Some time ago, a writer in these columns entered a plea for a series of reprints of notable books which had been allowed to drop entirely out of print, and certain lists of such works were printed. So far nothing seems to have come of this useful suggestion, and no publisher has had the enterprise to experiment with a few issues on the lines laid down. Instead, every British publisher is engaged in the old, old game of reprinting edition after edition of the same old classics, and venturing no further than the limits of this or that hundred “best books.” The result is that we find publishers tumbling over each other in their eagerness to produce editions of the same hackneyed classics, each slightly different from its fellow in some trifle of price, shape, size, binding or editorial annotation. The book‐shops are filled with these rival reprints, and gradually, because of a craze for over‐daintiness, their stocks are beginning to look more and more like those of the stationers who deal largely in pocket‐books and diaries. Dainty little editions of Shakespeare, Scott, Dickens, Bunyan, and similar chestnuts, abound in every variety of limp leather and gilt‐edged prettiness, and all of them are warranted to survive about half‐a‐dozen readings before their dainty beauty fades, and they are ready for the waste‐paper basket. The leading idea of most of the publishers of these delicate editions seems to be that books are no longer intended to be kept on shelves, but should be carried about like watches or toothpicks. Waistcoat‐pocket dictionaries, fountain‐pen‐pocket editions of “Don Quixote,” and breeches‐pocket editions of the London Directory are all the rage, and people are urged to buy this or that dainty classic with binding designed by Blank, R.A., not because it is a good serviceable edition of a great literary classic, but because it forms such a pretty ornament for the pocket. The sixpenny reprint has been done to death, and now the shilling and two‐shilling net edition of the book possessed by everybody is beginning to go the same way. The literature of England is one of its chief treasures, and we are never weary of boasting of its power, extent, and variety. And our leading publishers, to prove the truth of the boast, keep on multiplying the same limited selection of books in the same way, while hundreds, equally good, are neglected. It never seems to occur to the diligent publishers who issue their trumpery little editions of Shakespeare, printed on thin paper, bound in limp leather, and edited to death by some learned scholar, whose notes smother the original text, that the masterpieces of some other author would come as an absolute novelty, and be hailed as a relief from the never‐ending stock classic. Public Libraries and students of literature are compelled to buy at a great comparative cost such of the older, out‐of‐print hooks as they may desire to possess, while in many cases they are unable to Vol. IV. No. 44, February, 1902.
MCB UP Ltd
Copyright © 1902, MCB UP Limited