Ormond Poets

Noel Douglas (London, UK)
Series dates: 1927-1928
Size: 4″ x 6.5″

“George Douglas Howard Cole (25 September 1889 – 14 January 1959) was an English political theorist, economist, writer and historian. As a libertarian socialist he was a long-time member of the Fabian Society and an advocate for the co-operative movement.” (source)

Cole directed the Fabian Research Department (established in 1912), later renamed the Labor Research Department (LRD). In 1920 the Labor Publishing Co. Ltd. was proposed as a subsidiary of the LRD. “‘This company would publish cheap editions of books of Labour interest, such as the History of Trade Unionism,’ the minutes tell us, ‘and would also undertake publication on its own account, and act as a wholesale agent for other Labour books.” (“The Labour Publishing Company 1920-9,” Pat Francis. History Workshop, No. 18, Autumn, 1984, pp. 115).

Cole appointed Bernard Noel Langdon-Davies as manager of the Labor Publishing Co. when the firm was established in November 1920. The firm was located at 38 Great Ormond Street in London. The sale of shares raised enough capital to issue some books and few series: “the LRD’s ‘Labour and Capital’ series, and the ‘Workers Control Series’ by GDH Cole, along with other sixpenny Guild Socialist titles.” (Francis, p. 119) The firm struggled, despite the influx of additional funds by benefactors. The company went into receivership in 1929 and closed in 1931.

In 1926 Cole and Langdon-Davies established a firm called Noel Davis, its name the combination of two of their first names. Noel Davis “produced some fine facsimile volumes similar to those of the Nonesuch Press, which was owned by their old friend and associate Francis Meynell, who passed through a Communist phase in the early 20s…” (Francis, p. 121).

The primary output of the Noel Douglas firm were the Noel Douglas Replicas (1926-1928) and the Ormond Poets (1927-1928). Publications from the firm slow in the early 1930s. A few more titles are published, veering into odd territory: John Swain’s The Pleasures of the Torture Chamber (the history of torture), The Sex Factor In Marriage, by Helena Wright and a nudist tome called On Going Naked by Jan Gay.

The Ormond Poets were named for the street where the Noel Douglas firm was located in London. The 16 titles, issued in 1927 and 1928, were selected and edited by Cole and his wife Margaret I. Cole. “Dame Margaret Isabel Cole, DBE (née Postgate; 6 May 1893 – 7 May 1980) was an English socialist politician, writer and poet. She wrote several detective stories in conjunction with her husband, G. D. H. Cole. She went on to hold important posts in London government in the period after the Second World War. (source)

The 16 titles in the Ormond Poets include:


#1. Songs and Verses from the Plays, William Shakespeare
#2. Selected Poems, William Blake;
#3. A Selection of Poems, Abraham Cowley
#4. Selected Lyrics, Percy Bysshe Shelley
#5. A Selection of Shorter Poems, Michael Drayton
#6. Selected Poems, Robert Herrick


#7. Selected Shorter Poems, John Donne
#8. Lyrics from the Plays, Francis Beaumont & John Fletcher
#9. Selected Poems, Thomas Campion
#10. Selected Shorter Poems, Robert Browning
#11. A Selection of Shorter Poems, William Wordsworth
#12. The Old Testament: Lyrics from the Authorized Version
#13. Selected Poems, Robert Burns
#14. Selected Poems, Andrew Marvell
#15. Selected Poems, John Keats
#16. Selected Poems, Henry Howard Surrey & Thomas Wyatt

The series was advertised along with other Noel Douglas publications between 1927 and 1929:

Below: The Times Literary Supplement, Thursday, September 22, 1927, Issue 1338, p.646 (left) and Thursday, May 3, 1928, Issue 1370, p.334 (right)

Below: The Times Literary Supplement, Thursday, October 25, 1928, Issue 1395, p.782 (left) and Thursday, February 14, 1929, Issue 1411, p.113 (right).

The copy of Selected Poems by John Keats (below) was #15 in the series and is an example the paperbound titles. The card covers are themselves covered with a tissue jacket that, curiously, has the price (1s. net) printed on it. I don’t recall ever seeing fragile tissue jackets with printing on them on any other series book. Besides the price, there is no other printing on the tissue. I’m guessing the idea was to keep the price off the book’s cover. The tissue jacket also kept the coffee off the book’s cover (see below).

The tissue jacket over the book’s card covers:

The card covers have “French flaps.” The front cover follows a common design on the paperbound titles, a pattern (in different colors) with a space for the book author, series name, and series number. The publisher’s colophon (a flamingo with ND) is centered on the rear of the book cover.

The paperbound books have no half-title page. The title page includes the editors, the publisher’s imprint and date (1928 in this case).

The copyright page includes a brief biographical note about the author, followed by the initials of the editors. “Printed in Great Britain.”

“Printed and made by the Whitefriars Press, Ltd., London and Tonbridge.”