Macdonald Illustrated Classics

Macdonald & Co., Ltd. (London, UK)
Series dates: 1948-1961
Size: 5″ x 7.25″

Coward-McCann (New York, US)
Series dates: 1950-1951
Size: 5″ x 7.25″

“Theodore Thomas MacDonald began publishing cheap hardback fiction under the imprint T.T. MacDonald in August 1938 from offices at Ludgate House, 110 Fleet Street. MacDonald published three-penny books for sale in Woolworth’s stores and novels for three shillings and sixpence. A significant factor in the firm’s development was a link with Purnell and Sons, the printing group based at Paulton, near Bristol.”

Purnell’s chairman, Wilfred Harvey, took over the firm as joint managing director when MacDonald resigned in 1940. The name of the firm changed to Macdonald and Company (Publishers), Ltd. in 1942. It relocated to 19 Ludgate Hill. A significant paper allocation and access to printing facilities meant the firm was set up well in an era where paper shortages plagued many publishers. They were able to publish the massive 1945 historical romance Forever Amber (by Kathleen Winsor) which became a best seller. That success led to a diverse stable of authors ranging from the literary to trashy romance to cartoons, film, and aviation books.

“During the 1950s and 1960s, Purnell, under the direction of Wilfred Harvey, acquired a succession of other publishing lists-among them Max Parrish, Oldbourne Press, Queen Anne Press (with Ian Fleming among its authors), T. V. Boardman, John Lehmann, Latimer House, and Sampson Low, Marston and Company. Many of the titles on these lists were republished under the Macdonald imprint.”

“Harvey’s expansion of printing and allied interests led to a merger of Purnell with Hazell Sun in 1964 under the name British Printing Corporation (BPC).” “Futura, mainly a paperback imprint, was founded in 1973.” In 1982 “Robert Maxwell took over BPC, which he renamed British Printing and Communication Corporation (BPCC).” The firm was absorbed into the Time Warner conglomerate in the 1980s.

(Source: David¬†Linton. “Macdonald and Company (Publishers).” British Literary Publishing Houses, 1881-1965, edited by Jonathan Rose and Patricia Anderson, vol. 112, Gale, 1991, pp. 195-196.)

The Macdonald Illustrated Classics appear in 1948 in the UK under the Macdonald imprint, and in 1950 in the US under the Coward-McCann imprint. Four titles are shown below, three US editions and one UK edition.

Advertisements for the Macdonald Illustrated Classics in the Times Literary Supplement:

Times Literary Supplement, September 23, 1948

Times Literary Supplement, October 23, 1948

Times Literary Supplement, February 14, 1949

Times Literary Supplement, November 20, 1953

Times Literary Supplement, May 20, 1955

There were 41 titles issued by Macdonald in the UK in the Macdonald Illustrated Classics series. 18 titles (marked * in the list below) were sold in the US by Coward-McCann. Four additional titles (marked ** in the list below: #1, #14, #21, #22, #23) were listed as available in the US but apparently not published.

The books were not necessarly published in order of their series number, the initial year of printing follow each title below. “CM” means the initial year of printing for Coward-McCann titles. Reprints of the UK editions do occur;¬†I have not found any reprinted Coward-McCann titles.

**1. Westward Ho!, by Charles Kingsley, illustrated by Hookway Cowles (1948)
*2. Pickwick Papers, by Charles Dickens, illustrated by Broom Lynne (1948, CM 1950)
*3. A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy, by Laurence Sterne, with an introduction by John Cowper Powys, illustrated by Brian Robb (1948, CM 1950)
*4. Emma, by Jane Austen, illustrated by Philip Gough (1948, CM 1950)
*5. Shelley’s Poems, selected and with an introduction by Morchard Bishop, illustrated with Reproductions Of Paintings, Etc. (1949, CM 1950)

*6. Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens with Original Illustrations by George Cruikshank (1949, CM 1950)
*7. Hazlitt’s Essays, A Selection with an introduction by Catherine Macdonald Maclean, illustrated with Reproductions Of Paintings, Etc. (1949, CM 1950)
*8. Tristram Shandy, by Laurence Sterne, with an introduction by John Cowper Powys, illustrated by Brian Robb (1949, CM 1950)
*9. Barnaby Rudge, by Charles Dickens, with Original Illustrations by Phiz and George Cattermole (1949, CM 1950)
*10. The Autobiography and Journals Of Benjamin Robert Haydon, with an introduction by Malcolm Elwin, illustrated with Reproductions Of Paintings (1950)

*11. A Tale Of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens, with original illustrations by Phiz (1949, CM 1950)
*12. Lorna Doone, by R. D. Blackmore, illustrated by Broom Lynne (1950)
*13. The Old Curiosity Shop, by Charles Dickens, with Original Illustrations by Phiz (1950)
**14. The Essays of Elia, by Charles Lamb, Comprising The Essays Of Elia and The Last Essays Of Elia, with an introduction by Malcolm Elwin, illustrated with Reproductions Of Prints and Engravings (1952)
*15. The Three Musketeers, by Alexandre Dumas, illustrated by Hookway Cowles (1950)

*16. Vanity Fair, by W. M. Thackeray, illustrated by The Author (1950)
*17. Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Other Stories, by Robert Louis Stevenson, with an introduction by Compton Mackenzie, illustrated by Stein (1950)
*18. The Essays Of Robert Louis Stevenson, with an introduction by Malcolm Elwin, illustrated with Portraits, Engravings, Etc. (1950)
*19. Tennyson’s Poems, selected with an introduction by John Gawsworth, illustrated with reproductions of portraits and prints¬†(1951)
*20. Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens, illustrated by Marcus Stone (1951)

**21. Moby Dick, by Herman Melville, with an introduction by James Hanley, illustrated by Stein (1952)
**22. Kenilworth by Sir Walter Scott, illustrated by Hookway Cowles (1953)
**23. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, illustrated by Philip Gough (1951)
24. The Personal History of David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens, illustrated by Hablot Knight Browne (1952)
25. The Complete English Poems of Milton, by John Milton; introduction by John Gawsworth (1953)

26. The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling, by Henry Fielding, illustrated by Brian Robb (1953)
27. Christmas Books, by Charles Dickens, illustrated by John Leech (1953)
28. The Life of Nelson, by Robert Southey, introduction by E.R.H. Harvey (1953)
29. Complete Poems, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1952)
30. Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, by Thomas De Quincey, introduction by Malcolm Elwin (1956)

31. The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides with Samuel Johnson, by James Boswell, illustrated by Thomas Rowlandson (1956)
32. Bleak House, by Charles Dickens (1955)
33.¬†Wuthering Heights, by¬†Emily Bront√ę, illustrated¬†by W. Stein (1955)
34. Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen (1957)
35.¬†Jane Eyre: An Autobiography, by¬†Charlotte Bront√ę, illustrated¬†by Lynton Lamb. (1955)

36. Our Mutual Friend, by Charles Dickens, illustrated by Marcus Stone (1957)
37. Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen, illustrated by Philip Gough (1958)
38. Rural Rides, by William Cobbett, illustrated by Gillray (1958)
39. The Bible in Spain, by George Borrow (1959)
40. Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen, illustrated by Philip Gough (1961)

41. Persuasion, by Jane Austen, illustrated by Philip Gough (1961)

*Published by Coward-McCann in the US
**Listed in in-book lists as being available from Coward-McCann in the US but no evidence the book was actually published. It is possible Coward-McCann imported and sold UK Macdonald editions in the US.

Macdonald issued a series of illustrated H. Rider Haggard titles under the series name Macdonald Illustrated Editions, which are sometimes listed as Macdonald Illustrated Classics. I believe this is most likely a mistake.


The Macdonald Illustrated Classics were somewhat uniquely wrapped in a heavy, plastic dust jacket overprinted in two color ink. This material was called “special long-last wrappers” in the first advertisement above, and this marvel material has held up well over time. This copy of Dickens’ Pickwick Papers is a UK copy, #20 in the series, a second (1949) printing (the first in 1948). The spine of the jacket is blank, the front cover of the jacket includes the title, author, illustrator (Broome Lynne), and series name.

The books are bound in a plasticized, red faux-leather material. The spine has gold typography including the title, author, and publisher (Macdonald in the UK, Coward-McCann in the US). I’ve only seen red binding material. I have seen one copy with a school insignia on the front of the book (an award book).

The endpapers are blank, but I’ve included this scan to show the front jacket flap, which includes price, printed on the plastic jacket (8/6 net). The price is not printed on the Coward-McCann US copies (see below).

The half-title page includes the series name and general editor (Malcolm Elwin) and the book title.

An illustration faces the title page, which includes the Macdonald imprint on this London copy of the title. The US editions (see below) include both the Macdonald and Coward-McCann imprints on the title page.

“First published in book form 1837, First published in this series in 1948. Second impression June 1949.”

“Published by Macdonald & Co. (Publishers) Ltd., 43 Ludgate Hill. Made and printed in Great Britain by Purnell and Sons, Ltd., Paulton (Somerset), and London.”

The first 12 titles in the series are listed on the last page of the book.


This copy of Dickens’ Great Expectations is #20 in the series and first issued in the UK and US in 1951. This is a US, Coward-McCann copy. The UK and US books are nearly identical, jackets and binding, except for the Coward-McCann name on the book spine:

The half-title page:

The title page with facing illustration. The title page includes both Coward-McCann and Macdonald (a second difference between the US and UK editions).

“Made and printed in Great Britain.” The books were likely printed, bound, and jacketed in Great Britain and imported to and sold in the US by Coward-McCann.

A two-page catalog finishes the book. This list is not a complete list of titles sold by Coward-McCann in the US: Several titles (#1, #14, #21, #22, #23) are listed but apparently not sold in the US (unless the books were sold without the Coward-McCann imprint). One title (#20) does not appear in this list but does appear in WorldCat with a Coward-McCann imprint.