Harper Perennial Classic set - those that I own

If you ask any serious book collector about a series of classics that are about the size of a mass market, but are hardcover, with dust jackets, they are going to think you are talking about the Modern Library.  And normally you would be right, and later in this series, I will do several posts about the Modern Library.  But today, I’m talking about a set of books that I grew up with, saw every day, but rarely ever encounter in the book world.  They just aren’t found that often.  They are the original Harper Perennial Classic Series, printed by Harper & Row and released in 1965.

Their relative scarcity as compared to the Modern Library is part of the reason they aren’t ever discussed.  The other is that there is pretty much no information about them.  While there are books and web sites dedicated entirely to the Modern Library, it’s very difficult to find out anything about this pretty nice set of books.  I’ve been able to find a little on the Net, but most of what I know is from growing up with them.

There are appear to be somewhere around 80 to 85 books in the original set (I had originally written 60 to 65, but I seem to have found more).  They are all numbered with a HP number.  It looks like all the books in the set were books that were originally written in English (up to through the 60’s, at least), so almost entirely British and American authors, mostly from the 19th Century (things that were out of copyright protection and thus, cheaper to produce).  I grew up with these because at some point my uncle gave my parents a number of books from the set.  It’s hard to tell exactly how many we originally had, but there were at least 27 in the set that we had.  All of them but two had white dust jackets (as I recall, the Stephen Crane had a blue and the Jack London had a yellow, but I could be wrong).  It was a nice group of classic novels that sat together on the shelf in our living room bookcase when I was growing up.

Of course, now they have been completely split up.  And from what little I have been able to discover on-line, there are a number of other ones that we never owned.  Yet, I almost never see them in used bookshops, which is too bad, because they are a nice, extremely inexpensive set of easy to read, yet, very light weight hardcover classics.

the front covers of my four books

Anyway, here’s the set as far I know about.  Know any more?  Feel free to leave a comment.  I’ve always enjoyed this set and they do look nice on the bookshelf.  That’s one of the reasons to own books.  Aside from the joy of reading them, there is the pure joy of how nice they look.

  • HP 6002  –  Great Expectations (mine)
  • HP 6003  –  A Tale of Two Cities (my mother)
  • HP 6004  –  The Scarlet Letter
  • HP 6005  –  Pride and Prejudice (my father)
  • HP 6008  –  The House of Seven Gables (my father)
  • HP 6009  –  Ivanhoe (my brother)
  • HP 6010  –  Jane Eyre (my mother)
  • HP 6011  –  The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
  • HP 6014  –  Walden and Civil Disobediance
  • HP 6015  –  Wuthering Heights (my father)
  • HP 6016  –  A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (my father)
  • HP 6018  –  Gulliver’s Travels
  • HP 6019  –  Great Short Works by Henry Van Dyke
  • HP 6020  –  Oliver Twist (my father)
  • HP 6021  –  The Vicar of Wakefield (my father)
  • HP 6022  –  Lord Jim (mine)
  • HP 6024  –  Two Years Before the Mast
  • HP 6025  –  Hard Times (my father)
  • HP 6026  –  Uncle Tom’s Cabin (my father)
  • HP 6027  –  The Virginian (my father)
  • HP 6028  –  The Last of the Mohicans (my brother)
  • HP 6029  –  The Moonstone (my father)
  • HP 6030  –  The Way of All Flesh
  • HP 6031  –  The Prince and the Pauper (mine)
  • HP 6032  –  Great Short Stories of Stephen Crane (my father)
  • HP 6033  –  Sister Carrie (mine)
  • HP 6037  –  Life on the Mississippi (my father)
  • HP 6040  –  Great Short Works of Henry James
  • HP 6041  –  Great Short Works of Jack London (my father)
  • HP 6043  –  Pudd’nhead Wilson (mine)
  • HP 6045  –  A Christmas Carol (my mother)
  • HP 6046  –  After Many a Summer Dies the Swan
  • HP 6047  –  Giants in the Earth
  • HP 6048  –  Point Counter Point
  • HP 6050  –  Time Must Have a Stop
  • HP 6051  –  The Autobiography of Mark Twain (my father)
  • HP 6052  –  The Age of Fable
  • HP 6054  –  Sense and Sensibility (my father)
  • HP 6057  –  The Rise of Silas Lapham (my father)
  • HP 6058  –  Main Traveled Roads (my father)
  • HP 6059  –  The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
  • HP 6061  –  Moby Dick (my father)
  • HP 6062  –  Jude the Obscure
  • HP 6064  –  The Return of the Native
  • HP 6065  –  The Mayor of Casterbridge
  • HP 6070  –  Peder Victorious
  • HP 6071  –  Great Short Works of Leo Tolstoy
  • HP 6074  –  Great Short Works by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • HP 6077  –  Three Novels by Henry James
  • HP 6080  –  Great Short Works of the American Renaissance
  • HP 6081  –  Great Short Works by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • HP 6082  –  Great European Short Novels
  • HP 6084  –  Great Short Works of American Realism
  • HP 6087  –  Cane
  • HP 6088  –  Great Short Works of Aldous Huxley

Those ones that no one in my family own are ones I found on-line.  Now, I must admit that anything past the sixties is done through extrapolation.  I know for a fact that those ones that were printed in paperback kept the same numbering, except it began with a 3 instead of a 6.  Now that I am on Library Thing, I’ve been finding a lot more.  But, a lot of what I have found have been the paperback series, as I am assuming that those were also printed in hardcover, but that might not necessarily be true.

These ones listed below are ones I can confirm were in the series, but have been unable to determine their number.

  • The Picture of Dorian Gray
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  • The Mill on the Floss
  • Treasure Island
  • Kidnapped
  • Robinson Crusoe
  • Moll Flanders
  • Silas Marner
  • Tess of the D’Urbervilles (probably 6063)
  • Brave New World (probably 6049)
  • Black Boy
  • Native Son
  • Great Short Works of Herman Melville
  • Men of Iron

All together, even if I eliminate the later numbers, I am still left with several books to figure out.  I wouldn’t be surprised if they include other older British authors and such works as Vanity Fair and Barry Lyndon.  I don’t expect to find Tom Jones as none of the longer Dickens novels seem to be included.  The set seems to be exclusively works that are around 500 pages or shorter.

Anyway, that’s what I know on the set.  They are nice books.  I’ve always enjoyed them, though I’ve never gone out of my way to buy any more.  Actually that last part is no longer true as I bought Sister Carrie after finding it in a cheap used book store.