PUBLISHER: National Library Association, Chicago, 1885-[1898?]

ABOUT: Historian Bessie Louise Pierce writes in volume III of her A History of Chicago: The Rise of a Modern City 1871-1893, (Knopf 1957), page 169, “By the ‘seventies subscription books, too, had become an important aspect of both manufacture and selling. Not only did publishers in general frequently engage in this form of merchandising, but houses were organized especially for this purpose. Baird & Dillon, starting in Chicago in 1877, had sales of over $1,000,000 within six years. In 1884 they reported 1,500 canvassers calling upon the American public, from which they realized about $20,000 a week. During the 1880s G. W. Borland & Co. and J. M. Wing & Co. were among those active in this type of book merchandising."

Only whisps of information about Wing have been found: the 1878 Chicago directory lists Wing, J. M. (J. M. Wing & Co.) 19 Times Bldg. house 743 West Congress; and Wing, J. M. & Co. (J. M. Wing and H. S. Rich) pubs. Western Brewer 19 Times bldg. The 1880 U.S. Census has an entry for J. M. Wing 36, born NY, lives 743 Congress, married, publisher, mother Susan 68 lives with him, also Anna 32, single, Susan 42 single, and Pauline Dale, 22, servant.

A much fuller outline of Borland’s activities can be teased, including references to The National Library Association. Bradstreet’s Weekly: A Business Digest, vol. 10 (July 5, 1884) p. 13, in its “Trade Embarrassments” column, has three related notices:
CHICAGO – G. W. Borland & Co., book publishers, assigned to W. N. Lee, having previously confessed five judgments for $40,439.
CHICAGO – Chicago Installment Book Co. and George W. Borland & Co., the proprietors of it, closed by sheriff on confessed judgments for $40,690, and both assigned to W. N. Lee.
CHICAGO – Fairbanks, Palmer &Co., publishers, closed by sheriff. It is said they held papers of G. W. Borland for $40,200.

Chicago Lakeside Directory 1887: Borland, George W. pres. Nat. Library assn, 10 State, h. 3242 Lake Park av., Jason J. librarian E. 103 State h. 3242 Lake Park av; National Library Association, George W. Borland pres; William G. Austin sec; publishers E. 103 State; Austin, William G. sec. Nat library ass.103 State, h. 3242 Lake Park av. [It seems odd that all the men home addressed are domiciled at 3242 Lake Park Avenue; perhaps all were primarily traveling salesmen? None of the named executives appear in either the 1880 or the 1890 U.S. Census records.]

1886/1887: A. N. Marquis & Co. Business Directory of Chicago: G. W. Borland Pub. Co., F. 103 State; Borland, G.W. Pub. Co., 103 State.

1887-1888: Marquis Business Directory: National Library Association, G. W. Borland, pres., W.G. Austin, sec., J. J. Borland, librarian, 103 S. State, R[ooms] E and F.

1888 Marquis Business Directory: National Library Association (The) G.W. Borland, pres. W.G. Austin, sec. Pubs 29, 103 State.

Caspar’s Directory of the American Book, News and Stationery Trades (Milwaukee, 1889), [entry expanded by use of glossary in forematter]. National Library Association, the. Inc. – (G. W. Borland, Pres. And Mngr.; W. G. Austin, sec.; J. J. Borland, Treas. Since 1885. Est. 1875. Succ[eeds] G. W. Borland Pub. Co.: Chicago Installment Book Co.) E. T. Rhoten: Book Publisher, Subscription Book Publisher, Music Publisher. [Wholesale &Retail]. Book Stationer. 2nd hand Books, Music Publisher, Games &Toys, Binder, Library Goods …..103 State, Chicago, Ill. 3 [= estimated capital $20,000-$30,000.]

Codex, a booklet issued by the Beloit College Junior Class, February 1889, page 15 of the sponsoring advertsing, carried a “Wanted” ad for the firm:

The Annual Report of the Public Schools of Lincoln [Illinois] for the Year Ending June 30, 1895 has a section of “Home Reading,” recommended by school grade, noting “If children could own the book it would be better. They feel a pride in ownership. A book purchased occasionally at little expense will soon build up a library at apparently small outlay.” Recommendations from National Library Association for grades one to three include Grimm’s Household Stories (23c) and Fairly TalesSpeeches of Webster (25c), and 4th year Bacon’s and Emerson’s Essays (each 15c). [Digitized on HathiTrust].

In July 1897 Sam’l M. Inglis, Superintendent Public Instruction, issued Library Circular No. 25, A Collection of Book Suitable for School Libraries, [Springfield, Illinois], in which he writes, “I would suggest, also, that the following, which I quote from a little pamphlet issued by the National Library Association, be used as rules appropriate for the proper management of a district school library:
Rule 1. Only pupils or patrons of district are entitled to the use of books.
Rule 2. No person shall be allowed to take from the library more than one volume at the same time.
Rule 3. Books (except “Works of Reference”) may be retained two weeks, and, at the discretion of the librarian, may be once renewed for the same period.
Rule 4. A fine of . . . . (...) cents a day shall be paid on each book which is not returned according to the provisions of the preceding rules, and no other book will be delivered to the party incurring any fine until it is paid.
Rule 5. Any person who shall lose a book, or injure it beyond ordinary usage, will replace or pay for same. [Digitized on HathiTrust].

Much of what is implied by the proceeding is confirmed by a two page statement in the 1889 Association catalogue held by the University of Tulsa. This reads:

Organized in 1855, and Incorporated Under the Illinois State Laws.
CAPITAL STOCK, $100,000.

The association has been doing a profitable and satisfactory business for over four years. It is not an experiment, but an established success and is under the able management of experienced business men who have for many years been engaged in publishing and manufacturing books.

100,000 MEMBERS.
Nearly 100,000 members are recorded in the office at Chicago. They form a numerous body of book-buyers, and through the Association buy Books, Music, and Periodicals, at wholesale prices. No publisher could afford to give a single book-buyer the advantages given to members; but each member is one of many who are buying at the same time. HUNDREDS of orders are daily received, on which thousands of dollars are saved to members every week by reason of their membership.

Members can purchase through the Association, all standard books, saving on many as high as 40 per cent, and on some books 70 per cent, and the Association will furnish to members, at wholesale price, almost any trade book or piece of music published if not out of print. Subscriptions books we supply to members only when they are to be had through the regular book trade. The Latest Copyright Trade Books are supplied to Members as soon as Published and at Wholesale Prices. The association buys whole editions of many books, which enable it to sell to its members single copies for less money than wholesale dealers can buy for. Special rates are secured for members on magazines and periodicals. The Association has a SECOND-HAND BOOK DEPARTMENT, members can here sell books they may wish to dispose of. The Association also binds books and magazine for members in the best and most substantial manner.

The great advantage of being a member of this Association is apparent, for it certainly is an advantage to be able to communicate with a responsible establishment, where you can send for anything in the book or music line, with the assurance that the price will be the lowest possible.

Many of the best educated and wealthiest people of the Unites States, embracing Governors, Judges, Legislators, College Presidents, Bank Presidents, and many others of public note and financial responsibility are members.

Members also have the privilege of making enquiries regarding any author of his works, and all enquiries will be promptly answered when a two cent stamp is enclosed to pay postage on answers. If members wish books not on this Catalogue we will get them. When making enquiries about books always give the name of the author, the edition, and name of publisher. During the month of December we are so busy filling orders received from members, we cannot answer enquiries received in December.


Is to supply to people the best books and music for the least money. It acts as purchasing agent for its MEMBERS and deals directly with manufacturers and publishers, having made special contracts with many of the largest Book and Music Publisher in this Country, thus enabling it to purchase for its members, at wholesale price, almost any book or piece of music published.

Any citizen in good standing can become a member of the NATIONAL LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, by paying to its authorized Agent the regular membership fee, who will, upon receipt of said fee, issue a “CERTIFICATE OF MEMBERSHIP,” and present the member with a catalogue of the Association free of charge.

Certificate in Class A, is good for 3 years and costs. . . . $3.00
Certificate in Class B, is good for 5 years and costs (with Presentation Volume) . 5.00
Certificate in Class C, is good for 7 years and costs (with Presentation Volume) . 7.00
A valuable book in elegant binding is presented to every one who take a membership in Class “B” or “C,” but no presentation volume is given with Class “A” membership.
The publisher’s price of the presentation volume is the same as the price charged for a membership in class “B” or “C,” hence members in Classes “B” or “C” get value received for their money as soon as it is paid for a membership, even if no books are ever purchased from the Association at wholesale prices. Descriptive Circulars of the Presentation Books will be sent on application.

The MEMBERSHIP FEE pays all expenses and the Association makes five per cent on the books it sells to its members, which aggregates many thousands of dollars during the year, and enables a handsome dividend to be declared annually to the stockholders. There will be no assessments, dues, or liabilities of any kind against members by reason of membership.

Many Public and SCHOOL LIBRARIES hold memberships in the Association, but are not permitted to buy books of the Association except for their own use. HOLDERS OF CERTIFICATES forfeit them if they use them to procure books of the Association for persons who are not members.

In order that each MEMBERSHIP may be promptly recorded on the RECORD BOOK, IN CHICAGO, we desire that each MEMBER, upon getting a Certificate properly countersigned by the agent, will sign the stub of the Certificate and fill it out, giving Post-office Address and Date of Certificate. The Agent, who has countersigned the Certificate, will then DETACH THE STUB from the Certificate, and forward it immediately to the Association in Chicago, where it will be recorded and a receipt sent to the member.

of the National Library Association can be ascertained by consulting this year’s “Rating Book” of Bradstreet & Co., which can be found in any leading bank or wholesale house. We want members to Feel Perfect Confidence in dealing with us. There are other library associations, with names similar to ours, but they have no connection whatever with

The National Library Association
103 State Street, CHICAGO.

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LUCILE’s ISSUED BY National Library Association. Columbia University and the University of Tulsa hold copies of an 1890 catalogue whose cover reads “Incorporated 1885 / Capital Stock $100,000 FULLY PAID IN / G. W. Borland, President; R. M. Barnett, Vice-President; J. J. Borland, secretary; J. P. Moreland, Treasurer / Principal Office … 103 State Street Chicago.” The Grolier Club holds a somewhat smaller, seemingly unique, catalogue dated 1891.

The “Poetry” section of the 1890 catalogue, under “Meredith,” offers Lucile ” in the Diamond Edition” (presumably the Houghton, Mifflin edition), publisher’s price $1.00, offered to Members, $.70, and the Poetical Works in [also Houghton Mifflin?] Household edition ($1.75/$1.25); both versions are also offered in the Red Line and Seal Poets series; the Red Line is illustrated with a the cut used by Crowell for its 1885 Red Line series ($1.50, $.45) and while the Seal Poets ($2.50/$.90) are not represented by a cut, Crowell offered “Russia Seal” in 1887. The “Illustrated Gift Books” section offers both versions again in the Seal Poets series. Lucile alone is offered ($1.00/$.22) among the “Popular Edition of Standard 12mos.” Several publishers have series similarly named and it has not been possible to identify just which one this is. :

The one known Lucile with an NLA imprint, imaged (and captioned) below, carries a Hurst & Co. text block. In binding appearance it is very like the one known copy with a Union School Furnishing Company imprint, but the NLA volume carries a Hurst & Co. text block while Union Schools uses one from W. B. Conkey &Co. The relationship between the two firms is elusive at best; Union School's existance seems to date later than NLA's s perhaps Union School acquired stock following NLA's demise.

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Last revised: 29 August 2020