Dell Publishing was founded in 1921 by George T. Delacorte. In the 1920s and 1930s it published a variety of magazines, including the so-called “pulps,” as well as comic books. Beginning in 1943 the company began its foray into paperback publishing, which consisted mostly of reprints of hardcover mystery novels, but later included westerns and romances.
With its fifth book in 1943, George Harmon Coxe’s Four Frightened Women, the company initiated its ten-year program of putting a map on the back cover of these books. These “scene of the crime” maps could show streets of a town or city, the plan of a country house or apartment, or a bird’s-eye-view drawing of the locale where the story takes place. Some are not maps at all, but merely drawings that illustrate scenes from the novel. This successful marketing strategy gradually ended by 1953; by that time more than 600 Dell map backs had been issued. They are now highly esteemed by collectors.
A few examples from the University Libraries collection are featured here. The wide range of front cover art should be noted; some are very well designed, while others are more typical of lurid and sensational pulp fiction.