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The Gorgeous and Rare Full-leather “Oxford Library of the World’s Great Books” Series

There have been many fine presses in the 20th century that have produced many beautiful books, but there has possibly never been a more comprehensive collection of beautiful books than the Oxford Library of the World’s Great Books series.

The Franklin Mint

This series was published by the Oxford University Press, but it was commissioned to be printed by the Franklin Mint, an American private mint that still makes coins, jewelry, diecast vehicles, dolls, sculpture and other collectibles. The Franklin Mint has been operational for over five decades, but its publishing arm, the Franklin Library, was operational for 27 years, from 1973 to 2000. They even had an office in Singapore, where you could subscribe to certain series of 50 to 100 books which would then be mailed to you as they were released. Today this subscription model is rarely used in the publishing industry.

The Franklin Library

The Franklin Library made three distinct types of bindings:

  • The full-leather binding (its highest grade editions)
  • The quarter-leather binding (with leather spine and decorated cloth boards)
  • The leatherette binding (leatherette/faux-leather boards)

The first category is the most beautiful and the most valuable, with the leatherette bindings being the least valuable, made when the company started worrying about its finances and was trying to save raw material cost.

The Franklin Library published several series of books, like “The 100 Greatest Books of All Time”, “Pulitzer Prize Classics”, “Great Books of the Western World”, etc. There are some titles that are available in more than one series, and there is considerable overlap in the domain of several series. Therefore, it is possible to find a book in more than one binding and more than one cover design from Franklin Library, as it was published in different series at different times.

The Oxford Library of the World’s Great Books comes in two bindings: the quarter-leather ones and the full-leather ones. While the quarter-leather ones in this series are very fine in quality and well-made, they resemble other quarter-leather books from other series. We have several of the quarter-leather ones in stock, from this series and others.

The Full-Leather Oxford University Press Series

The full-leather series, however, is something else: this was without a doubt the pinnacle of Franklin Mint’s bookmaking craft. The books in this series were made with enough gold to make rings out of, and the blind-stamping was oftentimes extremely ornate. Some books were made with two or more colours of leather overlayed to create designs.

These books are nearly impossible to get hold of these days, and ours are running out as well. They make for wonderful gifts and will likely last for generations if well taken care of.

Out of the 50 books in our original set, we have only 4 left. Here are the books we have in stock this series:

Selected Essays – Michel de Montaigne

Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift

Four Plays – Henrik Ibsen

The Histories of Gargantua & Pantagruel – François Rabelais