Publishing History > Ancient Classics for English Readers (William Blackwood & Sons) - Book Series List

Ancient Classics for English Readers
Publisher: William Blackwood & Sons. Country: United Kingdom. Date: 1870 -c. 1905.
Republished by: J. B. Lippincott & Co. Country: United States. Date: 1870- .

Homer: Odyssey (Ancient Classics for English Readers/William Blackwood) (image)

Homer: The Odyssey
Edited by the Rev. W. Lucas Collins.
Edinburgh and London, William Blackwood and Sons, 1870.
(Ancient Classics for English Readers)

Hardback with ornate decorative design in black on rust cloth binding. No dust wrapper.
136 pages plus publisher's advertisements.

Series Note: This series of 28 volumes provided introductions to some of the major ancient Greek and Roman writers and gave English translations of excerpts from their major works accompanied by paraphrases and commentaries.

Publisher, Editor and Authors

The series was published by William Blackwood & Sons Limited of Edinburgh and London. The Series Editor was the Rev. W. Lucas Collins, M.A.

Authors of individual volumes included:
Rev. William Jackson Brodribb (1829–1905)
, classical scholar and translator
Alfred John Church (1829-1912), English classical scholar
Clifton W. [Wilbraham] Collins (1845-1918), Her Majesty's Inspector of Schools and son of William Lucas Collins (see below)
William Lucas Collins (1815-87), Church of England presbyter, essayist and editor of this book series
Rev. Richard Stephen Copleston (1845-1925), Anglican priest and author, who was Bishop of Colombo and later of Calcutta
William Bodham Donne (1807-82), English journalist, librarian and theatrical censor
Sir Alexander Grant (1826-84), British educationalist and principal of the University of Edinburgh
Sir Theodore Martin (1816-1909), Scottish poet, biographer, and translator
William Hurrell Mallock (1849-1923), English novelist and writer on economics and politics
Rev. Francis David Morice (1849-1926), English entomologist, theologian, linguist and classical scholar
Charles Neaves [Lord Neaves] (1800-76), Scottish advocate, judge, theologian and writer
George Carless Swayne (1818-92), schoolmaster, Anglican priest and writer
Anthony Trollope (1815-82), English novelist
Edward Walford (1823-97), British editor and writer

Physical Format

Each volume was first published by William Blackwood & Sons in a hardback format. It was bound in rust brown, green or grey cloth boards decorated ornately in gilt and black and was issued without dust wrappers. Size: Small octavo (ca.
11 x 18 cm).

In 1877 William Blackwood & Sons was making the following offer:
The subjects [i.e. titles] in this series may be had separately, in cloth, price 2s. 6d.; or two volumes bound in one, in leather back and marbled sides and edges, arranged as follows:

- The Iliad [and] Odyssey
- Herodotus [and] Xenophon
- Euripides [and] Aristophanes
- Plato [and] Lucian
- Aeschylus [and] Sophocles
- Hesiod and Theognis [and] Greek Anthology
- Virgil [and] Horace
- Juvenal [and] Plautus and Terence
- Caesar [and] Tacitus
- Cicero [and] Pliny
- Thucydides [and] Livy
- Ovid [and Catullus, Tibullus and Propertius
- Aristotle [and] Demosthenes

A scanned copy of two volumes bound in one may be viewed here.

In 1898 each volume was being reprinted by the same publisher as follows: "Cheap re-issue. In limp cloth, fcap 8vo, price 1s. each." (Source: Publisher's catalogue in With Kitchener to Khartum by G. W. Steevens. Edinburgh and London, William Blackwood & Sons, 1898.)

Republication by J. B. Lippincott, Philadelphia

At least 20 of the volumes (e.g. George C. Swayne' s Herodotus, Edward Walford's Juvenal; James Davies's, Hesiod and Theognis) in this series were republished in the United States by J. B. Lippincott & Co. of 715-717 Market Street, Philadelphia.

Publisher Descriptions of this Series

In the Advertisement pages in first volume in the series, Homer: The Iliad, the publisher, William Blackwood & Sons, describes the "Ancient Classics for English Readers" series and its target audiences:
It is proposed to give, in these little volumes, some such introduction to the great writers of Greece and Rome as may open to those who have not received a classical education—or in whose case it has been incomplete and fragmentary—a fair acquaintance with the contents of their writings, and the leading features of their style.

The constant allusions in our own literature, and even in our daily press, to the works of the ancient classical authors, and the familiarity with the whole dramatis personæ of ancient history and fable which modern writers on all subjects assume on the part of their readers, make such an acquaintance almost necessary for those who care not only to read but to understand.

Even in the case of readers who have gone through the regular classical course in their day, this acquaintance, if honest confession were made, would be found very imperfect. It is said, of course, that “every English gentleman reads Horace;” but this is one of those general assertions which rest upon very loose ground. An ordinary observer of the habits of the class might find himself somewhat at a loss for instances. (...)

The aim of the present series will be to explain, sufficiently for general readers, who these great writers were, and what they wrote; to give, wherever possible, some connected outline of the story they tell, or facts which they record, checked by the results of modern investigations; to present some of their most striking passages in approved English translations; and to illustrate them generally from modern writers; to serve, in short, as a popular retrospect of the chief literature of Greece and Rome.

In Herodotus by George C. Swayne, one of the volumes republished by J. C. Lippincott & Co., a short extract of the above is reprinted.

Reviews in the Press

Many reviews, the majority favorable, appeared regarding this series and its component volumes. For example, this review in the Saturday Review, January 18, 1873:

It is difficult to estimate too highly the value of such a series as this in giving 'English readers' an insight, exact as far as it goes, into those olden times which are so remote and yet to many of us so close. It is in no wise to be looked upon as a rival to the translations which have at no time been brought forth in greater abundance or in greater excellence than in our own day. On the contrary, we should hope that these little volumes would be in many cases but a kind of stepping-stone to the larger works, and would lead many who otherwisewould have remained in ignorance of them to turn to the versions of Conington, Worsley, Derby, or Lytton. In any case a reader would come with far greater knowledge, and therefore with far greater enjoyment, to the complete translation, who had first had the ground broken for him by one of these volumes.

You can read further reviews

Anthony Trollope the Novelist Praises this Series

In a review of Ancient Classics for English Readers, the novelist, Anthony Trollope, who coincidentally would later write the Caesar volume in the series, praised the endeavour: "it [the series] will afford an easy means of removing very common and very dense ignorance as to authors whose names are common in our mouths".

He found the two volumes on Homer (by Rev. W. Lucas Collins) "remarkably successful" and opined that those books would greatly extend the audience for Homer beyond the "comparatively few in number who have read Greek, or the hardly more numerous class who have made themselves acquainted with the poems by means of translation". He added that he found the books on Homer "very pleasant reading;--as good as a novel we might say ... were it not that they are very much better than most novels".

Source: Anthony Trollope, "Ancient Classics for English Readers", Saint Pauls, 5 (1870), 664.

Scanned Copies of Individual Volumes on the Internet

Scanned copies of some of the titles published in this series by William Blackwood & Sons are now online. For example:
Herodotus by George C. [Carless] Swayne (Blackwood, 1870)

Scanned copies of some of the titles republished by J. B. Lippincott & Co., Philadelphia, are now online. For example:
Herodotus by George C. [Carless] Swayne (Lippincott, 1870)

Title / Author(s) / Other Details

The Right Rev. the Bishop of Colombo [Bishop Coppleston].

Rev. W. Lucas Collins, M.A..

Sir Alexander Grant, Bart., LL.D.
196 pages.

The Commentaries of Caesar
Anthony Trollope.

Catullus, Tibullus, and Propertius
J. Davies.

Rev. W. Lucas Collins, M.A.

The Rev. W. J. Brodribb, M.A.
174 pages. Includes a folding map.

W. B. Donne [William Bodham Donne].
204 pages.

The Greek Anthology
Lord Neaves.

G. C. Swayne [George C. Swayne], M.A.
180 pages.

Hesiod and Theognis
The Rev. James Davies.

Homer: The Odyssey
Rev. W. Lucas Collins, M.A.
136 pages plus advertisements.

Homer: The Iliad
Rev. W. Lucas Collins, M.A.
148 pages.

Sir Theodore Martin, K.C.E.

Edward Walford, M.A.

Rev. W. Lucas Collins, M.A.

Rev. W. Lucas Collins, M.A.

W. H. Mallock

Rev. A. Church, M.A.

The Rev. F. D. Morice, M.A.

C. W. Collins [Clifton W. Collins].
197 pages.

Plautus and Terence
Rev. W. Lucas Collins, M.A.

Pliny [Pliny's Letters]
Rev. A. Church, B.A. and W. J. Brodribb, M.A.

C. W. Collins [Clifton W. Collins].

W. B. Donne [William Bodham Donne].

Rev. W. Lucas Collins, M.A.

Rev. W. Lucas Collins, M.A.

Sir Alexander Grant, Bart., LL.D.
180 pages.

Source of the above Series Checklist:
Plato by Clifton W. Collins. Edinburgh and London, William Blackwood and Sons, 1874 (1882 reprint). (Ancient Classics for English Readers series.) "Contents of the Series" list on frontispiece.

With Kitchener to Khartum by G. W. Steevens. Edinburgh and London, William Blackwood & Sons, 1898. Publisher's catalogue in final pages.

Ancient Classics for English Readers list (William Blackwood) (image)

List of books in the "Ancient Classics for English Readers" series.
Published in: Herodotus - George C. Swayne, ed.
Edinburgh & London: William Blackwell & Sons, 1870.
(Ancient Classics for the English Reader series)

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