Thursday, September 30, 2010

Collins Illustrated Pocket Classics

About two and a half years ago I put up on the blog some photos and details of a great little edition of Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage. It was the illustrations, by Helen Monro, that were of particular interest. In the intervening period, a number of people have written comments on that post, largely asking if I knew anything more about the series or about particular copies they had. I have been rather remiss about answering those queries and, as another one was posted just the other day, I thought maybe it was time to revisit the series.

In truth I don't know a great deal about them, but judicious use of The British Library Catalogue, Abebooks, Ebay and other sites has given me at least a rough overview. It's a bit complicated. It appears that Collins Illustrated Pocket Classics were first published from about 1905 to 1925. If you find these in your local bookshop you are unlikely to find them with jackets - although I believe they were issued - and they conform pretty much to the standard of pocket-sized books of the day, a direct attempt to complete with the Everyman Books published by J. M. Dent. If you set out to buy one online though, be sure to ask the vendor to confirm it is the 'pocket' version, because there have been, at various points, the same titles published as Collins Illustrated Classics and Collins Classics. In fact Collins appears to have been fairly promiscuous with the classics throughout the first half of the Twentieth Century.

The Red Badge of Courage, however, and as we shall see, some of the titles mentioned by people commenting on my original post, comes from the mid 1950s when it appears the Collins reissued and, I think, in some cases, issued some new 'classics' which they put into dustjackets like the Red Badge but which might have been Yellow or Blue, or other colours perhaps that I haven't yet come across. So, let me see if I can answer any of the questions from the original post.

There's a Dumas novel in this series (at least I think it is #511), THE QUEEN'S NECKLACE, which has an introduction by famed thriller writer Dennis Wheatley (who often acknowledged his debt to the French author). I've never actually seen a copy, but I'd love to get one for my DW collection someday.

-Jim D.

Hi, Jim, I'm sorry I didn't get back to you about this at the time. As it happens I think I now have a copy of this and I'll get in touch privately to see if you are still interested. However, it appears to be part of the 1950s reissues: the British Library has it at 1957. It would seem that the Wheatley introduction was new for that edition as there is an earlier (c.1920) Collins Illustrated Pocket Edition which had an introduction by A. T. Baker.

Anonymous said...
Hi I have found a copy in this series Tom brown's school days with a blue dust jacket, I am trying to date it. Can anyone help. Red boards. Illustrated byFrank Mckenna. collin. States been producing this series for over 30 years . I cant find another online to date or value.Any help would be great

This is slightly trickier, without seeing a picture. I can find 1950s copies but these seem to illustrated by someone called Will Nickless. I can find the older-looking dateless copies illustrated, as you say, by Mckenna but, all the copies of those I can find suggest a kind of faux leather covering. Possibly you have a copy from the original series, c.1910, with an original dustjacket. As to value? I don't know of any pocket edition title really being worth any more than 10GBP, even with a jacket.

Anonymous said...
I have Charles Dickens' "David Copperfield Illustrated by Bloome...any idea of the age? looks 1870ish

This one is a bit easier. I think you may have committed a typo for the artist's name, it was W. H. C. Groome. The British Library Catalogue suggests that this was No. 1 in the series and also part of the Collins Illustrated Dickens. First issued in 1907 and then reissued in 1925. The 1907 edition would appear not to have a printed date of publication and, since you are unsure, I guess that's what you have.

Amy C said...
I have Miscellaneous Essays by Lord MacAuley it's number 119 in the series. When were they published?

Well, given the subject matter I would guess this is one of the earlier period titles, perhaps about 1910, because I can't imagine MacAulay's writings being popular enough to reprint in the 1950s ( I may be wrong) but unfortunately the British Library Catalogue data does not include the date the book was sent to the Library. When you are in the library, you can see that every book is date stamped with the date it was received. Although this date should be treated with care because there will be instances of delay, and sometimes many years delay after publication, when a book has no publication date, it can be a helpful indicator. Online, however, it's impossible to discover this date so I can only give you my hunch.


J said...

I eagerly await your e-communique!
-Jim D.

Veera said...

Hello! I've got Ben-Hur by Wallace. Collins Pocket Classic number 225, with jacket, and with the Collins logo impressed on the front cover.

Jacket in fairly good condition, with two bigger tears (half an inch approx) and a couple of smaller ones.

I have tried to find more information but there isn't much available. If you caan shed any light I'd be delighted. Also, if you want photos or more info I am happy to share. Thanks!

Mike said...

I have Illustrated Pocket Classics no 173 The Vicomte of Bragelonne. The blurb says "In deference to changing tastes and standards we are issuing the library in a new format. Still in the handy pocket size the books will be bound in natural-finish fadeless cloth with real gold titling and blind ornament. Endpapers designed by Eric Gill, colourful jackets and coloured tops complete the new dignified binding ..." Any idea of the date?

Mike said...

Mike's email adress:

Izzy Alexander said...

I bought mine from an Oxfam shop, it is a copy of Jane Eyre with a red cover. Looks more than 60 years old. On the inside it says Olive B Knight, Somerville. I would like to know how old it is as I am giving it to someone as a present. Please get back to me soon :)

Anonymous said...

Hi, I have a Emily Bronte Wuthering Heights edition, very old with yellow pages but no date. Any ideas?
It has 'Emily Jane Bronte' printed on the front in unusual gold lettering and an inscription of 'C.E. Bale' which has been croossed out with a singular biro line.

Kristine said...

In researching a Collins Classics Illustrated Pocket Edition (Carlyle, French Revolution, Vol. 1, with dust jacket!) that I found today -- which has no copyright or publication date -- I found that Collins & Sons began publishing this series in 1903, according to the University of Glasgow:

Just an FYI to round out your mention of the press.

Sadie Cutayar said...

Hi, I have a copy of The strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, with red dust jacket. Has number 276 at the bottom of the spine. I'd like to know how old this is please. It is the Collins pocket edition and I believe its part of a collection. Can anyone help?

Thanks in advance

charlene said...

I have # 25 poetical works of Lord Tennyson, red cover with 15 illustrations and read it constantly. would love to know what date it is.

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