Saltire Classics

aka/ Scottish Classics
aka/ Saltire Books,
or A Saltire Book

The Saltire Society, by Oliver and Boyd, Ltd. (Edinburgh, UK)
Series dates: 1939-1971
Size: 5 x 7.5

Interscience Publications (New York, US)
Series dates: 1960

Constable & Co., Ltd. (London, UK)
Series dates: 1974

James Thin: Mercat Press (Edinburgh, UK)
Series dates: 1981

“The Saltire Society is a membership organization which aims to promote the understanding of the culture and heritage of Scotland. Founded in 1936, the society was “set up to promote and celebrate the uniqueness of Scottish culture and Scotland’s heritage, and to reclaim Scotland’s place as a distinct contributor to European and international culture.” The society organizes lectures and publishes pamphlets, and presents a series of awards in the fields of art, architecture, literature and history.” (source)

The Society published a Scottish nationalist-tinged reprint book series which is referred to as both the Scottish Classics and Saltire Classics (the latter seems to be the official series name). Upon the founding of the Society in 1936, “One of its first actions was to publish a series of cheap editions of early Scottish literature at a time when no other editions were available. These ‘Saltire Classics’ along with programmes of reading introduced many people to a literature which they had heard nothing at school.” (Scotland Resurgent: Comments on the Cultural and Political Revival of Scotland, by Paul Henderson Scott, 2003,  p. 130).

The series was published for the Saltire Society by several publishers: most titles were issued by Oliver and Boyd, but copies can be found with imprints from Interscience Publications (NY, 1960), Constable (London, 1974) and James Thin: Mercat Press (Edinburgh, 1981). The James Thin imprint title (Songs and Lyrics of Sir Walter Scott) is the last printing (1981) from the series that I can find.

To add to the slight confusion of the series name, “A Saltire Book” is boldly included on the front of the dust jacket (but not the actual series name):

This copy of Sir Walter Scott’s Songs and Lyrics was first published in the series in 1942. Jackets are common to the series with a saltire (St. Andrews cross), shield, thistle design in blue and red. The official series name (Saltire Classics) is not indicated on the jacket. The front jacket flap describes the Society and the cost of membership (5s). The price is on the front jacket flap: 3s./6d. net.

The rear of the jacket is headed by “The Saltire Society” and lists its publications. Under “Classics” are found the Saltire Classics, which are distinguished from “Pamphlets.” The Pamphlets are numbered through 7, then begin over in a New Series around 1960. The series numbers are not shown on this jacket listing. The Classics are numbered early on (through #2) but then seem to continue unnumbered.

The Saltire Classics contains 15 titles. There are two numbered titles in the series and thirteen additional titles, the first issued in 1939, the last title in 1960 and the final reprint in 1971.

#1. The Gude and Godlie Ballatis, by James Wedderburn, John Wedderburn, Robert Wedderburn & ed. by Iain Ross (1939)
#2. The Historie of the Reformatioun of Religioun within the Realm of Scotland, by John Knox, edited by Ralph S Walker (1940)

Selected Poems, by James Hogg, ed. by John W Oliver (1940)
Selected Poems, by Allan Ramsay, ed. by H. Harvey Wood (1940)
Songs and Lyrics of Sir Walter Scott, ed. by Herbert Grierson (1942)
Selections from Sir Thomas Urquhart of Cromarty, ed. by John Purves (1942)
Scots Poems, by Robert Fergusson, ed. by Alexander Law (1947)
Poems by Sir David Lyndsay, ed. by J. Maurice Lindsay (1948)
The Historie of the Lyff of James Melvill, ed. by James Gabriel Fyfe (1948)
Selections from the Poems of Robert Henryson, ed. by David D. Murison (1952)
Selections from the Poems of William Dunbar, ed. by Hugh MacDiarmid (1952)
The Poems of Alexander Scott, c.1530 – c.1584, ed. by Alexander Scott (1952)
Gavin Douglas: A Selection from his Poetry, ed. by Sydney Goodsir Smith (1959)
Alexander Montgomerie: A Selection from his Songs and Poems, ed. by Helena Mennie Shire (1960)
The Bruce; A Selection, by John Barbour, ed. by Alexander Manson Kinghorn (1960)

Blue plasticized bindings include gold typography and decorations. The book author and title are on the spine. A thistle design, different from the one on the jacket, is centered on the front of the book.

The half-title page is the only place the full series name is found.

The title page has the date of publication, 1942 in this case.

The copyright page is blank except for the printer’s information: “Printed in Great Britain by Oliver and Boyd, Ltd., Edinburgh.”

The printer’s information is repeated on the last page of the book.