Sanctuary Booklets

H.R. Allenson, Ltd. (London, UK)
Series dates:
Size: 2.75″ x 3.5″

“H. R. Allenson was apprenticed to Elliott Stock in Paternoster Row, and later founded his own bookselling business in Ivy Lane. Early in the present century he disposed of his bookselling interests and formed the publishing firm of H.R. Allenson Ltd., with offices in Racquet Court, Fleet Street. Mr. Allenson died in 1929.” (The Publisher, volume 169, Part 2, 1955)

Allenson began bookselling and publishing in 1892 at 30 Paternoster Row in London. Many of the titles were religious, but he also published literary, folklore and philosophy books. In 1908 H.R. Allenson Ltd. was established. In 1929 when Allenson died the firm’s name was changed to Allenson & Co., Ltd. Advertisements from the publisher appear in the London Times beginning in 1895. In the early 1900s, the firm published postcards in addition to books. The firm closed in 1966.

The Sanctuary Booklets were first issued around 1895. The last title, #15, was published in 1924. A publisher catalog in the rear of an 1895 publication lists the first four titles in this series of “tiny copies of famous books” (32mo). The books were available in different bindings: cloth, semi-limp with turned in edges for 6d. net; choice lambskin, paste grain and oozed Persian yap with gilt edges for 1s. net; and velvet calf yapp with gilt edges for 1s./6d. Postage was an additional 1d.

An unattributed review is reprinted in the Allenson catalog entry for the Sanctuary Booklets (in a copy of The Influence of Jesus, published in 1895): “There is nothing more suitable to take the place of a complimentary card than some of the world’s devotional masterpieces issued by this firm in so pleasing and dainty a form. A card will soon be thrown away, these will be always treasured and used.” (see below).

The influence of Jesus. Phillips Brooks, H.R. Allenson, 1895

A few years later (1899), the series has reached 14 titles:

The Life of Armelle Nicolas, H. R. Allenson, 1899

The copy of The Dream of Gerontius by Cardinal Newman below is undated, but a title listed in the brief catalog in the back of the book was published in 1915, which is probably a good publication date for this particular book. A significant amount of information is included on the tiny jacket: the spine has the author and title. The jacket front includes the series name, title, author, three binding types with prices, the “small and dainty” note about the books, eight additional titles in the series, and the publisher. The Heart and Life Booklets are advertised on the front jacket flap.

The rear of the jacket advertises another Allenson title along with the Heart and Life Booklets series.

What seems to be the “imitation leather” (1/6 net) binding in black with gold stamping retains its faux gleam after more than a century:

The half-title page:

A catalog of 14 titles in the series faces the title page. The title page includes the series name, and series number of this particular title (#2) along with the title, author, and publisher. One more title was published (#15) in 1924:

#15: The Faithful Promiser, by John R Macduff

There is no date or copyright. “Printed in Great Britain by Turnbull & Spears, Edinburgh.” A “Publishers’ Note” introduces the book.

The “Publishers’ Note” continues, and the text begins.

The second to last page in the book contains a few titles in the Sanctuary Booklets series, with reviews and comments.

The final page does the same for a few titles in the Heart and Life Booklets series.