Everyman's Library was founded on February 15, 1906 with the publication by Joseph Dent (1849-1926) of fifty titles. Dent, a master London bookbinder turned publisher, was a classic Victorian autodidact. The tenth child of a Darlington housepainter, he had left school at thirteen, and arrived in London with half-a-crown in his pocket.
Dent promised to publish new and beautiful editions of the world's classics at one shilling a volume, ‘to appeal to every kind of reader: the worker, the student, the cultured man, the child, the man and the woman', so that ‘for a few shillings the reader may have a whole bookshelf of the immortals; for five pounds (which will procure him with a hundred volumes) a man may be intellectually rich for life.'
By 1956 Everyman's Library had published more than a thousand titles and sold more than fifty million books. In 1991 Everyman's Library was relaunched by a small independent company with the support of Random House in the UK and Alfred A. Knopf in the US. The revived library featured a fine, easy-to-read typographic design, sewn cloth bindings, acid-free paper, silk ribbon-markers, and substantial new introductions and chronologies by leading scholars and writers. The library has grown to include more than 500 titles.
Everyman's Library continues to maintain its original commitment to publishing the most significant world literature in editions that reflect a tradition of fine bookmaking. Everyman's Library pursues the highest standards, utilizing modern prepress, printing, and binding technologies to produce classically designed books printed on acid-free natural-cream-colored text paper and including Smyth-sewn, signatures, full-cloth cases with two-color case stamping, decorative endpapers, silk ribbon markers, and European-style half-round spines.
Each Everyman's Library book has a colored cloth binding denoting the period of the work:
Scarlet = Contemporary Classics
Navy = 20th Century
Burgundy = Victorian Literature/19th Century
Dark Green = Pre-Victorian/Romantic/18th Century
Light Blue = 17th Century and Earlier
Celadon Green = Non-Western Classics
Mauve = Ancient Classics
Sand = Poetry