King’s Classics

Co-series: The King’s Poets (1904)

Alexander Moring, De La More Press (London, UK)
Series dates: 1902-1913
Size: 4.75″ x 6″

Chatto & Windus (London, UK)
Series dates: 1907-1926
Size: 4.75″ x 6″

John W. Luce & Co. (Boston, US)
Series dates: 1907-1926
Size: 4.75″ x 6″

Cooper Square (New York, US)
Series dates: 1966

Revised 6/9/2023

Alexander Moring and the De La More Press were publishers of fine editions and “small press” type books in the early part of the 20th century.

According to The Bookseller (Jan. 24, 1908) the De La More Press “was established in 1791 as an engraving business. In 1902 Mr. Alexander Moring started publishing, and in 1903 it was made a limited company.”

While the fine editions received the most attention, the press had a small array of series: The King’s Classics, De La More Booklets, Saint George Series, and Smaller Classics Series. The last was bought as part of the estate of publisher Grant Richards in 1905, when Richards’ firm went bankrupt. Included in the estate were other assets including Richards’ World’s Classics series. Henry Frowde of the Oxford University Press purchased the copyright, stock and plates for the World’s Classics, that same year, from Moring. (Cheap Modernism, Lise Jaillant, 2017, p. 56-57)

In 1939 the firm is acquired by Marie (Charlotte) Stopes (a paleobotanist involved in birth control promotion in the 1920s and 30s) (Feminist Writers, 1996, p. 467; International Women in Science, by C.M.C Haines, 2001, p. 303). The press published literary works and children’s books during this era.

Moring died in 1945 (Publishing And Bookselling by Frank Arthur Mumby, 1945).

Martin Secker and Graeme Hutchinson acquired the Alexander Moring imprint in 1951 and allied it with the Richards Press, Ltd. A small number of popular fiction titles appear. In 1955, fresh out of jail on obscenity charges (from publishing novels by Hank Jansen) Reginald Carter bought the imprint and began issuing Jansen titles again (printing them in France to avoid UK obscenity laws). (Paperbacks USA & UK, by Maurice Flanagan, p. 85). According to the Times (London), petitions for “winding-up” Alexander Moring Ltd. (closing the firm) were published on Friday,  Jan. 27, 1961. The last Moring titles appear in 1962.

I can find just about nothing on Moring, who seems to have escaped the attention of book scholars and historians, possibly because of his focus on reprints.

An advertisement (from The Publishers’ Circular, Sept. 13, 1902, p. 251) lays out a plan for The King’s Library, consisting of folios and quartos representing a range of English literature. A “popular section” of the King’s Library – The King’s Classics – is a series of compact reprints “elegant in style and suitable for the library.” Richard Bury’s The Love of Books initiates the series (October 25), to be followed by titles such as Six Plays of Calderon, Roper’s The Life of Sir Thomas More, and the Eikon Basilike.

Only a few books with the King’s Library series name appear in WorldCat from 1903-1905. I believe this was less of a series name and more of a marketing term for a collection of Moring’s upscale titles (in folios and quartos).

The King’s Classics, the “popular section” of the King’s Library, are clearly a series and appear (published by Alexander Moring / De La More Press) in WorldCat with dates from 1902-1913, primarily before 1907, with some reprints following. Israel Gollancz was the editor, and the titles have a significant amount of scholarly apparatus (notes, editing, etc.), making the series more scholarly in tone, yet still approachable.

Chatto & Windus announced their acquisition and continuation of the King’s Classics series in the spring of 1907. This advertisement is from the Atheneum, issue 4142, March 16, 1907.

Chatto & Windus arranged for John W. Luce & Co. (Boston, US) to co-publish the series in the U.S. This note is in The Dial, October 1, 1907:

I’ve indicated (below) titles that appear on WorldCat with the Luce imprint. Not all do, but I’m assuming all copies published after the Chatto & Windus acquisition in 1907 had both Chatto & Windus and Luce as the publisher.

The list of titles below should be complete. It includes titles (up to #34) published by Alexander Moring / De La More Press (years shown in black) and subsequent titles (up to the final title, #63) published by Chatto & Windus after their acquisition of the series in 1907 (shown in green below). The years documented below are not comprehensive (including only titles with the series name included on WorldCat). In addition, I suspect titles were printed and reprinted with incorrect years on the title page in some instances.

There are 63 series numbers. One (#44) seems not to have been published. Four titles are issued in two volumes, with two series numbers: #6 + #7, #26 + #27, #36 + #37, and #51 + #52. One title is issued in two volumes with what seems to be one series number: #24.

Thus, 63 series numbers, with 56 titles in 61 volumes.

There is some overlap: Chatto & Windus reprinted earlier titles with its own imprint, and one title (#53) appears in one instance with an Alexander Moring / De La More Press imprint in WorldCat.

In 1904, three titles in four volumes (#24, #25, #26+#27) appear as The King’s Poets. These seem to be the same books published with the same numbers in the King’s Classics. These are the only titles that appear with this series name and must have been a short-term effort, potentially to build on the success of the King’s Classics series.

Finally, Cooper Square reprinted at least four titles in 1966 (noted below in blue).

In sum, 63 series numbers, with 56 titles in 61 volumes, with one co-series (King’s Poets) issued by four different publishers over 64 years in the UK and US.

#1. Richard Bury’s The Love of Books: The Philobiblon of Richard de Bury (October 25, 1902, 1903, 1907, 1909, 1913) (1907) (1911) (1913) (1925) (reprint New York: Cooper Square, 1966)

#2. Pedro Calderón de la Barca, Six Dramas of Calderon (1903) (1907) (1909)

**#3. Jocelin de Brakelond, The Chronicle of Jocelin of Brakelond: a Picture of Monastic Life in the Days of Abbot Samson (1903, 1907) (1907)

**#4. William Roper, The Mirrour of Vertue in Worldly Greatness; or, The Life of Sir Thomas More, Knight (1903, 1907) (1907) (1909)

**#5. Charles, King of England; John Gauden; Edward Almack. Eikon Basilike, or, The King’s Book (1904) (1907)

**#6 & #7. Robert Steele (ed.), Kings’ Letters. Vol. 1: From the Days of Alfred to the Accession of the Tudors. Vol. 2: From the Early Tudors; with the Letters of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. (1903) (1907) (1908)

**#8. Geoffrey Chaucer; Walter W. Skeat (ed.), The Knight’s Tale; or, Palamon and Arcite (1904) (1907)

#9. Geoffrey Chaucer; Walter W. Skeat (ed.), The Man of Law’s Tale;
The Nun’s Priest’s Tale; The Squire’s Tale (1904)

**#10. Geoffrey Chaucer; Walter W. Skeat (ed.), The Prioress’s Tale; and Other Tales (1904) (1907)

**#11. Alice Kemp-Welch (“Englished by”), Louis Brandin (introduction), The History of Fulk Fitz-Warine (1904) (1907)

**#12. Apuleius; W.H.D. Rouse (ed.), Cupid and Psyche, and Other Tales From the Golden Ass of Apuleius (1904) (1907)

**#13. John Evelyn, The Life of Margaret Godolphin (1904) (1907)

**#14. Giovanni Boccaccio; Leonardo Bruni; Philip H Wicksteed (ed.), The Early Lives of Dante (1904) (1907) (1911)

**#15. James White; Charles Lamb, The Falstaff Letters (1904) (1907)

**#16. Edward FitzGerald, Polonius: A Collection of Wise Saws and Modern Instances (1905) (1907)

**#17. Anglicus Bartholomaeus; John Trevisa; Robert W. Steele; William Morris, Mediæval Lore from Bartholomaeus Anglicus (1905) (1907)

#18. William Langland; Walter W Skeat (ed.), The Vision of Piers the Plowman (1905) (1907) (1909)

**#19. Thomas Dekker; R.B. McKerrow (ed.), The Gull’s Hornbook (1905) (1907)

**#20. Richard Poore; James Morton; Francis Aidan Gasquet (ed.), The Nun’s Rule: Being the Ancren Riwle Modernised (1905) (1907) (reprint New York: Cooper Square, 1966)

**#21. Robert Carey Monmouth (Earl of); G.H. Powell (ed.); Walter Scott (ed.); John Boyle Orrery (Earl of), Memoirs of Robert Cary, Earl of Monmouth (1905) (1907)

**#22. Einhard; Notker; Balbulus; A.J. Grant (ed.), Early Lives of Charlemagne (1905) (1907)

#23. Marcus Tullius Cicero; Sir John Harington (translator; Thomas Newton (translator); W.H.D. Rouse (translator), Cicero’s Books of Friendship, Old Age, and Scipio’s Dream (1906)

**#24. (double volume). William Wordsworth; W. Basil Worsfold (ed., introduction), Wordsworth’s Prelude (1907) (possibly two volumes with one series number) (Co-listed as part of The King’s Poets series)

**#25. William Morris; Robert Steele (ed.), The Defence of Guinevere and Other Poems (Co-listed as part of The King’s Poets series) (1907)

#26 & #27. Robert Browning; W. Basil Worsfold (ed.), Browning’s Men and Women (2 vols.) (Co-listed as part of The King’s Poets series)

**#28. Edgar Allan Poe; Edward Hutton (introduction), The Poems of Edgar Allan Poe (1906) (1907)

#29. William Shakespeare; C.C. Stopes (Charlotte Carmichael, ed.), Shakespeare’s Sonnets (1904) (1912)

**#30. George Eliot; Richard Garnett (introduction), Silas Mariner (1907)

#31. Oliver Goldsmith; Richard Garnett (introduction), The Vicar of Wakefield (1906)

#32. Charles Reade; Richard Garnett (introduction), Peg Woffington (1905)

#33. Anne Manning; Richard Garnett (introduction), The Household of Sir Thomas More (1909)

#34. Sappho; Bliss Carman (translator); Sir. Charles G.D. Roberts (introduction, Sappho: One Hundred Lyrics (1906) (1907) (1911)

Chatto & Windus acquire and continue the King’s Classics series

#35. John Addington Symons (ed., introduction), Wine, Women and Song (1907) (reprint New York: Cooper Square, 1966)

#36 & #37. George Petite, Petite Palace of Pettie His Pleasure (1908)

**#38. Horace Walpole; Sir Walter Scott (introduction); C. Spurgeon (preface), Castle of Otranto  (1907)

#39. W. Bailey-Kempling, The Poets Royal of England and Scotland (1908)

#40. Sir Thomas More; Robert Steele (ed.), Utopia (1908)

#41. Geoffrey Chaucer; W.W. Skeat (ed.), Chaucer’s Legend of Good Women (1907)

#42. Jonathan Swift; A. Guthkelch (ed.,), Battle of the Books (1908)

#43. Sir William Temple; A. Forbes. Sieveking (ed.), Upon the Gardens of Epicurus (1908)

*#44. No title published

**#45. Jessie Raven Crosland (translator), Song of Roland (1907)

***#46. Dante; D.G. Rossetti (translator); H. Oelsner (introduction), Vita Nuova (1908)

#47. Geoffrey Chaucer; Walter W. Skeat (ed.), Prologue and Minor Poems (1907)

#48. Geoffrey Chaucer; Walter W. Skeat (ed.), Parliament of Birds and House of Fame (1908) (1909)

#49. Mrs. Gaskell; R. Brimley Johnson (introduction), Cranford (1907)

*#50. I. Gollancz (ed.), Pearl

*#51 & #52. Robert Steele (ed.), Kings’ Letters. Vol. 3 & Vol. 4

#53. Saint Boniface; Edward Kylie (translator, ed.), The English Correspondence of Saint Boniface: Being for the Most Part Letters Exchanged Between the Apostle of the Germans and his English Friends (1911) (1911) (1924) 

#56. Frank Sidgwick (ed.), The Cavalier To His Lady: An Anthology of XVIIth Century Love Songs (1909)

#57. Asser; L.C. Jane (translator, ed.), Life of King Alfred (1908) (1926)

#58. W.C. Greene (translator), Translations from the Icelandic (1908) (reprint New York: Cooper Square, 1966)

#59. Right Rev. Abbot Gasquet (translator), The Rule of St. Benedict (1909)

#60. Arundell Esdaile (ed.), Daniel’s “Delia” and Drayton’s “Idea” (1908)

#61. Christine de Pisan (translator); Alice Kemp-Welch (introduction), The Book of the Duke of True Lovers (1909)

#62. Anonymous (translator); Gautier de Coince (translator); Alice Kemp-Welch (introduction), Of the Tumbler of Our Lady and Other Miracles (1909)

#63. Alice Kemp-Welch (translator); L. Brandin (introduction), The Chatelaine of Vergi (1907) (1909)

*not yet published as of April 1911 (A Concise List of King’s Classics from a 1907 edition of #3, Jocelin de Brakelond, The Chronicle of Jocelin of Brakelond (published by Chatto and Windus)

** Published by John W. Luce & Co. in the U.S.

*** Listed as #45 in A Concise List of King’s Classics

**** Listed as #44 in A Concise List of King’s Classics

***** Left off of a list of all 63 titles in A Concise List of King’s Classics (full series) in the back of Eikon Basilike (1907)

The King’s Classics is an aesthetically pleasant series of smaller reprints with attractive binding, book design, and construction. This copy of Cupid and Psyche (From the Golden Ass, by Apuleius) is dated 1904. The jackets are common to the series and unprinted except for the spine, which includes the series name, title, price, and publisher. The jacket is heavy grey paper. (this jacket, due to damage, was scanned in a lined jacket cover).

The back and back flap of the jacket:

The quarter-bound books with a vellum (faux?) spine make the books pint-sized versions of the fine press titles from Moring’s collection of folios and quartos. A label with the series name and title is glued to the spine.

The blank endpapers:

The series name and editor, Victor Gollancz, follow:

Unusual for book series, additional pre-title pages follow: this one with a colophon for the series (used only on this page):

Followed by a more typical half-title page.

An illustration faces the title page, which includes the imprint and year of publication.

There is no copyright information on the reverse of the title page.

“Printed by R. & R. Clark, Limited, Edinburgh.” The “small press” De La More Press was outsourcing the printing and binding of the series.

Bindings and book design can vary (for example, red cloth bindings) for the King’s Classics in the Moring era and after Chatto & Windus acquired the series in 1907, although many appear to follow the design of the copy above.