Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Publisher's Devices: Greening & Co. Ltd.: One Crowded Hour

Greening & Co., Ltd. Books by this British publisher are probably a bit thin on the ground here in Canada, though most libraries and book dealers have probably handled them from time to time. I only have one copy, an imprint in their Lotus Library Series, The Kreutzer Sonata by Count Tolstoy, a revised translation by Ivan Lepinski, and published in 1911, a late issue from this publisher whose first issue was published in 1897. It is pleasantly bound in purple cloth with blindstamp designs of stylised lotus flowers. The title page sports a decorative border including their device, a stylised lotus blossom pictured here. The initials at the bottom right hand corner of the decorative border are W. G. M. which belong to W. G. Mein who I have to presume was the artist of the device itself. I came across Mein's name listed as the illustrator of a volume I mention below from a Greening & Co. catalogue from 1908. The Lotus Library consisted of works by de Musset, Louys, Gaboriau, Gautier, de Maupassant, Daudet, and Zola among others. Not knowing the history of this publisher, I began some light research and I started to form an idea of their place in the London publishing industry of the turn of the last century. Their advertisements at the back of many of their volumes reveal quite a bit: Popular Shilling Editions of L. T. Meade, Marie Corelli and Baroness Orczy among others; series such as Popular Fiction, Half-Crown Novels, Cheaper Fiction, and Popular Sixpennies. They also issued a series called the Masterpiece Library with books by the likes of Dumas, Beckford and Prosper Merimeé. Then there was their English Writers of To-day series with books on Algernon Charles Swinburne, Brett Harte, George Meredith, Hall Caine, Rudyard Kipling and Arthur Wing Pinero, and the above mentioned Lotus Library series. There was a book by Dan Leno and a book about Harry Lauder with advertisements for Lipton's Teas and Bovril. A few titles in their Court Series of French Memoirs including Recollections of Léonard: Hairdresser to Queen Marie Antoinette which sounds like a work of fiction but is evidently a true memoir.

Popular fiction titles by truly forgotten popular authors of the day included some interesting ones: The Pottle Papers; A Modern Christmas Carol (A "Dickensy" Story); Seven Nights with Satin; The Dupe; An Act of Impulse; A Doctor in Corduroy; A Suburban Scandal; The Loafer; The Cigarette Smoker; A Romance in Radium; The Weaver's Shuttle; The Woman in Black; Mad? (An Exciting Story of Predestination); The Tragedy of the Lady Palmist; The Puppets' Dallying; In the World of Mimes. 

There was an emphasis on the theatrical arts--even with much of the fiction--and a hint of the Yellow Book in their offerings, an afterglow of the aesthetic and decadent movements, which made me think the owner may have had an interest, or a past, in the theatre. One example being their book, Oscar Wilde, the Story of an Unhappy Friendship by Robert H. Sherard, (1905) a reprint of a book that was originally privately printed in 1902 and well-known for being the first biography of Wilde after his death in 1900. Another book on the theatrical side is Some Notable Hamlets of the Present Time by Clement Scott, with an appreciation of Mr. Clement Scott by L. Arthur Greening, and The Art of Elocution and Public Speaking by Ross Ferguson, with an introduction by George Alexander, and dedicated by permission to Miss Ellen Terry.

They also published various choices of literature such as Hudibras by Samuel Butler. This edition, with an introductory note by T. W. H. Crossland was issued with 12 illustrations after Hogarth and available in either Foolscap 8vo cloth, top-edge gilt, with bookmark, 2s. net, or in Leather, top-edge gilt, with bookmark at 3s. net. The Bookseller had this to say about it: "a most interesting reprint of Butler's celebrated poem in a form which strikes us as being entirely appropriate. The size of page, type and margin are both delightful to the eye of a booklover, and pleasantly reminiscent of the little volumes of the 17th century. While the fine paper, and the dozen excellent reproductions of Hogarth's well-known plays, the portrait of Butler himself, and the neat, artistic binding, make it, in its way, a miniature Edition de Luxe." Their range in production went from very cheap popular editions which probably disintegrated with use in the library systems, to the finer quality productions such as this Hudibras or another book by that C. Ranger Gull, The Adventures of Ulyssess, the Wanderer: an Old Story, Retold. Illustrated by W. G.Mein and issued in an edition de luxe, demy 8vo, printed on antique handmade paper, and bound in Half Japanese vellum, cloth sides, gilt lettered, gilt top; limited to 110 copies signed by the author, 5s. net.

The Scarlet Pimpernel, the novel that Baroness Orczy had been trying to publish for a few years, was first issued by Greening & Co., Ltd. in 1905 after the play based on the novel had become popular with the theatre going public. Although Greening & Co. published a number of Orczy titles, Hodder & Stoughton later bought the rights to the novel The Scarlet Pimpernel from them.

I was delighted to finally come across an interesting account of L. Arthur Greening written by Cecily Close. Greening's rather peculiar history and the story behind his name makes for interesting reading. Though he had a fairly long and varied career--ending up in Australia--I imagine that it was those early years of the 1890s and the first decade of the next century that "Greening" truly felt he was in the very beating heart of life. I can imagine him in his old age, a pipe in hand, warm embers on the way to a cold dottle, quoting lines of verse from Sir Walter Scott's novel Old Mortality--lines quoted as anonymous but written by Thomas Osbert Mordaunt:

Sound, sound the clarion, fill the fife!
Throughout the sensual world proclaim,
One crowded hour of glorious life
Is worth an age without a name.


Holly Gardner said...

Thank you for publishing this article. Arthur W. Greening was born Arthur W. Collins. He had a son Douglas Harold, who was my grandfather. How wonderful to read his story.

Anonymous said...

Your article is very interesting and I look forward to reading more. This article has permitted me to establish some provenance to a book I own. You mention the rarity of The Lotus Library publications and go on to describe your copy of the "The Kreutzer Sonata". The details you attribute to your book, including the WGM title border, with slight differences, are very similar to "The Travels and Surprising Adventures of Baron Munchausen" attributes of my book, and I dare say the books are of the same publication, slight details accounted for (such as a listing of the publications of the time). The title on the faded tan and gold spine of the book is "Baron Munchausen's Travels". The purple cloth cover is embossed "Baron Munchausen's Travels. The book measures 4"3/4 x 7" and is in my opinion the most intriguing pocket book I've ever encountered. There's nothing like a good fantasy, which in this occasion predating SF, to bring out an outlandish discussion topic.

I would be interested in discovering an acquiring more publications from The Lotus Library, preferably of the same edition time-line as our books. Are you aware of any other editions, somewhat mirroring this interest? And, would you be able to assist me in dating this publication?

Crystal Greening-Levasseur said...

Thank you for publishing this. My great grandfather was Arthur Greening's son, Douglas Greening. I have been trying to find out more about my great-great grandfather, so it is nice to find this to read about him.