Temple Classics

J.M. Dent & Sons, Ltd (London, UK)
Series dates: 1896-1955
Size: 6″ x 4″

E.P. Dutton (New York, US)
Series dates: 1910-1955

temple_classics_logoThe Temple Classics, focused on “accepted classic literature” predated Dent’s Everyman’s Library by a decade and a significant number of titles were incorporated into Everyman’s. Everyman’s Library had a wider audience and broader scope than the Temple Classics, yet titles in the Temple Classics series continued in print at least through the 1950s.

Many titles were published for the first time in the 1897-1907 time frame, and titles were slowly added after that. Over 300 titles were eventually included in the series when it was phased out in the 1950s. An advertisement in an October 1896 issue of the Athenaeum lists the initial titles under the editorship of Israel Gollancz.


Jackets, while common throughout the series, included the arts and crafts design elements that pervaded the entire design of the book. Titles were not numbered.

This copy of Goldsmith’s Poems is undated, but probably in the 1901-1903 time frame (the book was first published in 1901). Dent was typically meticulous with its printing dates on Everyman’s Library titles – but through the late 1920s typically left the date off of the first printing of the book. If Dent followed the same procedure with the Temple Classics, this should be a 1901 first printing in the Temple Classics.

On early Temple Classics jackets, the front of the jacket is devoid of any reference to the author or title of the book. Instead, the binding (cloth) and price (1/-) is indicated along with a slightly peevish admonition: “The Publishers wish it to be distinctly understood that this volume is supplied to the Booksellers on terms which prohibit any discount.” This statement undoubtedly has something to do with various lawsuits related to the discounting of books around this time in the UK. The binding and title of the book are indicated on the spine of the jacket. The front jacket flap advertises other Temple series books: Shakespeare, dramatists, and Moliere.


The rear of the jacket and rear jacket flap contains more advertisements for the Temple Bible, the Cloister Library, and the Lyric Poets.  The rear of the jacket advertises the Temple Classics, noting more than 300 volumes in the series. This number, noted in advertisements back to 1903, was the approximate total number of titles issued in the series (it seems that most of the series titles were initially published by 1903).


Binding is a decent quality dark blue cloth with gold stamping. An owl is debossed on the front of the book.


The front endpapers contain basic biographical details about the books’ author.


The two-color half-title page includes the series name and editor, but not the title of the book.


An illustration faces the title page, separated by a bound-in sheet of tissue (below, overlaying the title page).


The title page with the bound-in tissue over the facing illustration.


No date is included in the book. A note indicates this title is based on Austin Dobson’s 1889 edition of Goldsmith’s Poems and Plays. The “VOL. 1” on this page probably refers to that original two-volume publication (the Plays are volume 2).


The printer’s mark on the last page of the book.


By the late 1930s, the Temple Classics remain largely the same with a few modifications. The covers remove the discounting admonition and add the title of the book. The price (now 2/-) is moved to the front jacket flap. Advertisements for other Temple books are also included on the front jacket flap.


A selection of titles in the series is listed on the back of the jacket. The illustrated frontispiece, decorative title page, endpapers, and bookmark are noted. Everyman’s Library is advertised on the rear flap, also 2/ a copy (library binding for 3/).


The binding and design of the Temple Classics set it apart from many other similar series, in this case, dark blue leatherette with decorative gold stamping remaining unchanged from the earlier edition above.


Decorative endpapers, linked, in this case, to the book (Dante’s Paradiso). A page marker is bound in the book.


The half-title page is in two colors, with the Dent / Temple logo, the series name, and Gollancz name replaced by the book title.


Dent is usually meticulous with information on initial and later printings in the series, in this case, an initial printing in 1899, and fourteen reprints (the final, 1936).


An illustrated frontispiece followed by a sheet of tissue (here over the title page).


The tissue sheet moved to the left. Arts and crafts detailing was also a key component of Everyman’s Library through 1930 or so.