The Athenian Drama

George Allen (London, UK)
Allen & Unwin (London, UK)
Series dates: 1900-1940
Size: 5″ x 7.5″

aka/ The Athenian Drama for English Readers

Revised 6/16/2023

A series of translations issued by publisher George Allen (later Allen & Unwin) aimed at readers with limited ability to read the original Greek. The titles in the series consist of larger, multiple-play volumes (numbered) and shorter single-play volumes (unnumbered). In total, 17 titles were published (and 1 announced but not published).

The initial title (Aeschylus) appeared in 1900, with three additional titles announced soon after (in the Spring Announcements of the Publishers’ Circular, March 2, 1901; see below). Two of the three (Sophocles, Euripides) appeared in 1902, but the final volume (Aristophanes) was not published. Soon after, individual plays were issued (shorter in length and cheaper) in both paper and cloth-bound versions. I’ve documented 14 titles of individual plays. The last title was issued in 1930, and reprints appeared until 2007, but in very limited quantity.

Upper left: Oxford Magazine (Dec. 5, 1900)

Upper right: Publishers’ Circular (March 2, 1901)

Left: Athenaeum (Nov 21, 1903)

A review of the 2nd volume, Sophocles, found fault with the number of Greek quotes in the translation (The Academy and Literature, February 1903), among other issues (see below). A review of printings of the series titles (below) indicates the third volume (Euripides) with at least 9 printings and the other two with two to three printings each. This suggests buyers did not find the initial two volumes of much interest.

The series began with four proposed, numbered volumes which included multiple translated plays. Three of the four volumes were published; the last (Aristophanes) was not published. The translator of that volume (and volume 1) was George C.N. Warr, who died in 1901, possibly before the fourth volume was complete.

I’ve included the initial year of publication for each volume and subsequent edition years from WorldCat. It’s possible that not all entries for this series in WorldCat have the series indicated (I’ve not included any editions without the series included in the record).

1. Aeschylus: The Oristean Trilogy (George C.N. Warr, translator, 220 pgs.) (1900, 1910)
2. Sophocles: Edipus, Tyrannus, Colonius, Antigone (J.S. Phillimore, translator, 215 pgs.) (1902, 1910, 1982)
3. Euripides: Hippolytus, Bacchae, Aristophanes Frogs (Gilbert Murray, translator, 355 pgs.) (1902, 1904, 1906, 1908, 1910, 1911, 1916, 1917, 1924)
*4. Aristophanes: Clouds and Plutus; The Trinummus of Plautus; The Adelphi of Terrance (George C.N. Warr, translator)

*Not published

Soon after, George Allen began issuing individual plays in shorter volumes at a lower price. I’ve documented 14 different titles below. By 1925, these individual titles were offered in paper and hardbound covers. See the copy of The Frogs of Aristophanes below. I’ve included the earliest date of each title below. Again, I’ve only included dates for copies that include the series name in WorldCat.

Euripides: The Hippolytus of Euripides (Gilbert Murray, translator, 86 pgs.) (1904)
Euripides: Bacchae (Gilbert Murray, translator, 94 pgs.) (1904)

Euripides: The Trojan Women of Euripides (Gilbert Murray, translator, 94 pgs.) (1905)
Euripides: The Electra of Euripides (Gilbert Murray, translator, 99 pgs.) (1905)
Euripides: Iphigenia in Tauris (Gilbert Murray, translator, 105 pgs.) (1905)

Euripides: The Medea (Gilbert Murray, translator, 96 pgs.) (1906)

Aristophanes: The Frogs of Aristophanes (Gilbert Murray, translator, 136 pgs.) (1908)

Sophocles: Oedipus, King of Thebes (Gilbert Murray, translator, 92 pgs.) (1911)

Euripides: The Rhesus of Euripides (Gilbert Murray, translator, 66 pgs.) (1913)

Euripides: The Alcestis of Euripides (Gilbert Murray, translator, 81 pgs.) (1913)

Aeschylus: The Choephoroe (Libation-Bearers) of Aeschylus (Gilbert Murray, translator, 83 pgs.) (1913)

Aeschylus: The Eumenides (The Furies) of Aeschylus (Gilbert Murray, translator, 62 pgs.) (1925)

Aeschylus: The Agamemnon of Aeschylus (Gilbert Murray, translator, 91 pgs.) (1927)

Aeschylus: The Suppliant Women (Supplices) (Gilbert Murray, translator, 101 pgs.) (1930)

The Frogs of Aristophanes was first issued in 1908. Below is a 1925 reprint. Earlier jacket designs may have been used. The jacket design is stern and plain. The price (3/- net) is on the jacket spine. The front flap is blank. There is no indication of the series name on the spine or jacket front.

The rear of the jacket lists additional individual titles in the series under the title “The Plays of Euripides.” At this time, I’d say that the series name “The Athenian Drama,” referring back to the original three multi-title volumes, was downplayed (it appears inside the book), and the emphasis was on the translations by Murray, which were the best selling of the lot originally issued in 1900.

A few other titles, not in the series, are listed on the rear of the jacket.

The green cloth binding:

Blank endpapers:

The half-title page:

The series name appears at the head of the list of series volumes that face the title page. The number of titles sold is included. Paper and hardbound copies are available.

Editions are listed on the reverse of the title page, and another half-title follows.

The publisher’s information is on the final page of the book: