The Everyman's Library (EML) was first conceived in 1905 by the publisher Joseph Malaby Dent and editor Ernest Rhys. The goal of EML was to create a collection of 1,000 volumes of classic literature that would appeal to every type of person, from students, scholars and professionals to the everyday working man. They would be divided into different categories, originally thirteen in total and have corresponding design attributes. The key to this endeavor was to make the books affordable, and they were originally available for the very low price of one schilling. The name "Everyman" comes from the medieval play of the same name in which the character Knowledge says the following to the character Everyman:
Everyman, I will go with thee
and be thy guide,
In thy most need to go
by thy side.
The library began publication in February 1906 and four years later 500 volumes had already been published. Through two world wars and a depression, the series finally published volume 1,000 in 1956. In 1988 the publishing company J.M. Dent was sold and eventually the Everyman series was re-launched in the early 1990s. Though very different from the early editions of 1906, you can still buy Everyman's Library books through Alfred A. Knopf in the United States and Random House abroad.
This exhibit has two purposes firstly, to show the changing styles of EML throughout the many decades it was in print, and secondly to show the variety of collections at the Burns Library that contain volumes of the series. From the Irish collection to the Liturgy and Life Collection, the personal libraries of authors Rex Stout and Flann O'Brien, copies of the EML can be found in all of the major collections in the Burns Library.