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William Pickering (publisher)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

William Pickering (2 April 1796 – 27 April 1854)[1] was an English publisher and bookseller, notable for various innovations in publishing. He is sometimes credited with introducing edition binding in cloth to British publishing.[2]

Life and career

Pickering served an apprentice in the booktrade between 1810 and 1817, then worked for several booksellers before establishing his own business as an antiquarian bookseller and publisher in 1820. In the same year he began publishing a series of "Diamond Classics", miniature books[3] set in tiny type that were offered in a uniform binding of paper (later cloth) or leather. These are often said to be the first publishers' bindings in cloth, but it is likely that Pickering was one among several publishers who began binding their books in cloth at this period, an innovation which owed its origins to the bookbinder Archibald Leighton, and had a rapid and profound impact on the publishing industry.[4]

Pickering also published original books: from 1828 he became Samuel Taylor Coleridge's publisher, as well as bringing out the first typographical edition of William Blake's Songs of Innocence and of Experience.[5] He specialised in scholarly editions of classic authors, both of ancient and English literature, including important editions of Blake, Malthus, Boswell, Johnson, Marlowe, Shakespeare and Isaac Walton.

In 1833 Pickering purchased a share in the Gentleman's Magazine, and started a new series in January 1834. He chose as its editor the clergyman John Mitford, known for his writings on old English poets and on sacred poetry. Mitford continued to edit the magazine successfully until the end of 1850.

Pickering launched a 57-volume series of the British poets; Mitford did much of the editing. This was named the Aldine Poets, after the Aldine Press founded in Venice in 1494. Some of the poets were:

Pickering died shortly after being declared bankrupt in 1853, which resulted in the sale by auction of his extensive stock of books and personal library. His publishing business was later revived by his son, Basil Montagu Pickering; on his death, in 1878, it was purchased by ‘old Mr Chatto’, one of the founding partners of Chatto and Windus and became Pickering and Chatto, a name which survives today in two (now separate) companies: the academic publisher Pickering & Chatto (Publishers) and the antiquarian bookseller of the same name.[6]

Book series published

  • Aldine Poets
  • Bridgewater Treatises
  • Diamond Classics
  • Pickering's Christian Classics


  1. ^ "History of Wood Engraving". University of North Texas. Retrieved 2 March 2009.
  2. ^ The Earliest Publisher's Cloth Bindings, Issued by William Pickering (1821–1825), Retrieved 31 May 2017.
  3. ^ Pickering Collection, Retrieved 31 May 2017.
  4. ^ Nash, Paul W., "Two hundred years of publisher's cloth", Journal of the Printing Historical Society, 3rd series 1 (2020), pp. 241–303.
  5. ^ Keynes, Geoffrey. William Pickering publisher: a memoir and a check-list of his publications. London: The Galahad Press, 1969.
  6. ^ "Pickering & Chatto Antiquarian Booksellers". Retrieved 17 March 2014.

Further reading

  • Carter, John, Binding Variants in English Publishing 1820-1900 (London: Constable and New York: Ray Long and Richard R. Smith, 1932)
  • Kelly, Jerry, A Checklist of Books Published by William Pickering 1820-1853. With Essays by Joseph Blumenthal and Arthur Warren. (Pomona: Kelly-Winterton Press, 2004)
  • Keynes, Sir Geoffrey, William Pickering, Publisher (London: The Fleuron, 1924; London, The Galahad Press, 1969, revised edition)
  • Sadleir, Michael, The Evolution of Publishers' Binding Styles 1770-1900 (London: Constable and New York: Richard R. Smith, 1930)
  • Warrington, Bernard, "William Pickering and the Book Trade in the Early Nineteenth Century", Retrieved 31 May 2017.

External links

This page was last edited on 21 June 2021, at 02:44
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