Red Letter Poets

Blackie and Son Ltd. (London, Glasgow, UK)
Series dates: 1902-1933
Size: 4″ x 6″

Updates 6/14/2024

The Red Letter Poets appeared early in the 20th century as part of a group of series and titles collectively called the Red Letter Library, initiated by Blackie in 1902. The Poets series was edited by Alice Meynell, and the books were designed by the artist Talwin Morris of Glasgow Arts & Crafts. The design of these books makes them more collectible than other reprint series in this era (one collector site here). Advertisements appear from 1902 to 1933.

An advertisement for the first 4 titles in the series from late 1902. From Educational Times (UK), November 1, 1902
Four more titles are available in mid-1904. Athenaeum (UK), March 26, 1904
  Caldwell distributed the Red Letter Library series in the US, including the Red Letter Poets.
This two-page series description is from Caldwell’s 1905-1906 Catalog, published after p. 60 in the Publisher’s Trade List Annual, Vol. 1 for 1905 (here)
Twelve titles were available in the US in 1925. Bookseller and Stationer (US), March 25, 1925

Titles in the series were numbered through #6. Eight additional titles were added (without numbers) for a total of 14 titles published between 1902 and 1923.

#1. Tennyson (1902)
#2. Elizabeth Barret Browning (1902)
#3. Wordsworth (1902)
#4. Robert Browning (1902)
#5. Shelley (1903)
#6. Keates (1903)

An Eighteenth Century Anthology (1904)
A Seventeenth Century Anthology (1904)
Tennyson’s In Memoriam (1904)
Whittier (1904)
Longfellow (1905)
Christina Rossetti (1906)
Matthew Arnold (1923)
Robert Burns (1923)

The design of the dust jackets and books has some variations, possibly tied to more expensive binding options in the series. The most common jacket and book design seems to be the one below, on a copy of the series’ Robert Burns title, first published in 1923. This was one of two titles (along with Arnold) published after a long break after Rossetti’s title was published in 1906. The jacket spine includes the author and typical Arts & Crafts design elements. The jacket front includes the series name and a design with the author, all printed in red on cream linen. “Printed in Great Britain” and “2/6 net” are at the base of the front jacket flap.

The back of the jacket and rear jacket flap are blank.

The book’s binding, in blue cloth, mimics the design on the jacket.

The rather lovely endpaper graphics:

A half-title page, in red and black, includes the series name.

Publisher information (Scotland, India, Canada) is on the reverse side of the half-title page:

The title page, with a sketch of the author:

“Printed in Great Britain by Blackie & Son, Limited, Glasgow”

A few more jackets from additional titles in the series: Longfellow and Shelley (the latter not showing the blank jacket flaps: