The main entrance to the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center is now open. Van Pelt Library and the Fisher Fine Arts Library are currently open to Penn Card holders, Penn affiliates, and certain visitors. See our Service Alerts for details.

Banned Books Collection

The Banned Books Collection includes 210 titles printed in the United States in the 1940s and 1950s that were banned from sale and condemned by authorities for their sexual content. All are in their original dust jackets. A number of American presses, notably the Jack Woodford Press, are represented. The collection provides a useful window into U.S. underground publishing and book marketing in the mid-twentieth century.

Gloria Goddard, Four Seek Love, 1949, dust jacket

Collection Overview

The volumes in this collection may be categorized as "pulp" fiction or "fringe" literature because they were circulated underground. Frequently labeled in their own era of publication as "smut," their contents are mildly pornographic. The books explore a variety of sexualities, including homosexual as well as heterosexual relationships. All of these titles were banned at one time in one or multiple American cities, and all of them were also condemned by the Catholic Church.

While none of the novels contain interior illustrations, their surviving dust jackets provide a useful research source for those interested in investigating the marketing and the iconography of underground literature in the United States.

This collection was acquired as a group from The Philadelphia Rare Books & Manuscripts Company.

A number of publishers, mainly in New York City, are well represented in the collection, and a list follows here. In particular, the collection contains every volume published by the Jack Woodford Press.

Accordion List

Arco Publishing (New York)
Balzac Press (New York)
Boar's Head Books (New York)
Brookwood Publishing (New York)
Castle Books (New York)
Creative Age Press (New York)
Elite Books (New York)
Encore Press
Exposition Press (New York)
Harris Publishing (New York)
House of Field (Doubleday, New York)
Key Publishing Co. | Lorac Books (New York)
Padell Book Co. (New York) | Pageant Press, Inc. (New York)
Phoenix Press (New York) | Prentice Hall (New York)
Red Lantern Books | Sheridan House (New York)
Signature Press (Baltimore)
Smith's Inc. (Fort Worth)
Surrey House | Valentine Books (New York)
Vantage Press (New York)
Vixen Press (New York)
Jack Woodford Press (New York)


Gloria Goddard, Four Seek Love, 1949, dust jacket
1 / 2

Dust jacket for Gloria Goddard and Clement Wood, Four Seek Love (New York: Woodford Press, 1949)

Mark Tryon, Stage-Struck, 1949, dust jacket
2 / 2

Dust jacket for Mark Tryon, Stage-Struck (New York: Vixen Press, 1954)