Woburn Books

Elkin Mathews & Marrot, Ltd. (London, UK)
Series dates: 1928-1929
Size: 6″ x 8″

Antiquarian book dealer Elkin Mathews and John Lane formed The Bodley Head in 1887 as a firm to sell antiquarian books. Primarily at the urging of Lane, works of “stylish decadence” were published by the firm starting in 1894. Mathews left soon afterward and continued to publish as Elkin Mathews Ltd. He died in 1921. The firm became Elkin Mathews & Marrot, Ltd. in 1926, separating the antiquarian book dealer from the publisher. Elkin Mathews & Marrot, Ltd. was acquired by publisher Ivor Nicholson & Watson, Ltd. in 1933 and by Allen Unwin in 1945.

The Woburn Books were published from 1928-1929. Eighteen titles were published in all. All were short stories, all signed by the authors and printed on handmade paper in a run of 530 copies (of which 500 were for sale to the public).

An advertisement for Elkin Mathews & Marrot rather snidely indicates that the Woburn Books are sold out (The Times Literary Supplement, November 22, 1928, p. 907; below left). A review of the first titles in the series appeared in The Times Literary Supplement shortly afterward, on November 29, 1928 (p. 933; below right).

#14 in the Woburn Books series is The Goldfish Under the Ice, by Christopher Morley. It was published in 1929. Jackets were common to the series, with an abstract design printed in different colors (black, blue, green, purple, etc.) for different titles. The front jacket flap lists the 18 titles in the series and also indicates the year of publication (1928 or 1929). The price was 6s net.

The jacket design continues on the rear of the jacket, where the series name is indicated. The rear jacket flap repeats the list of 18 titles.

The 18 titles in the series:

1. The Sword of Wood, by G.K. Chesterton
2. The Dewpond, by T.F. Powys
3. A Wedding Morn, by Sheila Kaye-Smith
4· Portrait of The Misses Harlowe, by Martin Armstrong
5. The Apple Disdained, by R.H. Mottram
6. The Man Who Missed the Bus, by Stella Benson
7. Rawdon’s Roof, by D.H. Lawrence
8. The Old Dovecote, by David Garnett
9. The Male Impersonator, by E.F. Benson
10. Alice And the Lost Novel, by Sherwood Anderson
11. Full Circle, by Algernon Blackwood
12. The Linhay On The Downs, by Henry Williamson
13. Fame, by May Sinclair
14. The Goldfish Under the Ice, by Christopher Morley
15. A Ghost In the Isle Of Wight, by Shane Leslie
16. The Shout, by Robert Graves
17. Triall by Armes, by Joseph Hergesheimer
18. Some World Far From Ours, by Sylvia Townsend Warner

The books are bound in cards which mimic the design of the dust jackets.

The motif from the jackets and book bindings is repeated on the endpapers.

The title page indicates the series and series number (“being Number Fourteen of the Woburn Books”).

“Five hundred and thirty numbered copies of this story have been set in Monotype 12 point Veronese, and printed by Robert MacLehose & Co. Ltd., at the University Press, Glasgow; Nos. 1-500 only are for sale and Nos. 501-530 for presentation. This is copy No. 296.” Morley’s signature follows.

D.H. Lawrence apparently demanded 25 pounds for signing the 530 copies of his title in the series, 5 more than the 20 pounds Elkins Mathews & Marrot were offering (Andrew Harrison, The Life of D.H. Lawrence: A Critical Biography, 2016, p. 368).