Norton Library

Publisher: W. W. Norton & Co.

Years: 1958-

Related Series: --

The Norton Library was launched in September 1958, with 16 titles, according to Publishers Weekly. Here are those titles with verified series numbers when available:

  • Abrams, MIRROR AND THE LAMP (N502)

  • Austen, PERSUASION (N11)

  • Browning, THE RING AND THE BOOK (N505)

  • Fielding, JOSEPH ANDREWS (N2)

  • Gaskell, MARY BARTON (N10)

  • Hamilton, THREE GREEK PLAYS (N1)



  • Mackenzie, THE MAN OF FEELING (N14)

  • Meredith, THE EGOIST

  • Moore, ESTHER WATERS (N6)

  • Morey, CHRISTIAN ART (N503)

  • Richards, THE ILIAD (N501)

  • Richardson, PAMELA (N12)



Only a certain number of these original titles were recorded in PW's Weekly Record:

  • Three Greek Plays (N1, Dec. 29, 1958, $.95)

  • Henry Fielding, Joseph Andrews (N2, Dec. 29, 1958, $.98)

  • George Moore, Ethel Waters (N6, Dec. 29, 1958, $1.45)

  • William James, Talks to Teachers... (N7, not in PW but documented elsewhere)

  • Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Blithedale Romance (N9, Dec. 29, 1958, $.95)

  • Elizabeth Gaskell, Mary Barton (N10, Dec. 29, 1958, $1.45)

  • Jane Austen, Persuasion (N11, Dec. 29, 1958, $.85)

  • Henry Mackenzie, The Man of Feeling (N14, 1958, $.85)

  • Homer, The Iliad (N501, Dec. 29, 1958, $.95)

  • M.H. Abrams, The Mirror and the Lamp (N502, Dec. 29, 1958, $1.85)

  • C.R. Morey, Christian Art (N503, Dec. 29, 1958, $1.25)

  • Irwin Edman, Arts and the Man (???, Sept. 1960, $1.85)

  • Robert Browning, The Ring and the Book (N505, Feb. 27, 1961, $1.95)

  • William Gilmore Simms, Woodcraft (N507, Aug. 7, 1961, $1.95)

I can't discern any reason some titles have low series numbers and some are in the N500s. It's not because of number of pages, fiction/nonfiction, chronology, price. It's possible they're different sizes, but I'm having a difficult time verifying that.

After the original launch late in 1958, the series sort of died a slow death, with only a few titles being released over the next 3 years. I think some titles were planned/announced (as lots of missing series numbers show up in Paperbound Books in Print, which had sections for forthcoming books, but nowhere else.

I've put together the verified original titles and what I think were planned titles, N1 to N-18 and N-501 to N-507:

In spring 1961 Norton sought an editor experienced with quality paperbacks, announcing the hiring of Thomas Barry Hunt that summer with the goal of relaunch the series soon. My guess is that Norton renumbered the series, starting with N101, after the new editor took over, and relaunched the Norton Library in 1962. Thus some of the earlier titles were reprinted with numbers in the N100s; those titles that were not kept in print were replaced with others, like:

  • N106 -- Raymond Aron, The Opium of the Intellectuals (June 25, 1962, $1.75)

  • N108 -- Franz Boas, Anthropology and Modern Life (June 25, 1962, $1.85)

  • N109 -- Mary Ellen Chase, Life and Language in the Old Testament (Apr. 2, 1962, $1.45)

  • N110-- Elizabeth A. Drew, Discovering Poetry (May 7, 1962, $1.25)

  • N111 -- Guglielmo Ferrero, The Life of Caesar (June 25, 1962, $1.95)

  • N112 -- Geoffrey Corer, The People of Great Russia (May 28, 1962, $1.65)

  • N113 -- Edith Hamilton, Witness to the Truth (May 7, 1962, $1.25)

  • N114 -- Aldous Huxley, Texts and Pretexts (Apr. 2, 1962, $1.45)

And so on. Some of the original titles were eventually brought out under the new numbering system (e.g., The Blithedale Romance, originally as N9 (1958), then as N164 after the renumbering). Publishers Weekly's Weekly Record did not note reprints from the same publisher, so there's no record of these new issues. I'm guessing the year of publication with the new numbers based on publication date of the surrounding titles in the series.

Below are covers of Morey's Christian Art, originally N503 in 1958 and later as N103, to visualize the differences. Both bear a 1958 date, although N103 is definitely later, probably from 1962. Note the line on the spine of N503 (visible in the image of the back cover): "BOOKS WITH THE NORTON LIBRARY BINDING ARE BOUND TO LAST (PATENT APPLIED FOR)." Norton made a big to-do over the Norton Library Binding when the series was originally launched (see New Kind of Norton Softcover Books, PW, Nov. 17, 1958, at 28).

Once titles were assigned ISBNs, it was easy enough to identify titles in the series, as the ISBNs incorporated and continued the series numbers. Evidently Norton dropped the Norton Library series around 1978 but continued to publish paperbacks sequentially using the same ISBN series. It’s right around N900 that the Norton Library imprint stops, but it’s hard to state with certainty which title was the last to bear that imprint, as photos are unavailable for some titles in the N900-N910 range. I’m ending the series with N909, as that’s the last one in WorldCat identified as part of the series. PTLA does list a few other titles after N909 as being still in the Norton Library series, but I can’t find any evidence those titles actually were part of the imprint.

More Information

Norton Paperback Line Announced for September, PW, May 19, 1958, at 30 (listing the first 16 titles).

Norton Library, PW, July 21, 1958, at 79.

New Kind of Norton Softcover Books, PW, Nov. 17, 1958, at 28 (indicating that the first batch of 12 Norton Library books will have an especially durable Norton Library Binding).

Norton Library, PW, Dec. 15, 1958, at 50 (listing (some of?) the second batch of Norton Library titles).

Forecast: Arts and the Man, PW, July 18, 1960, at 81 ("After a long interval, Norton is bringing out another volume in its paperback series.")

Paperback Editor, PW, Apr. 17, 1961, at 50 (solicitation from Norton seeking an experienced editor of quality paperbacks to redevelop and expand the Norton Library).

Thomas Barry Hunt . . ., PW, July 17, 1961, at 36 (notice that Hunt was named editor of paperbacks at Norton, responsible for the Norton Library).

Norton Embarking on New Paperback Program, PW, Feb. 19, 1962, at 63 (indicating that Norton will in April 1962 reactivate its Norton Library line, which the articles claims only had 16 titles).

Charles A. Madison, BOOK PUBLISHING IN AMERICA 505 (1966):

In 1955 the firm started to issue Seagull Editions--hardbound reprints of its backlist at prices ranging from $1.39 to $2.49. Three years later, with the rising demand for quality paperbacks in colleges, it announced the Norton Library, paperbacks from 95 cents to $1.85. Most of the volumes were to be classic fiction, and each novel was to have an introduction by a prominent critic. The series failed to catch on and was dropped. In 1962, however, it was resumed successfully.