Welcome to The Collins Library

McSweeney Books presents The Collins Library, a reprint series of rare & out-of-print books. Each volume comes newly edited and with a preface written by series editor Paul Collins. You may find The Collins Library collection at, independent retailers and the McSweeney Bookstores in San Francisco & New York.

Note: The information and views presented on this website DO NOT represent McSweeney Books or The Collins Library. This is a third-party website run by rare book enthusiasts.

The Complete Collins Library Collection

You've found the listing for every volume in The Collins Library Collection. Below you will find a product description and critical opinions for each title.

English As She Is Spoke by Jose da Fonseca & Pedro Carolino

In 1855, Jose da Fonseca and Pedro Carolino sat down to write an English phrasebook for Portuguese students. There was just one problem: they didn't know English. Even worse, they didn't own an English-to-Portuguese dictionary. What they did have, though, was a Portuguese-to-French dictionary and a French-to-English dictionary. Perhaps the worst foreign phrasebook ever written, the resulting linguistic train wreck was first published in 1855 and became a classic of unintentional humor.

Armed with Fonseca and Carolino's guide, a Portuguese traveler could complain about his writing implements ("This pen are good for notting"), insult a barber ("What news tell me? all hairs dresser are newsmonger"), complain about the orchestra ("It is a noise which to cleave the head"), go hunting ("Let aim it! let make fire him!"), and consult a handy selection of truly mystifying Idiotisms and Proverbs ("Nothing some money nothing of Swiss.") Mark Twain, prefacing an American edition, marveled of its "miraculous stupidities" that "Nobody can add to the absurdity of this book, nobody can imitate it successfully, nobody can hope to produce its fellow; it is perfect."

To Ruhleben And Back by Geoffrey Pike

Geoffrey Pyke was one of the 20th century's most brilliant eccentrics -- a mad genius who persuaded FDR and Churchill to build giant aircraft carriers out of ice, a misfit wizard who founded and funded progressive education in Great Britain by seizing control of a third of the world supply of tin, and a mysterious impoverished hermit who spent years living on herring and broken cookies donated by a local bakery. But in 1914, Pyke was just another Cambridge teenager who was brilliant at everything except his studies. Too undisciplined and unhealthy to join the military, he pitched a wild notion to a London newspaper editor: why not make him their war correspondent in Berlin? The editor called the boy's bluff, and Pyke made his way across Europe on little more than a false passport, a pretty good German accent, and sheer chutzpah.

And so begins an odyssey into the heart of wartime Berlin, and a plunge into a harrowing year of solitary confinement and imprisonment at Ruhleben, a horsetrack-turned-internment camp that is now considered the model for Germany's concentration camps. After an escape in broad daylight, and a perilous dash across the German countryside to the Dutch border, Pyke returned home at the age of 20 to write To Ruhleben And Back, the first eyewitness account of a German concentration camp.

Lady Into Fox by David Garnett

"However you may be changed," the narrator pledges, "my love is not." David Garnett's stunning 1922 tale of love and transformation, one of the great debuts of the Bloomsbury circle, is now returned to print after four decades.

The novel tells the story of Mr. Tebrick and his wife, the latter whom is turned into a fox by a strange accident. Despite his wife's new appearance and an adulterous affair with another fox, he still loves her and attempts to maintain their relationship. Lady Into Fox explores the boundaries between man and nature and in many ways shatters it. What other novelists thought of it:

"It is the most successful thing of the kind I have ever seen... flawless in style and composition, altogether an accomplished piece of work." -- Joseph Conrad

Magnificent... write twenty more books, at once, I beseech." -- Virginia Woolf

The Riddle Of The Travelling Skull by Harry Keeler

Quite possibly Harry Keeler's most beloved work, The Riddle Of The Travelling Skull is an absurd mystery tale about a cutting-edge handbag which grows to encompass a villainous Bible-spouter, experimental brain surgery, Legga the Human Spider, and the unlikely asylum state of San Do Mar. From there, things get even stranger. The Riddle Of The Travelling Skull cemented Keeler's reputation as the most bizarre mystery novelist of his time. What some of the critics thought:

"You cannot possibly dream of anything half so bizarre as the yarn that Mr. Keeler has strung together." -- New York Times

"Sometimes we wonder if anyone writing today is so vividly imaginative. We will say that Mr. Keeler is incomparable." -- San Francisco Chronicle

"Mr. Keeler is possessed of a wild and daring imagination." -- Boston Globe

Recent Events


The latest entry into The Collins Collection is now available in stores and over Amazon.

Reading The Nasty

Today's Indepenent of London announced that Cambridge will be opening its famed Tower of Nasty Bits to the public.

The Abandoned Journal

Strange things always surface on eBay; today I found a listing for an abandoned journal of a homeless man, dating back to 1980.