. The subject matter, while appealing, is not the price driver. “There weren’t many copies of the book produced,” said Gargani—only about six hundred copies. “And it was a slim volume,” Townsend said. He guessed that some copies may have been mistakenly discarded. That volume is currently worth about $3,000.

As the series began to find its way onto the open market, public demand grew—but Donnelley, in all its years of publishing the books, has never once sold any of them. “Books are traditionally given to customers, company retirees who were familiar with the tradition, to employees in countries where the English-language books centered on American history will be of interest, and to shareholders who request them,” said Fitzgerald.

But the Lakeside Classic most difficult to track down, according to dealers, is the title printed in 1906, Fruits of Solitude by William Penn.

Donnelley, of course, has a complete set of the books. “They’re displayed in a small library at the company’s corporate headquarters in Chicago,” said Fitzgerald.

The Classics series has always had a limited distribution, but there was a brief time when Donnelley agreed to make the first five books of the series more available. Reports indicated that one thousand copies of the 1903 edition were produced, but from 1904 through 1910, the number of copies printed dropped to six hundred. That meant not everyone who wanted a copy received one, said Gargani. Consequently, Donnelley agreed to have those five volumes reprinted under the Reilly & Britton Company imprint. The reprints, known as the Patriotic Classics, were released in the early- to mid-1900s, shortly after the early Lakeside Classics were printed. While Townsend noted that the reprints aren’t as desirable as the originals in the series, they are becoming increasingly difficult to find. “In some cases, they can be even harder to find than the original Classics,” said Gargani, “because not many of them were produced.” Townsend tells clients that if they want to collect the Lakeside Classics series, it’s better to have all the original Classics. “But they can always buy the Patriotic Classics as a placeholder for the original volume until they can afford or are able to locate a copy,” he added.

As a side note—and to avoid confusion—R. R. Donnelley has also reprinted other classic books under The Lakeside Library imprint. These books, said Gargani, are rare books that the company collected and then reproduced. The best-known book in this series may be the 1930 printing of Moby Dick illustrated by Rockwell Kent. The book came as a set of three volumes inside a slipcase and is sometimes referred to as “Moby Dick, The White Whale in a Can.” According to company reports, only one thousand copies of the three-volume edition were produced. (Gargani shows a copy of it on his website, listed at $7,950.) A second version of Moby Dick was also printed that year, by Random House, as one volume.

In 2002, when the one-hundredth volume of the Lakeside Classics, Narrative of the Coronado Expedition, was distributed, there was a general feeling that the book would be the end of the series. “We never know from year to year if the company will continue the Classics,” Townsend said. “With the one-hundredth volume, we thought this might be it.”

But in 2003, Donnelley released The Rough Riders by Theodore Roosevelt on schedule. Gargani insisted he doesn’t believe the company would give up on the Classics. “It’s the legacy of Thomas Donnelley,” he pointed out.

“R. R. Donnelley continually works to answer our first mission,” said Fitzgerald. “That’s delivering value to our shareholders.” Within that context, he said, a 2010 volume of the Lakeside Classics—Travels Through South Carolina, Georgia & Florida by William Bartram—was once again distributed this past December. And, he added, “The topic and texts have been selected for 2011.”

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Karen Edwards has been a freelance writer for Antique Week, Early American Life, Woman’s Day, Health, Eating Well, and Entrepreneur.
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