University of Virginia Library


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 per volume had been superseded by Collins in Smith, Elder pictorial boards at the usual price.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.