Book Club of Texas

By: Stanley Marcus

Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: June 17, 2020

The Book Club of Texas was formed by Stanley Marcus in Dallas in 1929 to foster the production of fine books and to sponsor exhibitions and lectures about book making, printing, and binding and typographical design. After study at Harvard, where the Widener Library impressed him, Marcus returned to Texas determined to produce twentieth-century parallels to the Widener's fifteenth and sixteenth century exemplars. Influenced by his familiarity with the Book Club of California, an organization of bibliophiles who mined the rich printing talent in the San Francisco area, Marcus persuaded four others to join him: folklorist and banker John A. Lomax, architect David R. Williams, Fannie E. Ratchford, librarian of the University of Texas Wrenn Collection, and lawyer John Hackler. Hackler incorporated the Book Club of Texas as a nonprofit organization, Ratchford proposed titles for publication, Lomax located material worthy of publication, and Williams and Marcus became the project's artistic directors. After Williams designed a colophon representative of the club's southwestern focus—a circle of Texas ranch brands surrounding a BCT branding iron—the group solicited members by mailing a quarto-sized invitation printed on handmade Italian paper to bibliophiles throughout the state.

The club was governed by a board of eleven directors who ensured that it remained noncommercial as well as nonprofit. The club's publications were limited editions, sold to its membership of 300. Members had no responsibility other than to pay yearly dues of ten dollars, although the club's board hoped that they would also purchase each of its publications. The plan was to issue an annual volume devoted to history or literature, with a preference for indigenous or previously unpublished literature. The club stressed the tasteful and appropriate format. The typeface, paper, ink, page layout, illustration, and binding were to blend in a way that enhanced the prose. Prices ranged from two to fifteen dollars. The seven titles the club published were Ellis Bean's Memoir of Col. Ellis P. Bean (1930), Harry Stillwell Edwards's Eneas Africanus (1930), Virginia Quitman McNealus's Code Duello: Letters Concerning the Prentiss-Tucker Duel of 1842 (1931), William Faulkner's Miss Zilphia Gant (1932), Alexander Watkins Terrell's From Texas to Mexico and the Court of Maximilian in 1865 (1933), J. Frank Dobie's Tales of the Mustang (1936), and Fannie Ratchford's The Story of Champ d'Asile (1937). Of the seven, only three were actually produced in Texas; one was produced in New York by a former Texan, Hal Marchbanks. Two came from the Lakeside Press of Chicago and one from the Rydal Press, Santa Fe. Three—Code Duello, Miss Zilphia, and the Terrell memoir—won inclusion in the Fifty Books of the Year competition of the American Institute of Graphic Arts. Today, Dobie's Tales of the Mustang and Faulkner's Miss Zilphia Gant are the rarest and most eagerly sought. The publication of Faulkner's work earned the club attention when the chairman of the Southern Methodist University English department attempted unsuccessfully to have Henry Nash Smith, an SMU professor, fired for writing the book's introduction.

In 1938, troubled by the economic uncertainty of the Great Depression and the possibility of war, the club's managers felt compelled to abandon publication. In 1941 the remaining stock of books was transferred to the Texas Folklore Society, which used the sales proceeds to initiate its Range Life Series under J. Carl Hertzog's supervision.

In 1988 the Book Club of Texas was reestablished, with seventeen interim directors, an executive director, and Marcus serving as honorary president. Its three goals were to promote excellence in bookmaking, encourage fellowship among Texas book lovers, and educate a wider audience by sponsoring lectures and exhibitions around the state. Membership was limited to 750, and dues were thirty-five dollars annually. The new club's first two publications were John Graves's Goodbye to a River, which included previously unpublished photographs by Graves, and Gertrude Beasley's My First Thirty Years, both published in 1989. In 1991 the club published Don Hampton Biggers's Buffalo Guns and Barbed Wire and Carolyn Osborn's The Grands: A Short Story. Bruce Cheeseman's Perfectly Exhausted with Pleasure: An Account of the Richard King-Mifflin Kenedy Excursion Train to Laredo was published in 1992.

Dallas News, July 15, 1962.

  • Writers, Authors, Publications, and Literature
  • Literature
  • Clubs, Movements, and Associations
  • Presses and Publishers
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Dallas
  • North Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Stanley Marcus, “Book Club of Texas,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 16, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

June 17, 2020

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