“Finally a good book, at a cheap price”: the Biblioteca Moderna Mondadori
Once the settlement phase following the war had been terminated, one of the most important editorial initiative on which Arnoldo Mondadori chose to bet was the publication, in 1948, of the Biblioteca Moderna Mondadori (Mondadori Modern Library). Its aim was to finally solve what Arnoldo used to call “the problem of a good book, at cheap price”. The first volumes of the series to go to the bookshops were divided in four sections, were differentiated by the colour of the spine and had with colour illustrations on the book covers.
They were mainly reissues of works already published in the main collections, offered at the cheap price of 250 lire, but – as Arnoldo Modadori pointed out to his friend Guido Lopez - “it is cheap only for what concerns the price. I am thinking about a nice and simple edition to give to the broadest public ever the possibility to read and get educated, where everyone can find everything”. The most popular authors were chosen for this collection like Louis Bromfield, Raymond Chandler, Gabriele d'Annunzio and Luigi Pirandello, avoiding those works that were losing their vitality. The first series of 100 volumes received a warm welcome, expanding the readership, especially among young people.
In the second series, launched in April 1950, the global feature of the collection was further underlined. It was designed to embrace, as Arnoldo used to say, “timeless classics from all countries, contemporary works that are becoming classics, works contributing to the public understanding of science, introductions of artists or of movements of figurative arts”. The initial graphic format, with solid ivory covers, embossed title and two-coloured dust-jacket, was renewed in 1956, simultaneously with the reorganization of the book series in ten different sections, that stayed unchanged until the launch in 1956 of the new collection Oscar.