Thin Paper Classics

George Newnes Ltd. (London, UK)
Series dates: 1901-1907
Size: 4″ x 6.5″

Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co., Ltd. (London, UK)
Series dates: 1920-1934
Size: 4″ x 6.5″

As noted in the introduction to the Caxton Series, “Newnes was a successful publisher of popular literature, including the Strand Magazine and Tit-Bits and other popular periodicals. Famous authors such as Conan Doyle, H.G. Wells, and P.G. Wodehouse were published in Newnes periodicals and later published popular collections with the firm. Newnes also published books, many practical and how-to books, popular classics and contemporary throw-away literature.”

Around the turn of the century, Newnes began issuing literary series that were a significant step up (in content and form) from the books he published previously. New series included the Thin Paper Classics, Thin Paper Novels, and Caxton Series. The Thin Paper Classics were literary classics which, among their other amenities, could cram a significant amount of content into a relatively small format, inexpensive book. The books were, however, also nicely designed and produced.

An advertisement from The Sphere from November 1903 advertises the series with 14 titles in two binding styles (lambskin and cloth).

An advertisement from The Academy from October of 1906 is from near the end of the series availability and lists 38 titles. The series reached at least 41 titles. At least the advertising for the series ceases in 1907. Most of the turn of the century literary series initiated by Newnes seemed to be discontinued by the publisher in the 1905-1910 time frame.

As is not uncommon with publisher’s reprint series, Newnes’ Thin Paper Classics were sold by more than one publisher. In the case of the Thin Paper Classics, Scribner’s sold the series as the Caxton Series in the US. Scribner’s Caxton Series also seemed to include copies of Newnes’ Caxton Series, which had more illustrations than the Thin Paper Classics.

As is also not uncommon with publisher’s reprint series, a series can be sold to another publisher. In the case of the Thin Paper Classics, Newnes seems to stop advertising and selling the series in 1907. But the series appears again in 1920 under the imprint of Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co. Ltd. The titles were viable enough literary property to make them viable to reprint once again more than a decade after they were discontinued by Newnes.

The Life and Voyages of Captain Cook is dated 1904 but printed after 1920 (and probably mid-1920s, when the price of the series rose).

Simpkin seems to have printed the books from the original plates from Newnes and left everything in the body of the book itself the same (including the publisher’s imprint). The jackets were minimally updated to include the new publisher’s imprint and colophon but retained the overall look of the Newnes series jackets. The jackets are common to the series. The price is printed on the jacket spine, here updated from 3/- to 3/6 with a sticker. The front jacket flap is blank.

The rear of the jacket advertises the series and includes 41 titles in two different binding styles.

The binding designs are extravagant, with a combination of gold type and debossed designs that are similar to the art deco designs used in the earlier Newnes’s series. There does seem to be variation in the design of the bindings from title to title, both during the Newnes era and the Simpkin era. The book includes the Simpkin imprint.

Exuberant designs fill the front and rear endpapers, following the general feel of the designs on the binding.

The half-title page:

A frontispiece illustration (the only one in the book) faces the first of two (!) title pages. From this point on, the book is printed directly from the earlier Newnes series plates: the Newnes and Scribner imprint is on this particular title page (there is no Simpkin imprint in the book).

The second title page follows, and this too includes the Newnes and Scribner imprint, as well as the date of 1904. It seems a bit peculiar that Simpkin did not at least modify the publisher’s imprint on this second title page. The date is also wrong, probably meaning the plates were from the last printing of the series by Newnes.

There is no copyright indication nor date on the page after the second title page: