Henry Frowde isn’t a household name nowadays, but at the turn of the last century, he was a publishing phenomenon. He got his start with the Religious Tract Society, then, through the day’s publishing network, he came to the attention of Oxford University Press. They hired him to do their Bibles in 1874. The first of these was a 24mo Diamond Bible printed on Oxford India paper, very thin but resilient pages in a small format (24 mo indicates the book size, about 5-6 inches tall in this case). This Bible was incredibly successful, as were Frowde’s delivery times. The consistency of quality, delivery and sell through of his product led Oxford to hire him to be their publisher in 1880.
Frowde convinced Oxford to publish the classics of English literature in the early 1900s. The pair of Thackeray novels presented here are examples from this effort. In them, Frowde put to use his experience with the India paper he used to print the compact Bibles in earlier days. The History of Pendennis is just 7/8 of an inch thick, yet it holds 1004 pages! This particular line of Oxford Classics came also to be known as ‘steamers’ thanks to this compact quality. They could be taken on board a steamship, read, and dropped off at the end of the voyage for someone else to read. They were the classy traveller’s pocket novel.
To this day, Oxford maintains a line of world classics in their catalogue, all thanks to Henry Frowde’s ability to find that market niche and fill it with a desirable product.
Frowde retired in 1913 at the age of 74, and died in 1927.
Thackeray, William Makepeace. History of Pendennis. London, Henry Frowde/Oxford University Press, n.d. (c.1906). (10) xi-xxxvii (4) 2-1004 in forest green calf over flexible boards, title and decorations gilt-stamped to spine, t.e.g., ribbon marker, 182 illustrations. Edited with an Introduction by George Saintsbury. Cover edges worn, front panel fore edge rubbed. Pages clean with faint marginal aging present. Binding tight. ECB10396 $20.00
Thackeray, William Makepeace. Newcomes. London, Henry Frowde/Oxford University Press, n.d. (c.1906). (13) x-xxvii (8) 2-1014 (2) in forest green calf over flexible boards, title and decorations gilt-stamped to spine, t.e.g., ribbon marker, 172 illustrations. Edited with an Introduction by George Saintsbury. Cover edge lightly worn at tail of spine. Pages clean with faint marginal aging present, 409-496 upper corner tips have been folded over. Binding tight. ECB10396 $25.00