Omar Series

Grant Richards, Ltd. (London, UK)
Series dates: 1911-1927
Size: 3.5″ x 5.25″

Richards Press, Ltd. (London, UK)
Series dates: 1927-1963
Size: 3.5″ x 5.25″

John Baker, Ltd (London, UK)
Series dates: 1963-1971
Size: 3.5″ x 5.25″

Grant Richards began publishing in 1897, issuing, over the years, important authors such as Shaw, Housman, Chesterton, Masefield, Saki, Bennett, Butler. He also began the World’s Classics Series in 1901. Richards was, however, not careful with finances and the firm was insolvent by 1905 when the Oxford University Press acquired the World’s Classics and Alexander Moring of the De La More Press bought out the rest of the firm’s assets.

In 1908 Richards was publishing again, and by 1913 over 300 titles were in print with the Grant Richards imprint. Despite publishing many significant titles, Richards was bankrupt again by 1927 and the firm reorganized as The Richards Press, with a board of directors and Richards serving as an editor and reader. Continued strife between the board and Richards led to his gradual exit from the firm (by the late 1920s) and the decline of the Press, which turned to the republication of its substantial back catalog of titles. The Richards Press was bought by Martin Secker in 1937, then by John Baker Ltd. in 1963. Baker Ltd. was in turn absorbed into A. & C. Black in 1970.

The Omar Series was a constant but minor series for Grant Richards Ltd. and, in the end, John Baker Ltd. Published first in 1911, the last copies of the series were reprinted in 1971, as Baker was being absorbed into Black. It seems as if Richards published some of the earlier titles in the series prior to 1911, but not under the Omar Series name. All titles were small in format and short in length and aimed at the gift book market.

The copy of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam shown below was published in 1945. The title was the first issued in the series (in 1911) and among the last reprinted, in 1970. Different jacket designs appeared over the years. All jackets I’ve seen are common to the series. In the case of this 1945 copy, the title is on the spine and jacket front. The price (2s., 6d; 4s., 6d. in leather) is on the jacket front and the front jacket flap lists six titles from the series. Thirteen were published in all over the life of the series, with one ghost title (announced, by not published).

Titles in the series were not numbered, although in a few cases series numbers are used on lists of the series in publisher catalogs:

1. The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
2. A Shropshire Lad, by A. E. Housman
3. Early Poems of D. G. Rossetti
4. The Song of Songs
5. Sister Benvenuta and the Christ Child, by Vernon Lee
6. English Nature Poems: An Anthology
7. In Memoriam, by Alfred Lord Tennyson
8. Love Poems of Herrick: A Selection
9. The Country Muse, Martin Gale,
10. Scottish Ballads, ed. J.E. Crawford

Sonnets, by Lord Alfred Douglas
Shakespeare’s Sonnets
The Ballad of Reading Gaol
*Everyman. A Morality Play

*Ghost title (announced, not published)

The back of the dust jacket includes the series name and a unicorn colophon. The director of the Richards Press at this time (1945) is Martin Secker (whose firm had, in 1937, bought the Press).

Basic blue cloth bindings with gold typography:

The half-title page:

The title page:

The copyright page is blank:

The last page includes the printer information (Chiswick Press, New Southgate, N.II) and year of printing (1945):