Nelson’s English Series

aka/ English Series, Teaching of English Series

T. Nelson & Sons Ltd. (London, UK)
Series dates: 1925-1942, Teaching of English Series to 1968
Size: 6.25″ x 4.25″

Nelson’s English Series was first issued in 1925, “A home library for appreciative readers.” Nelson’s Teaching of English Series name appears in 1926, and the two names seem to be used interchangeably in subsequent years.

Adding to the confusion are series such as Nelson’s English and Speech Series, which is appended to titles that in other cases carry the Nelson’s English Series name or Teaching of English Series name. Adding a transatlantic link makes the situation even more Byzantine: Ronald Press issued titles in the U.S. between 1928-1958 that seem to be drawn from Nelson’s English Series (or the Teaching of English Series, or the English and Speech Series). Sometimes those series names appear in WorldCat entries but don’t seem to be included on or in the Ronald Press books themselves. There is an entry here under the English Series for the Ronald Press titles.

For now, my best guess is that Nelson’s English Series was the ur-series, and over time different names emerged which reflect the marketing of the series. “A home library for appreciative readers” is rather vague, but the “Teaching of English” suggests titles for instructors and an educational market. Indeed, all these series seem primarily aimed at educators and schools, who undoubtedly bought the majority of books in these interrelated series. Advertisements below from 1925 and 1940 suggest the evolution of the series name (and possibly content) over time.

Nelson’s English Series name seems to cease being used in the mid-1940s. Titles under the Teaching of English Series appear until the late 1960s. Paperback titles appear in the 1940-1943 era, priced at 1/- net.

Advertisements from the Times Literary Supplement, November 26, 1925, p.801 (left) and September 7, 1940, p. 450 (right).

Henry Newbolt’s edited collection The Tide of Time in English Poetry is among the earliest titles issued in Nelson’s English Series. This is a 3rd edition published in 1926, with the first (and second) editions being published in 1925. Thus this jacket and book design are likely the earliest used for the series. Newbolt was a long-time editor for Nelson and many of its series.

This copy has seriously yellowed tape covering part of the jacket spine. The jacket spine includes the book title, author, price (2/- net) and publisher. The front of the jacket includes a drawing of what seems to be a medal awarded to Newbolt in 1922 (as a Companion of Honour). Jacket designs were, at this early stage in the series, unique to each title. The series name and number (#24) is included on the jacket front, as is the Newbolt’s general editorship of the series. The front jacket flap is blank.

The rear of the jacket includes the series name and general editor. “A Home Library for Appreciative Readers.” “Pocket Size, Cloth. 2s. net.” A list of the initial series titles follows, broken down into two categories: “For Adult Readers” and “For Younger Readers.” Each book at this point is issued “With Engraved Frontispiece and Illustrations.” The publisher follows.

The book is bound in blue cloth with gold typography and minimal decoration:

The endpapers repeat the Nelson colophon:

The half-title page reveals the variant series name: The “Teaching of English” Series, with Newbolt’s general editorship. The book name and series name follow. This series name is the only series name on or in the book itself. But the only series name on the jacket is “Nelson’s English Series.” Thus the series name varies between the jacket and the book itself.

The medal illustration from the front of the jacket is repeated, facing the title page: “From a pen drawing by E. Herber Thompson, after a medallion by T. Spicer Simpson.”

The copyright page includes the three printings of this title (as of January 1926). “Printed in Great Britain at the Press of the Publishers.”

The last page in the book also includes the printing indication: “Printed in Great Britain at the Press of the Publishers.”