University of Virginia Library


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by Geoffrey Hargreaves

In the mid 1860s the firm Smith, Elder published novels by Wilkie Collins (including The Woman in White) in a distinctive uniform binding aimed at the railway bookstalls. The binding is in a very unusual style for its time but has apparently escaped (in print at least) any detailed description or special notice hitherto, and indeed it may have avoided oblivion only by virtue of three examples held in the United States. Full details of this binding and its background are now given below, with a checklist of applicable Collins items. A feature of the checklist is the incorporation of figures from the Smith, Elder records. An afterword surveys the bookstall dress adopted for works of Collins (and others) by Smith, Elder from 1869 and by Chatto & Windus from 1877, with a comparison of the two firms as publishers of railway fiction.

In the summer of 1865 Smith, Elder acquired from Sampson Low the copyrights (and stock in hand) of seven Wilkie Collins novels.1 Smith, Elder probably thought of adding these titles to their Cheap Editions of Standard Works series;


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this originated in 1857 with Jane Eyre and already included Collins’s After Dark, which was added in 1859.2 Volumes in the series were bound in smooth cloth (usually orange) printed in black from type or stereotype, and were mostly priced at 2s.6d. each; the front cover featured a representation (reset) of the title page, in an added triple-rule frame with an ornament at the corners and "PRICE HALF-A-CROWN" between the bottom inner rules, and was clearly intended for bookstall display.3 By 1865, however, a binding of pictorial boards with images derived from the text had become an established dress for cheap one-volume impressions of successful novels (railway fiction).4 These were printed in color on the front cover and spine from woodblocks and furnished all over with a colored


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ground (usually a shade of yellow).5 Volumes in this style were mostly priced at 2s. each.6 Sampson Low himself, prior to parting with the copyrights, had accorded this style to The Woman in White in 1864 and to The Queen of Hearts and Antonina in 1865, though his price per volume was 2s.6d.7 Smith, Elder had in fact made no additions to their printed cloth series since the beginning of 1864,8 but they had not yet ventured into pictorial boards. A further option was the is. paperback, and in 1865 Smith, Elder themselves were publishing a Monthly Volume of Standard Authors series at is. (originally the Shilling Series of Standard Works of Fiction) in text-derived pictorial wrappers printed in black on orange.9 But this venture seems to have been geared for the shorter novel,10 and none of


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the contributing authors (except perhaps George Meredith) stood in the same rank as Collins.

Nevertheless there must have been considerable surprise around the bookstalls when, in the autumn of 1865, Collins volumes began appearing from Smith, Elder at 2s.6d. in a binding of decorated boards printed in black on brownish red. There seem to be no published details of this binding so far available. Identically on both covers11 a wide rectangular ornamental frame encloses the title and author lettered in black (slightly ornamented roman caps, with outlining in main words of title); the frame, which contains criss-cross and foliage work and has a four-petal design in each corner,12 incorporates the price ("HALF A CROWN") at the top and the publishers at the bottom lettered in brownish red (sans serif roman caps formed by unprinted ground); the panel carrying the title and author has a spray ornament in each corner, a small five-point star above the title, a swelled rule between title and author, and a triple-loop ornament below the author. On the spine the decoration consists of interlinked oval, rectangular, and triangular designs; and the lettering (style as covers, according to color) comprises the title in black, the author in brownish red, and at the foot, below the price ("2/6" encircled) in black, the publishers in brownish red. Decorated boards on railway fiction would have been very familiar in the early 1850s but could not have been anticipated at the bookstalls of 1865.13

Surviving examples of this Collins binding (it seems unconnected with any series) are evidently very scarce;14 an extensive search has located just three (one on The Dead Secret [see figure 1] and one on No Name, both in Atlanta, and one on The Woman in White in Austin), 15 as well as the Los Angeles copy in Sampson Low pictorial boards of a Smith, Elder issue of The Queen of Hearts; also located were four Collins items which are likely to have been published in Smith, Elder 2s.6d. boards but are not in a publisher’s binding now.


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figure 1. Binding of Wilkie Collins, The Dead Secret (London: Smith, Elder, 1865), Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University, PZ3.C66 D4 1865.


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These eight items do at least represent all seven Collins titles newly acquired by Smith, Elder; and combined evidence from other sources, including the firm’s ledgers,16 indicates that Smith, Elder published all these titles at 2s.6d. each in their own boards in 1865–66, though clearly more examples in boards are needed. I hope that the following checklist, which incorporates ledger details, will lead to further discoveries.

These general notes to the checklist that follows:

  • The list covers only the first Smith, Elder publishing of each title at 2s.6d.
  • PC = The Publishers’ Circular, published by Sampson Low. References are to the usually twice-monthly lists of the "New Works" (including new "editions" often deriving from an earlier typesetting) published during the preceding fortnight (or thereabouts). For Topp see footnotes 2 and 14.
  • All located copies have on the title page a Smith, Elder imprint and the entry heading date and are without internal illustration. Descriptions are based on information supplied by holding libraries.
  • The ledgers give the size of all items in the checklist as "Foolscap 8vo" (headings).17 Binding figures in the checklist are normally those of only the earliest date.18


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  • The dates in the ledgers seem to be accounting dates rather than production or delivery dates.

Collins Novels in Smith, Elder Boards 1865–66

The Woman in White 1865. Cheap Edition statement on title page, text ends on p. 494. Smith, Elder issue of Sampson Low stock, printer’s imprint of Clowes.19 PC 2 October 1865, p. 516.20 Topp V, 217 (no. 114), see also IV, 282 (no. 67). Copy: Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin (Queen 5540) in Smith, Elder boards as described above, with plain white endpapers.21

Ledgers: 4762 copies from Sampson Low  24 July 1865 
Binding 1500 copies in boards  7 August 1865 
Binding 500 copies in boards  7 August 1865 
Rebinding 415 copies in boards22  7 August 1865 

Antonina 1865. New Edition statement on title page, text ends on p. 420. Smith, Elder issue of Sampson Low stock, printer’s imprint of Billing.23 Not in PC.24 Topp V, 216 (no. 108); see also IV, 284 (no. 73). October?

Copy: Bodleian Library (256f.3665) in dark green binder’s cloth; inscription "Marion Harrison 1874".


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Ledgers: 1211 copies from Sampson Low  24 July 1865 
Binding 100 copies in boards25  7 August 1865 

The Dead Secret 1865. New Edition statement on title page, text ends on p. 317, final leaf advertises New Works (Smith, Elder).26 Smith, Elder impression, printer’s imprint of Smith, Elder.27

PC 1 November 1865, p. 604.28 Topp, V, 218 (no. 115).

Copy: Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University, Atlanta (PZ3.C66 D4 1865) in Smith, Elder boards as described above, with plain white endpapers.29

Ledgers: Printed 5000 copies + 63 surplus copies  6 October 1865 
Binding 3000 copies in boards  6 October 1865 

The Queen of Hearts 1865, two categories (no priority evident). (a) New Edition statement on title page, text ends on p. 344. Smith, Elder issue of Sampson Low stock, printer’s imprint of Billing.30 (b) Edition statement and text-end page probably as (a). Smith, Elder impression, printer’s imprint probably of Smith, Elder.


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PC 15 November 1865, p. 658. Topp V, 218 (no. 117); see also IV, 283 (no. 70).

Copy of (a): Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA (Sadleir 3475[9])31 in Sampson Low text-derived pictorial boards printed in red and black on an orange ground,32 with plain white endpapers.

Copy of (b): none located.

Ledgers: 729 copies from Sampson Low  24 July 1865 
Printed 2000 copies Surplus copies 28  3 November 1865 
Binding 500 in boards  3 November 1865 
Binding 780 in boards33  3 November 1865 

Hide and Seek 1865. New Edition statement on title page, text ends on p. 356. Smith, Elder impression, printer’s imprint of Smith, Elder.

PC 30 December 1865, p. 921. Topp V, 219 (no. 118).

Copy: John Rylands University Library, University of Manchester, in green binder’s cloth.

Ledgers: 2000 printed 33 surplus  15 December 1865 
Binding 2033 copies in boards34  15 December 1865 

Basil 1866. New Edition statement on title page, text ends on p. 344.

Smith, Elder impression, printer’s imprint of Smith, Elder.

PC 1 February 1866, p. 59. Topp V, 220 (no. 122).

Copies: British Library 1578/2890 acquired in 1981) in nineteenth-century half dark green calf and dark green patterned cloth by Banks & Co., Edinburgh. Cambridge University Library (Enniskillen collection) in nineteenth-century half red cloth and marbled boards.


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Ledgers: Printed 2000 copies 24 surplus copies  19 December 1865 
Binding 1250 copies in cloth35  19 December 1865 
Binding 500 copies in boards  1 July 1866 

No Name 1866. Probably has New Edition statement on title page, text probably ends on p. 548. Probably Smith, Elder issue of Sampson Low crown stock (cut down) with printer’s imprint of Clowes.36

PC 2 July 1866, p. 382, and 16 July 1866, p. 414. Topp V, 221 (no. 128). Copy: none located. A copy of an 1868 Smith, Elder issue (on title page New Edition statement, Smith, Elder imprint, and 1868 date; unillustrated, text ends on p. 548, printer’s imprint of Clowes37) is in the Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University, Atlanta (PZ3.C66 N6 1868) in Smith, Elder boards as described above, with plain white endpapers; bookplate of James H. Graff, Baltimore.

Ledgers: [No print-run recorded] 
Binding 3500 copies in boards38  6 July 1866 

The Clowes firm was a major London book house (address here W. Clowes and Sons, Stamford Street). The three 1861 Low crown copies of The Woman in White in the Parrish Collection and the Jarndyce copy of the 1865 Smith, Elder crown issue (see note 17 above) also have a Clowes imprint; I have failed to locate a Low foolscap (2s.6d.) copy (such copies were first published about ten months before the transfer to Smith, Elder).


PC actually specifies cloth here, perhaps for want of information; there are Smith, Elder adverts in PC for all items except Antonina and No Name but they do not specify the binding (the listings in PC give references to the adverts).


The copy of The Woman in White dated 1865 and located by the NUC (0552588) at the Library of Congress may be of this issue but has been missing since 1906 (the LC card catalogue specifies Smith, Elder).


Rebinding entries suggest that some copies received from Low were already bound in Low boards; there is a rebinding entry (style unspecified) of 1 July 1865 for 101 further copies (and there is an entry of that date for binding 750 further copies in boards).


The Surrey firm of Billing (address here Billing, printer and stereotyper, Guildford, Surrey) evidently printed (as J. Billing, printer, Woking, Surrey) the first edition of Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (3 vols 1848) for T. C. Newby (who printed many of the novels in his 1840s list himself) – see my "Signatures and Dashes in Novels Printed by T. C. Newby in the Eighteen-Forties," Studies in Bibliography 34 (1981), 253–258 (p. 258). The two 1861 Low crown copies of Antonina in the Parrish Collection also have a Billing (Guildford) imprint. I have failed to locate a Low foolscap (2s.6d.) copy, though there was one in Jarndyce, Catalogue XCIII, no. 19, in original boards (such copies were first published about two and a half months before the transfer to Smith, Elder).


The English Catalogue (another Low publication and presumably based on PC) in its annual volume for 1865 lists Antonina in boards at 2s.6d. as published by Smith, Elder in May, but there must be confusion here with Low’s own 2s.6d. Antonina, which is listed in PC, 16 May 1865, p. 258 (Topp rightly questions a May date for the Smith, Elder issue). The confusion is almost certainly carried over into the 1863 –71 cumulation of The English Catalogue but disguised by the absence of month dates in cumulations prior to 1890–97. (For some corroboration of Smith, Elder’s 2s.6d. price see note 26 below.)


Smith, Elder’s expectations for Antonina seem to have been no greater in 1865 than some fifteen years earlier when they had refused it in manuscript – see Leonard Huxley, The House of Smith Elder (London: Printed for Private Circulation, 1923), p. 152 – and they probably did not report it to PC; the next binding entry, however, is for 200 copies in boards (1 July 1866). Collins in turn had refused George Smith’s 1860 offer of £500 for the first British book edition (and copyright?) of The Woman in White (Huxley, pp. 152–153, in this case quoting Smith’s recollections dictated in 1899 – see Huxley, pp. 196–197).


The advert includes a "New Edition. Fcap. 8vo. 2s.6d." of The Woman in White, with the following note in italics under the entry: "New Editions of all Mr. Wilkie Collins’s Works, uniform in size and price with ‘The Woman in White,’ will shortly be published." Whatever Smith, Elder intended here, I believe my checklist of their Collins items at 2s.6d. in boards (again the advert gives no style) is complete. The only other evidence for any addition seems to be an advert in The Athenaeum of 3 November 1866 8(see Topp, V, 202) for After Dark (already available at 2s.6d. in cloth) at 2s.6d. in boards, but the signs from the ledgers are that Smith, Elder were re-advertising here and that confusion arose about the binding: there is an entry of 2 November 1866 for 1000 (+15 surplus) further copies of the foolscap 8vo After Dark (1859 edition) printed and another of that date for binding 250 further copies in cloth (cf. note 20 above).


Smith, Elder’s printing capacity (address here Old Bailey, E.C. – so in the checklist’s Hide and Seek and Basil) dated from 1855 when they took over the printing house of Stewart and Murray in Little Green Arbour Court (15 Old Bailey). In 1872 they made over this capacity to Spottiswoode and Co. in exchange for future printing services – see Sir Sidney Lee, "Memoir of George Smith" [1901] in The Dictionary of National Biography, I (1968 impression), xxi-lix (p. xxxiv); Huxley, pp. 84–85.


PC specifies cloth again here but boards for the remaining items.


The copy of The Dead Secret dated 1865 and located by the NUC (0552128) at the Library of Congress has been missing since 1906 and is not further identifiable.


The address here is Billing, printer, Guildford, Surrey – so in the Low foolscap (2s.6d.) copies at Emory University (Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library) and the National Library of Wales (Low foolscap copies were first published about five months before the transfer to Smith, Elder). The 1862 Low crown copy in the Parrish Collection also has a Billing (Guildford) imprint.


This was Sadleir’s own copy – the Sadleir Collection at UCLA includes the majority of his own items listed in vol. II of XIX Century Fiction (call numbers correspond basically with his numbering).


On the front cover, in a heart-shaped frame above the price ("HALF-A-CROWN"), three elderly men and a young woman are seated at a candle-lit table; the rear cover advertises New Works for Railway and Home Reading (Sampson Low) and has an Edmund Evans imprint (address engraver and printer, Raquet Court, Fleet Street) at the bottom – description from color photocopies. The Emory and NLW Low foolscap (2s.6d.) copies (NLW respined) show these cover details too (for the importance of Evans in the development and production of text-derived pictorial boards see Sadleir, "Yellow-Backs," pp. 141 –142, 147–149, and XIX Century Fiction, II, 3).


A rebinding entry (56 copies, style unspecified) of 1 July 1866 suggests that some copies received were already bound in Low boards, but I believe that hybrids such as the UCLA copy (cf. Sadleir, XIX Century Fiction, no. 3693) result from receipt of unused binding cases and their employment on unbound copies (with a substitute title-leaf or preliminary gathering) rather than from a substitution job on bound copies. (There is also an entry of 1 July 1866 for binding 750 further copies in boards.)


There is an entry of 9 [sic] July 1866 for 1000 (15 surplus) further copies printed and one of 1 July 1866 for binding 750 in boards. (The printing and binding figures in this article are complete to the end of July 1866 for Collins 2s.6d. boarded items.)


By 1872 Collins in Smith, Elder decorated boards at 2s.6d. per volume had been superseded by Collins in Smith, Elder pictorial boards at the usual price. In the autumn of 1869, after beginning the year with a move from 65 Cornhill to the superior premises of 15 Waterloo Place,39 Smith, Elder at last ventured into the pictorial boards market as part of a revival and restyling of their Cheap Editions of Standard Works series.40 This now became Cheap Editions of Popular Works


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in two sections, one comprising 2s.6d. volumes in smooth green cloth blocked in black and gold.41 The other comprised 2s. volumes in text-derived pictorial boards along established lines with a cream or pale yellow ground, though the four spine ornaments and the front-cover gothic lettering are distinctive.42 The first nine volumes in pictorial boards were published in the autumn of 1869 and included No Name.43 This was the only Collins addition of 1869–70, but in 1871 the other six titles of the above checklist were added to the pictorial boards section, as were After Dark (previously in the green cloth section) and Armadale.44

From about 1872 the series was also advertised as Smith, Elder and Co.’s Popular Library45 – a fitting name for a series featuring the Brontës (in the green cloth section46) and Wilkie Collins. But despite the fact that Smith, Elder had by


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this time acquired rights to The Moonstone and Man and Wife, there were no further Collins additions to the series.47 Apparently there was disagreement between Collins and George Smith about pricing policy (in the bookstall range), and in 1875 these two titles, together with six of the Collins titles in the series, were transferred to the new firm of Chatto & Windus (founded 1873).48 Smith, Elder retained After Dark, No Name, and Armadale until after the death of Collins in 1889, but these titles were in the hands of Chatto & Windus by the end of 1890.49

Chatto & Windus were the main British publishers of Collins from 1875 and eventually included twenty-nine volumes of his fiction at 2s. each in their Cheap Editions of Popular Novels series.50 This was the last great series of Victorian railway fiction and again comprised 2s. volumes in text-derived pictorial boards of the established kind.51 In the mid 1890s, when it was at or near its peak, the Chatto & Windus Popular Novels series ran to about 575 volumes, whereas the Smith, Elder Popular Library total at a similar time and stage was about 130 volumes (of which about 50 were in the 2s.6d. cloth section).52 Smith, Elder did make an important contribution to railway fiction, but they were perhaps never comfortable in a market often resembling the railway mania from which the bookstalls emerged.


The specification of cloth here is almost certainly an error for boards: the entered cost (£8 10s. per thousand) is the same as that for all the checklisted binding in boards, while the cost for binding the foolscap 8vo After Dark 1859 edition) in cloth at that time is entered as £10 5s. per thousand. The 198(?) copies of the "old edition 1/6d" (see note 7 above) were still on hand in December 1868 (MS.43206 – entry for 199 copies) but disappear thereafter.


The ledgers record 4304 crown copies from Low; there is a copy (in black library buckram) of an 1865 Smith, Elder crown issue at the University of California, Berkeley, with traces of frontispiece, text ending on p. 548, and printer’s imprint of Clowes (address William Clowes and Sons, Stamford Street and Charing Cross); the 1864 Low crown copy in the Parrish Collection also has a Clowes imprint. The use of crown stock for foolscap issue would have left a great many copies of the frontispiece (by Millais) spare, but these would have had some sales potential in themselves and would have been potentially useful for an illustrated impression or issue such as Smith, Elder’s of 1876 (copy in Parrish Collection).


Clowes address as in the Berkeley copy of the 1865 Smith, Elder crown issue (see note 36 above).


MS.43206. There is also a binding entry of 1 July 1868 for 250 further copies in boards (MS.43206) but this of course has no intrinsic connection with 1868 issue; probably a fresh batch of substitute title-leaves (or preliminary gatherings) had to be printed in 1868 and was updated.


Huxley, pp. 177–179 (see also plate facing p. 178 and frontispiece); Topp, V, 226.


There were no additions to the series in 1865 – 68 (the period of George Smith’s preoccupation with The Pall Mall Gazette - Huxley, p. 177). The ledgers show that from ca. 1867 existing titles (including After Dark) were marketed for a time in part leather bindings ("half roan" or "roxburghe" – both probably what would now be called "quarter leather"); I now think that the binding on an 1867 Shirley (with price "2/6" at foot of spine) at the Brontë Parsonage Museum is an example of the "half roan" style and not a special offer of an earlier 6s. "half morocco" Brontë style – see my "Smith, Elder’s 1857 – 60 Edition of the Brontë Life and Works," Brontë Studies 29 (2004), 17–26 (p. 22 and note 13).


The size of volumes in the green cloth section is given in adverts as foolscap 8vo. I provided an illustration and fuller description of the green cloth binding in Brontë Studies 29 (2004), 21 (fig. 7), 22 (at that time I had not worked out the history of the series as a whole). In this binding the endpapers are plain (with facing surfaces of pale yellow) and the leaves (in copies of four volumes 1870–75) measure approx. 6 5/8 × 4 3/8 in. (all edges cut). The cloth is called "limp" (over thin board) in the adverts (I have seen one example of it with a pebble grain – on my copy of an 1884 Shirley). Five 2s. volumes arising in the cloth section in 1870–71 (Mrs Gaskell’s tales) were eliminated by redistribution ca. 1884. Some of the cloth section volumes have an engraved frontispiece.


Topp, V, color plates [21]-[32]; Pierre Coustillas, George Gissing: The Definitive Bibliography (High Wycombe: Rivendale Press, 2005), plate [10] with uniform ca. 1890 spines (on spines of ca. 1870 seen by me the top three ornaments are more compact except on the extra-wide Armadale spine where all four are much elongated). An advert for the series usually occupies the rear cover but from ca. 1890 is sometimes replaced by one for Dr Rooke’s medicines. The endpapers are white and usually plain but from ca. 1890 are sometimes occupied (on all visible surfaces) by non-book adverts. The leaves (in copies of four volumes 1870–75) measure approximately 6 3/4 × 4 3/8 in. (all edges cut). Early adverts for the revived series do not specify the size of volumes in boards, but later ones give it as foolscap 8vo. (The spine of pictorial boards tends to be ornamental rather than pictorial.)


PC, 15 October 1869, pp. 647–649, listing all nine volumes; No Name – see Topp, V, 221 (no. 128) – is the only one new to the series as a whole, the other eight being transfers from the Standard Works phase (see Topp, V, Smith, Elder nos. 39, 42, 45, 51, 59, 61, 83, 92).


PC (all 1871) 1 March, p. 141 (The Woman in White), 1 April, p. 208 (The Dead Secret), 1 May, p. 274 (Hide and Seek), 1 June, p. 337 (The Queen of Hearts), 1 July, p. 402 (Antonina), 15 September, p. 585 (Armadale and Basil), 17 October, p. 680 (After Dark); this 1871 Armadale is Topp, V, 230 (no. 159) – the first appearance in bookstall dress (first British book publication 2 outsize – "demy 8vo" – vols, Smith, Elder 1866); for After Dark see Topp, V, 201 (no. 44); Topp lists the other six items under the checklist references. (I have not pursued details of Afterword items in the ledgers.)


All Popular Library (briefly preceded by Popular Editions) adverts I have seen are on text paper in the final gathering of some volumes; the Cheap Editions of Popular Works version (which I have not seen internally) persists as the usual advert on the rear cover of volumes in boards (Topp does not attempt to designate the series beyond ca. 1870).


As a rule the two sections appear to be mutually exclusive, but there is evidence in the adverts that Collins became an exception; and PC, 16 November 1872, p. 769 lists (in a single entry) all nine Collins titles concerned as published by Smith, Elder in cloth at 2s.6d. each, though I cannot point to a surviving example.


The Moonstone and Man and Wife (first British book publication respectively 3 vols, Tinsley Brothers 1868 and 3 vols, F. S. Ellis 1870) seem to have been published by Smith, Elder in cloth (crown 8vo) only (1871, 5s. each) – see Topp, III, 45-47.


Huxley, pp. 153-154 (quoting Smith's recollections, 1899); Gasson (see note 7 above), p. 141 (Gasson’s Guide is a valuable source of bibliographical information). Smith is hazy on the details but recalls clearly his view that the price advocated by Collins was too low; and in the event Chatto & Windus themselves do not seem to have published any Collins title at less than 2s. until 1894, when they ventured a two-column setting of The Woman in White at 6d. (paperback) or is. (limp cloth) – Topp, III, 231 (no. 1042).


Topp, III, 192-193.


The first fifteen Collins volumes are in Topp III under the year 1877 and the final Collins volume (Blind Love) is under 1891 (Topp does not use a designation for this series – the volumes are unnumbered and the name only transpires from adverts). Eight examples (various impressions or issues) of the Collins volumes are listed in Sadleir, XIX Century Fiction, II, 27 and sixteen in Robert Lee Wolff, Nineteenth-Century Fiction: A Bibliographical Catalogue, 5 vols (New York & London: Garland Publishing, 1981-86), I, 257-269 (the Wolff Collection is at the Harry Ransom Center).


Topp, III, color plates [6]-[32].


The Popular Novels figure is based on a Chatto & Windus catalogue of March 1895, pp. 29-32 and the Popular Library figure on adverts of ca. 1895 and ca. 1896. The Popular Library cloth figure includes about ten volumes "in limp red cloth, crown 8vo" (adverts) from a 2s.6d. subsidiary section introduced ca. 1890 – I have not seen an example. By ca. 1895 the two main (foolscap) sections of the Popular Library each had an (eventually superseding) alternative binding (2s.6d.): the green cloth section one of smooth rigid dark green cloth, with spine ruled and lettered (head lettering rule framed) in gold, and leaf tops gilt, but covers plain (not one for the bookstall unless via a dust jacket); and the pictorial boards section one of grained limp red cloth blocked in black, with spine (Coustillas, plate [10]) lettered in gold and front cover lettered in red and black.


For location searches and general reference I thank Ed Ball, Michael Chambers, Veronica Denholm, Linda Frost, David Hume, P. Kami, Laura Macpherson, J. R. Mitchell, Anne Mouron, and Abby Yochelson; for bibliographical details of Collins items Robert Arpots, Joanne Crane, Iwan ap Dafydd, A. Iris Donovan, David Faulds, Christina Favretto, Stephen Ferguson, William Hale, Michael Knies, Maggie Novario, Verity Orme, Molly Schwartzburg, Kathy Shoemaker, Victoria Steele, Carol A. Turley, and Y. Zhang; and for transcripts (and insights) from the Smith, Elder ledgers Virginia Murray and Murray Simpson (ledger details are used here by permission of the Trustees of the National Library of Scotland). I also thank Tom Tanselle for some library contact details; and above all my wife Jan for the Anthony Trollope quotation (note 9) and for her help and support throughout. Finally my thanks to everyone involved in supplying me with photocopies.


In imprints the full name of the Smith, Elder firm was Smith, Elder and Co. and that of Sampson Low’s firm (in the 1860s) was Sampson Low, Son and Co. or (from late 1863) Sampson Low, Son and Marston (accidentals vary for both firms). The novels (with details of first British book publication) were Antonina (3 vols, Richard Bentley 1850), Basil (3 vols, Richard Bentley 1852), Hide and Seek (3 vols, Richard Bentley 1854), The Dead Secret (2 vols, Bradbury and Evans 1857), The Queen of Hearts (3 vols, Hurst and Blackett 1859), The Woman in White (3 vols, Sampson Low 1860), and No Name (3 vols, Sampson Low 1862). The Smith, Elder ledgers (see notes 16 and 18 below) record Sampson Low stock received; the figures include 27 copies of The Woman in White in three volumes and 381 of No Name in three volumes but the stock mostly comprised one-volume copies, produced for Low in the 1860s, of each of the seven novels. All ledger entries recording this stock are dated 24 July 1865; pagination concurrences in the transmission suggest that one-volume stereos for each novel were also received – for a good account of Victorian stereotyping see Allan C. Dooley, Author and Printer in Victorian England (Charlottesville and London: Univ. Press of Virginia, 1992), pp. 55–78. Collins’s next novel, Armadale, was already in the hands of Smith, Elder, who had been running it in The Cornhill Magazine since November 1864 (the run was completed in June 1866).


Chester W. Topp, Victorian Yellowbacks & Paperbacks, 1849–1905, 9 vols (Denver, Colorado: Hermitage Antiquarian Bookshop, 1993–2006), V, 193 (no. 19) and 201 (no. 44). A prospectus (apparently for this series), dated 1857 and printed on the front pastedown of my 1857 copy of the second item in the series (Charlotte Brontë’s Shirley), highlights the Brontës and lists Collins as one of the other authors, though his only title then in the hands of Smith, Elder was After Dark (first British book publication 2 vols, Smith, Elder 1856). As Topp indicates (V, 193), the nomenclature of this mainly fiction series is a problem: the 1857 prospectus fails to name it at all, and the names and lists that initially emerge seem to be sectional (e.g., Smith, Elder & Co.’s Cheap Series of Fictions); but from ca. 1859 to ca. 1868 a single list is found, usually under the name Cheap Editions of Standard Works. (The volumes are not numbered, and the identity of the series depends on adverts and uniform binding styles.) This was Smith, Elder’s first venture in railway fiction.


Walter E. Smith, The Brontë Sisters: A Bibliographical Catalogue of First and Early Editions 1846–1860 (Los Angeles: Heritage Book Shop, 1991), illus. on pp. 34, 66, 98, 118, 144, 164; Topp, V, color plates [18]-[20]. Although the cloth is over thin board it is not called "limp" in the adverts (cf. note 41 below). The rear cover (repeating the front cover frame but without the price) and the facing surfaces (pale yellow) of the endpapers carry Smith, Elder adverts. Leaf dimensions are approx. 6¾ – 6 3/4 × 4 1/4 in. (all edges cut) in examples of eight volumes 1857–60. Three shorter novels in the series were priced at 2s. each (see further note 10 below).


The term "yellowback" has been associated with almost any Victorian book priced at 2s.6d. or less and in a binding suitable for bookstall display irrespective of material and color, and it seems best avoided in discussion of particular binding styles. By "boards" here I mean fibre boards overlaid with colored (occasionally white) and glazed paper which carries printed design and lettering; I use "pictorial" when the front cover design includes an obvious picture as a main feature, and "decorated" when the design is entirely or essentially ornamental; and I distinguish between a "text-derived" picture specific to an individual volume (in fiction usually illustrating a significant moment) and a "series-derived" picture (such as the locomotive scene for the first phase of Routledge’s Railway Library) applicable to any volume in the series. For the development, from the:840s, of pictorial and decorated boards see Michael Sadleir, "Yellow-Backs," in John Carter (ed.), New Paths in Book Collecting (London: Constable, 1934), pp. 127–161 (esp. pp. 127–142). This fundamental essay is unillustrated, but there are fine related half-tones in Sadleir’s XIX Century Fiction: A Bibliographical Record Based on His Own Collection, 2 vols (London: Constable, 1951), mainly in II; and there are fine color plates (on plate paper), above all in each volume of Topp, but also in Ian Rogerson, The Victorian Yellowback Book [Exhibition Catalogue], 2nd ed. (Manchester: Manchester Polytechnic Library, 1984) and Jarndyce (London), Catalogue CXLI: Fine Yellowbacks (2001). Rogerson and Jarndyce CXLI are also helpful supplements to the great store of detail in XIX Century Fiction and Topp. (I have used the good 1969 Cooper Square impression of XIX Century Fiction.)


The establishment of text-derived pictorial boards on railway fiction was largely the result of the style’s adoption in 1854 by Routledge’s Railway Library (1848–99), which initially employed series-derived pictorial boards (1848–50, following the 1847 lead of The Parlour Library) and then moved for a time into decorated styles (1851–ca. 1855) – this Routledge sequence can be followed in Topp, I, 1–85 and color plates [2]–[6]; see also Sadleir, XIX Century Fiction, II, 167–168 and plates 15 and 8. (Previously unpublished novels occasionally appeared in railway dress and at railway prices.)


Sources cited in note 4 above indicate that prices during the 1850s were usually is. or is.6d. for series-derived and decorated boards and is.6d. or 2s. for text-derived, with 2s. standard for text-derived from ca. 1860. (Topp also indicates that corresponding cheap fiction in cloth usually cost 6d. extra.)


Topp, IV, 282–284 (nos. 67, 70, 73); for covers of The Queen of Hearts see checklist below; the three items were advertised together by Low as "uniform" (presumably with specific pictorial work) in The Publishers’ Circular, 16 May 1865, p. 267; Low’s stock for them was acquired by Smith, Elder (see checklist). As early as 1856 James Blackwood had published Basil in this style (at is.6d.) – Sadleir, XIX Century Fiction, no. 3447(5); Andrew Gasson, Wilkie Collins: An Illustrated Guide (Oxford [and] New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1998), p. 20 (with illus.); Topp, VIII, 375 (no. 31); the Smith, Elder ledgers record 198 copies from Low of seemingly this Basil ("old edition 1/6d").


The volume added at that time was Harriet Martineau’s Household Education – Topp, V, 214 (no. 97); this is the 30th volume listed by Topp in the series, which by then included the seven Brontë novels (in 6 vols 1857 – 60) and Elizabeth Gaskell’s The Life of Charlotte Brontë (added 1859).


The development of paperbacks in the 1850s and 1860s is outlined in Topp, I, x–xi. This numbered Smith, Elder series, dating from the end of 1861 (Topp, V, 208–209), was in fact a pioneer of the paperback novel series. The title (but not the numbering sequence) was changed in the spring of 1865 with no. 26 (Topp, V, 216), and the series was taken over by Chapman & Hall in 1868 at no. 46 (Topp, III, 351). No cover details of the Shilling Series phase seem to be available, though Anthony Trollope may have had it in mind when he referred to "the yellow shilling-novel depôt" of "Mr. [W.H.] Smith’s book-stall" (at a railway station) in chapter xxxiv of The Small House at Allington (first British serial publication in The Cornhill Magazine, September 1862-April 1864; quoted here from this source – August 1863, p. 211). For cover details of the Monthly Volume phase (which included new impressions or issues of Shilling Series titles with their original numbering) see Topp, V, 215 (no. 103) and Smith, Elder frontispiece; see also Michael Collie, George Meredith: A Bibliography (London: Dawsons, 1974), p. 17 (Farina 1865); these examples have a Smith, Elder advert (from type or stereo) on the rear cover, and so (for the series) has my copy of an 1865 Monthly Volume Hawksview (no. 12, published in the Shilling Series phase 1862). The covers of my example are unglazed and its leaf dimensions are approx. 6 3/4 × 4 1/4 in. (all edges cut flush with the covers).


Of the 45 Shilling Series or Monthly Volume novels listed under Smith, Elder in Topp (V, 208–224), 21 were accorded first British book publication in one volume (1852–63, mostly at 10s.6d.), 18 in two volumes (1851–65 at 2is.), and only 6 in the standard three volumes (1852–59 at 3is.6d.) including Counterparts (no. 36), which is described by Topp (V, 220) as an abridgement in its Monthly Volume edition. (A Lost Love, The School for Fathers, and Paul Ferroll, which comprised respectively nos. 19, 31, and 33 in the paperback series, had appeared in the printed cloth series at 2s. each in 1858, and are to be found in Topp under that year, see V, 197 – 199.) All the two- and three-deckers and a remarkable 18 of the singles were Smith, Elder’s own.


The rear cover of boarded railway fiction not uncommonly repeats the front in the 1850s but in general carries an advert (usually involving type or stereo) for other books from the publisher or the product(s) of some other trade.


The corner decoration of the frame has some affinity with that of the frame on the covers of the Monthly Volume paperback. Everything on the Collins covers (and spine) seems to be from woodblock.


Illustrations of decorated boards on railway fiction of the early 1850s appear in C. E. Frazer Clark, Jr, Nathaniel Hawthorne: A Descriptive Bibliography (Pittsburgh: Univ. of Pittsburgh Press, 1978), pp. 154, 174, 202; see also sources cited in note 4 above. By 1865 the decorated style was obsolete for railway fiction, though there was a more sustained revival in the 1880s (with Chinese-red printing) for Macmillan’s Two Shilling Novels series – Topp, V, color plates [4]-[7], [12]. At 2s.6d. the Smith, Elder Collins volumes must have seemed overpriced as well as out of date.


There is no reference to any in Sadleir, XIX Century Fiction or in Topp, though without the pioneering record of XIX Century Fiction and the great chronicle of Victorian Yellowbacks my search would never have begun. (The Topp entries are based on contemporary listings and the Topp Collection; they include notes on the British and often American publishing history of all titles traced.)


The three examples were eventually located thanks to the OCLC WorldCat database (via subscribing libraries). My description derives from photocopies (covers and spine) of two examples (The Woman in White and The Dead Secret) and verbal accounts of all three. The only non-Collins candidate for this binding seems to be an 1866 The Conscript by Erckmann & Chatrian (in translation) listed by Topp – V, 222 (no. 133) – as published by Smith, Elder in boards at 2s.6d., but an extensive search has failed to locate any copies of this.


The Smith, Elder ledgers (from July 1853 until the firm was absorbed by John Murray in 1917) are part of the John Murray Archive, which was acquired from the Murray family by the National Library of Scotland in 2005.


Such terms were used (inconsistently) in Victorian publishing to indicate size (the listings in PC mostly give the size of these items as plain "12mo" – a usage for any rather small volume). The designations are distinct from bibliographical format – see G. Thomas Tanselle, "The Concept of Format," Studies in Bibliography 53 (2000), 67–115 (pp. 92–95) – and I use them here for reference purposes only. Leaf dimensions of copies in Smith, Elder boards are approx. 6 5/8 × 4 3/8 in. (all edges cut). After the size the ledgers give a price of 2s.6d. each for The Woman in White, The Dead Secret, and Hide and Seek but no price for the other items (2s.6d. each is given for the seven items in printed sources). As well as Low’s foolscap stock (in or for boards) of The Woman in White, Antonina, and The Queen of Hearts, Smith, Elder acquired his "Crown 8vo" stock (in or for cloth) of all seven titles: The Woman in White 454 copies, Antonina 332, The Dead Secret 192, The Queen of Hearts 368, Hide and Seek 572, Basil 219, No Name 4304; leaf dimensions of copies in Low cloth (with illustrative matter in the prelims) in the Parrish Collection at Princeton are approx. 7 1/2 (7 7/8 for No Name) × 5 in. (all edges untrimmed). Low’s crown cloth price (according to The English Catalogue of Books 1835–62 and 1863 –71) was 5s. each except No Name at 6s. There are indications in the ledgers (but not in PC or The English Catalogue 1863 –71) that Smith, Elder issued some of this crown stock as such in cloth; two 1865 examples were offered in Jarndyce, Catalogue XCIII: Wilkie Collins (1993), nos. 52 (The Dead Secret) and 68 (The Woman in White), but survivors again seem very scarce.


All ledger figures in this article are from National Library of Scotland MS.43204 or (in a few specified instances) MS.43206.