English Readings

aka/ English Readings for Students
aka/ English Reading Series

Henry Holt & Co. (New York, US)
Series dates: 1893-1940
Size: 4.75″ x 6.75″

Publisher’s series aimed at the school market are a distinct sub-variety of book series: they were typically bought by teachers or schools through the mail or distributors rather than sold off the shelf in a bookstore. Books not meant to be sold via displays in stores did not necessarily need dust jackets to protect the book or advertise it, and some of these school series don’t seem to have been issued with jackets. These books were often quite cheap (and not including a jacket may have saved a penny or two) and had significantly more printing on the bindings (lists of titles in the series, etc.) that would normally have been included on a jacket. That said, the fact that few of these school series are seen in jacket does not necessarily mean they did not come with one: case in point, Holt’s English Readings series, and the copy of the Poems of Wordsworth below.

Holt’s English Readings series (or English Reading Series, or English Readings for Students Series) was first issued in 1893 with 4 titles, as included in this early 1894 issue of The Publishers’ Weekly. Titles are priced at .30 to .50 cents. The advertisement also includes two foreign language series, French Readings and German Readings. The English Readings series was one of numerous classics reprint and textbook series issued for high school use. The series was advertised heavily, and shows up in many guides and lists for teachers in the late 1800s thru the mid 1930s when the series fades away.

A copy of Five Lectures on Shakespeare By Bernhard Aegidius Konrad Ten Brink (what a moniker!) was published by Holt in 1895 and contains, in the back, a descriptive listing of 9 titles in the English Readings series. Of these 9, it seems that 3 were never published (Dryden, Goldsmith, and Specimens of Argumentation: Classical). Also included is the series aim:

“This collection is planned to supply English masterpieces in editions at once competently edited and inexpensive. The aim will be to fill vacancies now existing because of subject, treatment, or price. The volumes will be of convenient size and serviceably bound.”

The four catalog pages are below:

By 1911, the series has expanded to 31 titles (listing from a copy of Shakespeare’s Julius Cæsar published by Holt in 1911).

In A Book of English Essays dated 1914 the number of titles has expanded to 36:

Between 1893 and 1929 the English Readings series published a total of 80 titles, with three announced but not published (ghost titles). Titles in the series, with their first year of publication are listed below. The last reprint I can find is dated 1940.

1893
Coleridge: Selections From His Prose, Henry A. Beers (ed.)
Essays on Croker’s edition of Boswell’s Life of Johnson by Macaulay and Carlyle, J.M. Hart (ed.)
Joan of Arc & The English Mail Coach by Thomas De Quincey, J.M. Hart (ed.)
*Specimens of Argumentation: Classical, by George Pierce Baker
Specimens of Argumentation: Modern, by George Pierce Baker

1894
*Dryden: Select Plays, James W. Bright (ed.)
Endymion: The Man in the Moon, by John Lyly, George Pierce Baker (ed.)
Edward the Second by Christopher Marlowe, Edward T. McLaughlin (ed.)
*Present State of Polite Learning, by Alexander Goldsmith, J.M. Hart (ed.)
History of Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia, by Samuel Johnson
Specimens of Exposition, by Hammond Lamont

1895
The Broken Heart by John Ford, Clinton Scollard (ed.)
Macaulay’s and Carlyle’s Essays on Samuel Johnson, William Strunk (ed.)
Selections from the Prose Writings of John Henry, Cardinal Newman, Lewis Edwards Gates (ed.)
Specimens of Narration by W.T. Brewster
Specimens of Prose Description, Charles Sears Baldwin

1896
Selections from Edmund Burke, Bliss Perry (ed.)

1897
Selections from the Prose Writings of Matthew Arnold, Lewis Edwards (ed.)

1898
Essays on the Drama, by John Dryden, William Strunk (ed.)

1899
Selections from the Imaginary Conversations of Walter Savage Landor, Alphonso G Newcomer (ed.)

1900
The English Humourists of the Eighteenth Century by William Makepeace Thackeray, William Lyon Phelps (ed.)
Selections from the Poetry of Lord Byron, Frederic Ives Carpenter (ed.)
Specimens of the Forms of Discourse, by Edwin Herbert Lewis

1901
The Lyric and Dramatic Poems of John Milton, Martin W. Sampson (ed.)
Selections From Walter Pater, Edward Everett Hale, Jr. (ed)
Selections from the Poetry of Alexander Pope, Edward Bliss Reed (ed.)
Selections from the Prose Writings of Jonathan Swift, Frederick Clarke Prescott (ed.)
Sesame and Lilies by John Ruskin, Robert K. Root (ed.)
Specimens of the Short Story, George Henry Nettleton (ed.)
Speech on Conciliation with America by Edmund Burke, Daniel V. Thompson (ed.)

1903
English Verse by Raymond Macdonald Alden
Macaulay’s Essays on Milton and Addison, James Arthur Tufts (ed.)
Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, Thomas Marc Parrott (ed.)

1905
The Lincoln and Douglas Debates, Archibald Lewis Bouton (ed.)

1906
Selections From the Works of Joseph Addison, Edward Bliss Reed (ed.)

1909
Old Testament Narratives, George Henry Nettleton (ed.)
Selections from the Critical Writings of Edgar Allan Poe, Frederick Clarke Prescott (ed.)
Selections from the Works of Samuel Johnson, Charles Grosvenor Osgood (ed.)

1911
Arnold’s Sohrab and Rustum, Walter S. Hinchman (ed.)
Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, J.H. Gardiner (ed.)
George Eliot’s Silas Marner, Ellen E Garrigues (ed.)
Irving’s Sketch Book, Arthur Willis Leonard (ed.)
Macaulay’s Essays on Clive and Hastings, F.E. Pierce & Samuel Thurber (eds.)
Poems by Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, and Keats, James Weber Linn (ed.)
Poems of Robert Browning, Charles W Hodell (ed.)
Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe
Scott’s Ivanhoe,
 Alfred Arundel May (ed.)
Scott’s Lady of the Lake, Alfred M. Hitchcock (ed.)
Shakespeare’s As You Like It, John William Cunliffe & George Roy Elliott (eds.)
Shakespeare’s Julius Cæsar, Ashley Horace Thorndike (ed.)
Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Felix Emmanuel Schelling (ed.)
Specimens of Letter-Writing, by Laura E. Lockwood & Amy R. Kelly
Stevenson’s Inland Voyage & Travels with a Donkey, Edwin Mims (ed.)
Stevenson’s Treasure Island, Stuart Pratt Sherman (ed.)
Washington’s Farewell Address & Webster’s First Bunker Hill Oration, William Edward Simonds (ed.)

1912
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, E.H. Kemper McComb (ed.)
Carlyle’s Essays on Burns, Sophie Chantal Hart (ed.)
English Lyrics from Dryden to Burns, Morris W Croll (ed.)
Franklin’s Autobiography, Frank Woodworth Pine (ed.)
Macaulay’s Life of Johnson, Chester Noyes Greenough (ed.)
Milton’s L’allegro, Il Penseroso, Comus, and Lycidas, Martin Wright Sampson (ed.)
Scott’s Quentin Durward, Thomas Henry Briggs (ed.)
Selections from Huxley, C. Alphonso Smith (ed.)
Selections from Tennyson’s Idylls of the King, John Erskine (ed.)

1913
Byron’s Childe Harold, the Prisoner of Chillon, and other Poems, Hardin Craig (ed.)
Tom Brown’s School-Days by Thomas Hughes, Walter Huston Lillard (ed.)

1914
A Book of English Essays, C.T. Winchester (ed.)
A Book of Short Stories, Stuart Pratt Sherman (ed.)
Shakespeare’s Hamlet, John Livingston Lowes (ed.)
The Sir Roger de Coverley Papers, Joseph Addison & Richard Steele, Nathaniel Edward Griffin (ed.)

1915
Macaulay’s Speeches on Copyright and Lincoln’s Address at Cooper Institute 
with other Addresses and Letters, James Fleming Hosic (ed.)

1917
A Book of Ballads, Old and New, Guido H Stempel (ed.)
Hawthorne’s House of the Seven Gables, John B Opdycke (ed.)
Parkman’s The Oregon Trail, H.G. Paul (ed.)
President Wilson’s Addresses, George McLean Harper (ed.)

1922
Poems of Wordsworth, Myron R. Williams (ed.)
Shakespeare’s Henry the Fifth, Elmer Edgar Stoll & Martin B. Ruud (eds.)

1923
Exploring Nature, by C.H. Ward

1926
**Introduction to American Literature (2nd ed.), Henry Spackman Pancoast

1927
Readings from Lincoln, Alfred A Wright (ed.)
The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot, Myron R. Williams (ed.)
Two Essays of James Russell Lowell, Tucker Brooke (ed.)

1929
Early Poems by John Milton, Mercy A Brann & Isabel Bacheler (eds.)

* Ghost title (announced but not published)
** This title is listed as part of the English Readings series on the jacket (1927) below with no indication of edition. A 2nd edition of this title (first edition was not in the series, and issued in 1894)was issued in 1923, reprinted in 1926 and 1930. None of the copies on WorldCat indicate it is part of the English Readings series, but it was probably added in 1923 or 1926. I’ve included it under 1926 as that is closer to the date of the jacket (1927) it appears on.

By 1927, when the copy of Poems of Wordsworth shown below was reprinted (initially published in 1922) the English Readings series seems to have been in slow decline (with less than a dozen titles in print). This is a different book than the Wordsworth: Selections title in the 1914 list above (which includes some additional authors, and has a different editor). The dust jackets for the series, at this time, were common to the series, printed on orange paper with minimalist design. The title and author are framed, generically with a bar down the left of the jacket front. The front jacket flap is blank, and very short. The jacket front includes the series name, along with “World’s Best Classics.” This may have been an allusion to the Modern Library’s “The Best of the World’s Best Books” slogan. This in turn suggests that Holt may have been trying to sell these books in bookstores (where the very popular Modern Library books were sold), rather than only to teachers. The jacket suggests this may have been the case: a book aimed at shelf sales.

The rear of the jacket lists nine titles, framed in a wiggly border. The rear flap, short like the front jacket flap, is blank.

The books are sturdily bound in red cloth with gold typography and a debossed frame around the front cover. This binding style appears in the early 1910s, after at least two previous binding designs.

The endpapers are patterned, with the series name and quotes from famous English language authors. Two quotes are included on the front endpapers and two on the rear endpapers. These quotes are the same, from book to book, in the few copies of this series I have seen.

The half title page does not include the book title, but instead the series name and its general editor, Wilbur Lucius Cross (of Yale University). These books were carefully edited, some had notes, and all had scholarly introductions: all apparatus that was expected to be part of books sold for academic use. Indeed, reviews of books in this series (and other similar series) were primarily focused on the introductions and notes, and their value to the instructor.

A portrait of Matthew Arnold, who supplied the introductory essay for this volume, faces the title page. It’s a bit peculiar to include a portrait that isn’t the author of the book. The book’s editor, Myron R. Williams, is noted and the Holt colophon included on the title page.

The copyright to this book is 1922, with this printing in March, 1917.

The rear endpapers continue with two additional quotes, from Bacon and Emerson.