'Mad Men' : Decline and Fall of Don Draper's Empire

I’m late to the party, just now watching season 3 of Mad Men on DVD, but I was fascinated by some bibliographical notes in Episode 3.

First was the fascinating sequence of Don Draper’s precocious, thieving daughter reading out loud from Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire to her grandpa, quoting from the section on the supposed flaws of the eastern civilizations. It appeared to be the three-volume Heritage Club edition with the Piranesi illustrations. I recall this very same set from my parents’ library. They, as did many middle-class families, subscribed to the Heritage Club, which delivered (once a month, I think), lovely, illustrated, slipcased but not overly expensive editions of the classic texts, each accompanied by a little leaflet of introduction called the Sandglass. I’m sure that the set is still there on the shelf—my parents do not get rid of books (unless them send them to me).

Also, my eyes might have failed me, but I believe that I saw the two-volume Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary on the shelf in the office behind the desk of the new boss from England. That figures as a statement of hierarchical authority—except that the Compact Edition wasn’t published until 1971.

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