Frederick A. Stokes Co. (New York)
Series dates: 1889-1907
Size: 5.5″ x 7.5″
Joel Parker White and Frank Allen worked for Dodd, Mead when they left, taking Frederick B. Stokes with them, to found the house that became White, Stokes & Allen in 1883. The firm was located at 1152 Broadway, New York City. This partnership lasted until 1887 when White and Allen established their own firm, starting a London branch at the same time. The firm went bankrupt in 1890. Frederick A. and Horace Stokes bought out White and Allen and in 1887 reestablished the firm as F.A. Stokes & Brother, at 182 Fifth Ave. In 1890 the firm was renamed Frederick A. Stokes Co., and the firm remained in business until 1943 when the firm was acquired by Lippincott (paraphrased from source). Publications of all the Stokes firms have some degree of overlap in dates, and titles (such as Meredith’s Lucile) were published by all the firms in a diversity of formats.
The Vignette Edition series first appeared in 1889 with the first title as Meredith’s Lucile, in five binding types (from $1.50 to $5). The titles were extensively reviewed (and advertised) in contemporary literature, suggesting that Stokes had a strong marketing sense. Titles in the series were not inexpensive ($1.50 is the equivalent of about $50 in 2017 dollars) and they were decently printed on heavy paper and decently bound. A smaller format series, called the Vignette Series, was issued around the same time.
The series name derives from the 100 vignette illustrations contained in each volume. The illustrations are not on separate sheets, but instead dispersed within the text itself (see below). This was a printing innovation whereby higher quality illustrations could be printed with text.
A list of titles below is probably complete. The series includes 20 titles. The last title (the compilation Mother Song and Child Song) was issued in 1898. Titles were advertised until 1907.
Lucile by Owen Meredith (1889)
Faust by Goethe (1890)
The Princess & Other Poems by Tennyson (1890)
The Complete Poems of George Eliot (1890)
Lalla Rookh by Thomas Moore (1890)
A Treasury of Favorite Poems (1891)
Maud, Locksley Hall & Other Poems by Tennyson (1891)
The Arabian Nights’ Entertainments (volume one & two) (1891)
The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley (1891)
The Lady of the Lake by Walter Scott (1892)
Poems by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1892)
Selections from the Poetical Works by Robert Browning (1892)
Poems by John Whittier (1892)
Poems by Walter Longfellow (1892)
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1892)
The Complete Poems by William Cullen Bryant (1894)
The Laureates of England (1894)
The Complete Poems by Edgar Allen Poe (1895)
Classical Authors (1896)
Mother Song and Child Song (1898)
The 1892 copy of Selections from the Poetical Works by Robert Browning shown below is most likely an initial printing in the series and survives in it’s sturdy cloth dust jacket. Cloth dust jackets are made from the same material used for binding books and were typically created at the book bindery (as opposed to printed by the book’s printer). Cloth dust jackets were used as early as 1878. Some were blank, others had minimal printing on the spine (book’s title and or author) and a few replicated the designs from the book’s binding on the spine as well as the book covers. By 1890 the use of such cloth jackets was relatively common on more expensive titles, but their use faded in the early part of the 20th century (probably due to cost). The durability of these cloth dust jackets means that they are more likely to survive than paper jackets, if they were left on the books: despite their sturdy and substantive constitution, cloth dust jackets were almost always plainer than the book binding, and were probably more likely to be discarded when bought than not. (Source: Mark R. Godburn, Nineteenth-Century Dust-Jackets, Private Libraries Association / Oak Knoll Press, 2016)
The jacket spine replicates the typography and design on the book’s spine: the book’s title, author and a publisher colophon. The front of the jacket, and front flap, are blank. The cloth jacket material is identical to that used on part of the quarter-bound book.
The rear of the jacket and rear jacket flap are also blank.
The book is quarter bound, with a spine in white cloth and covers in red cloth. In addition to the design on the spine, which is mimicked on the jacket spine, additional gold decorations are imprinted upon the white cloth (front and back of book) and front cover. This book binding design appears on other Stokes titles in the same era that don’t appear to be in the Vignette Edition.
An inscription (Katie Brittingham, Westfield, New Jersey) is dated March 16th, 1893. This is the spring after the book was issued, probably aiming at Christmas 1892 gift sales.
There is no half-title page. An illustration faces the title page, which is the only place where the series name is printed on the jacket or in the book. The publisher’s imprint is followed by the printing date for the book, 1892.
The copyright page also includes the 1892 date.
Table of contents continued and first page of text.
Illustrations in the book are interspersed in the text, and number at least 100. This was an innovation in these books (as opposed to the inclusion of fewer full-page illustrations). The technical feat here was printing the text and illustrations together so that the illustrations were of suitable quality.