Contemporary Poets of Dorrance

Dorrance & Company, Inc. (Philadelphia, PA)
Series dates: 1920-1985
Size: 5.5″ x 8″

Revised 6/7/2023

The Dorrance Publishing Company was established in 1920 by Gordon Dorrance as a “self-publishing” company (also known as a “vanity press”) where authors pay to have their books published. The company still exists, publishing both physical and e-books.

In “Vantage and Vexation of Spirit,” (The Georgia Review, Vol. 25, No. 1, Spring 1971, pp. 17-26) Henry Taylor reviews the “kind of poetry which some of these publishers have caused to flourish in the backwaters of contemporary poetry’s mainstream.”

“In terms of volume, the Contemporary Poets of Dorrance Series is almost in a league with Vantage. On the whole, however, their poetry is considerably better than that of any other subsidy house, even though they sometimes publish dreadful books, and print jacket copy which arouses some suspicion.”

I believe the Contemporary Poets of Dorrance is the only series published by a vanity press on this site. Titles from the series are numerous and appear on WorldCat from nearly the start of the firm in 1920. As a vanity press, where authors pay for editing and publishing costs, most of these books were likely issued in small numbers and received minimal commercial (or literary) attention. However, about a dozen titles on WorldCat are in 50 or more libraries suggesting some authors garnered interest. I believe most, if not all, of these titles were first published in the series. The last title with the series name was published in 1985. At that time, the books no longer had series numbers, but the total number of titles in the series must reach well over 200 volumes.

Henry James Fullerton’s Bygone Days and Other Poems was published in the series in 1931 as #97 in the series. Fullerton seems to be the kind of home-spun part-time poet critics would probably disparage. I can find little background information nor mentions of him.

Series jackets follow a pattern: a particular common jacket can be found in different eras, but unique jackets are also found (undoubtedly, a unique jacket was an option for authors at a cost). The common jacket style below appeared in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Later titles also have a common (but different) jacket design.

The series name is not on the jacket, which includes the title, author, blurb, and price (in this case, $1.75).

The rear of the jacket advertised additional Contemporary Poets of Dorrance titles with prices.

The dark blue cloth-bound book cover:

Blank endpapers:

The half-title page includes the title and author as well as the series name and series number. This copy is signed by the author.

The title page:

The copyright page: