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Grolier Club Exhibitions

Jessica Kahan

When I began collecting dust jacketed romance novels of the 1920s and 1930s a decade ago, I was the same age as many of the protagonists in my books. It started with a class project followed by a discovery at an antiquarian bookstore, and the rest is history.

These romances are easy to love. Each heroine finds her happily ever after, no matter how melodramatic, saccharine, moralizing, or outlandish her plot may be. The stories also contain references and insights true to their time, giving readers a glimpse of their era, with just the right amount of whimsy. To top it off, each book has a gorgeous and vivid dust jacket.

My book collection has taken me on many fantastic adventures and introduced me to many wonderful bibliophiles. Highlights of my collecting career include placing second in the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest in 2012 and winning the inaugural Honey & Wax Book Collecting Prize in 2017.

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Temple Bailey. Philadelphia: The Penn Publishing Company, 1927.

Cover art by R. Pallen Coleman. Temple Bailey’s romance novels were among the best-selling titles of the 1920s. Wallflowers follows the story of two sisters finding love in Washington, D.C., and was adapted into a 1928 silent film starring Jean Arthur. This copy retains its original perforated publisher’s bookmark on the dust jacket’s front flap, and a “R.H. Macy and Co. Inc.” impress stamp on the title page. Reviewed on my blog,

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Debutante Stand-In.

Judith Grovner Wright [Lois Bull]. New York: Hillman-Curl Inc., 1937.

Cover art by C. Malvern. One of Hillman-Curl’s “Streamlined Romances,” this story is advertised to be “as modern as the 1939 World’s Fair” or “as satisfying as a new spring hat.” When Nancy North is hired to double for a woman worth forty million dollars, adventures and romance ensue. Review copy with slip pasted on free endpaper.

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Love Wings.

Rob Eden [Robert and Eve Burkhardt]. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1932.

Cover art by Skrenda. Best known as a reprint house, Grosset & Dunlap printed a short-lived line of first edition romance novels, including Love Wings. Published five years before Amelia Earhart’s disappearance, Love Wings is the story of a woman who attempts to become the first female aviator to fly the Pacific, only to be stranded in the South Seas.