Oxford University Press (London, UK; New York, US)
Series dates: 1904-1980
Size: 5.5″ x 7.5″
According to the History of Oxford University Press (2013, Volume III: 1896 to 1970), the Oxford University Press was responding to a growing interest among the middle classes in classics of English literature when it created the Oxford Standard Authors series in 1904. The series built on earlier Oxford editions of the Complete Works of Shakespeare (edited by W.J. Craig, published beginning in 1894) and was seen as a response to popular classics series such as Macmillan’s Globe Library.
The series was carefully edited and printed, authoritative and scholarly. An advertisement from a 1921 issue of The Periodical (vol. 8, issue 112) includes an advertisement for “Prose and Poetry by Women,” including titles in the Oxford Standard Authors and World’s Classics series.
This 1912 copy of Browning’s The Ring & the Book was issued by the Oxford University Press American Branch. This jacket design seems to be among the earliest for the series and was common to all titles in the US and UK series. The two color jacket consists of the common jacket elements (series name, publisher, publisher colophon) in black, and unique typography for the author and title. The spaces left open for the red (unique) printing are sometimes referred to as “factotum apertures.” The front jacket flap is blank.
The rear of the jacket contains a list of available volumes in the series as of 1912.
Dark blue cloth binding with gold type and decorations was used during the first few decades of the series existence. Upscale bindings can be found in this era and later, usually housed in slipcases.
There is no half-title page in this particular book. A portrait of Browning faces the title page. The date is under the publisher’s imprint.
The book was printed in England. The jacket may have also been a UK creation, all shipped to the US for sale by Oxford’s New York office.
At the rear of the book indicates the printer is Horace Hart, Printer to the University.
A title dated 1921 (Poems of William Edmonstoune Aytoun) shows a different jacket design, still common to the series but with a more distinct typographic symbol design (and reduced to one color printing). The series name is moved down to the center of the jacket spine,
The back of the jacket lists titles available in the series.
The book’s binding remains dark blue, but the gold is no longer part of the front cover of the book.
The title page is also redesigned. The copyright page on this book is blank.
A copy of the Oxford Standard Authors volume for Shelley was published for the New York office of the Oxford University Press in 1929. This is the second style of jacket issued for clothbound titles. A decorative border with the author/title printed in a contrasting color. The jackets are common to the series, and probably printed in two stages (a generic jacket, then overprinted with particular titles). The front jacket flap on this copy is blank. The series name is on the jacket spine and front.
As of 1929, there were 89 titles in the series. It’s not clear if the US and UK series had different titles.
Bindings are solid blue, a fake leather material similar to that used on the World’s Classics at the same time. Gold stamping and some debossing on the covers.
There is no half-title page. A portrait of the author faces the title page. The title page includes the specific date of printing.
This copy, sold by the New York office of OUP, was printed in Great Britain.
The series is redesigned in the late 1940s, then again in the 1960s and 1970s. Titles show up in print through the 1980s, but by then the series was largely defunct.