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Finding Aid for the File Copies of Books Printed by J.M. Dent & Sons, 1890-1925
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  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Organization and Arrangement

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: File Copies of Books Printed by J.M. Dent & Sons,
    Date (inclusive): 1890-1925
    Collection number: 1559
    Creator: J.M. Dent & Sons
    Extent: 40 boxes (20 linear ft.)
    Repository: University of California, Los Angeles. Library. Department of Special Collections.
    Los Angeles, California 90095-1575
    Abstract: Joseph Malaby Dent (1849-1926) was an English bookbinder who created finely produced classics by Shakespeare, Scott, Dickens and Jane Austen. He also published illustrated books and the Temple Classics series, which was to contain the most important works of world literature with new translations, but no introductions and minimal notes by an authority. The collection contains more than seven hundred volumes printed by J.M. Dent & Sons.
    Physical location: Stored off-site at SRLF. Advance notice is required for access to the collection. Please contact the UCLA Library, Department of Special Collections Reference Desk for paging information.
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information

    Restrictions on Use and Reproduction

    Property rights to the physical object belong to the UCLA Library, Department of Special Collections. Literary rights, including copyright, are retained by the creators and their heirs. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine who holds the copyright and pursue the copyright owner or his or her heir for permission to publish where The UC Regents do not hold the copyright.

    Restrictions on Access

    COLLECTION STORED OFF-SITE AT SRLF: Advance notice required for access.

    Additional Physical Form Available

    A copy of the original version of this online finding aid is available at the UCLA Department of Special Collections for in-house consultation and may be obtained for a fee. Please contact:
    • Public Services Division
    • UCLA Library, Department of Special Collections
    • Room A1713, Charles E. Young Research Library
    • Box 951575
    • Los Angeles, CA 90095-1575
    • Telephone: 310/825-4988 (10:00 a.m. - 4:45 p.m., Pacific Time)
    • Email: spec-coll@library.ucla.edu

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], File Copies of Books Printed by J.M. Dent & Sons (Collection 1559). Department of Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, University of California, Los Angeles.

    UCLA Catalog Record ID

    UCLA Catalog Record ID: 1972910 


    Joseph Malaby Dent was born in Darlington in 1849. He was the tenth of the twelve children of George Dent, a good Christian house-painter but an indifferent business man. He was much addicted to church music and young Joseph was brought up in a pleasant, if erratic, household. After being apprenticed to a printer he switched to book-binding, and at the age of 19, went to live in London where one of his elder brothers arranged for him to finish his apprenticeship with Hipkins, a binder in Bucklersbury.
    In 1872, Dent set up his own binding shop, and with true Victorian drive and fortitude, built up a large business binding for the Book Trade. Finding a shortage of books of an improving nature suitable for binding, he set himself up as a publisher, and in 1890, instituted The Temple Library with the two volumes of Lamb's Elia essays.
    Dent, largely self-educated, had firm ideas of what books were proper to publish and, indeed, how they should appear: neat and legible, printed on decent paper and handsomely presented in firm, bevelled cloth boards, in coveniently small format, in fact all that was sound and sensible, but attractive as well. He also created large paper editions of great beauty.
    The Chiswick Press printed, Herbert Railton illustrated, and Augustine Birrell edited The Temple Library, named after the residence in London of the first authors published in the series, Lamb and Goldsmith, and a name that has been linked forever since with the company.
    Dent pursued this policy of offering finely produced classics throughout the 1890s, and even with the special Large Paper issues, remained remarkably reasonable in his prices. He employed many of the artists of the day including: Rackham, Dulac, J.D. Batten, R. Anning Bell, Beardsley, Walter Crane, the families Charles, Thomas & William Heath Robinson & the brothers Brock. For editorial work, he employed Richard Garnett, George Saintsbury, Austin Dobson, Edmund Gosse, Israel and his sister Emma Gollancz, and, the name associated, for so many years with the company, Ernest Rhys.
    Between 1894 & 1896, accompanied by fanfares, the 40 volume Temple Shakespeare appeared. The edition was edited by Israel Gollancz. This was a true Pocket edition, 4 × 5.5 inches, and the first of the Temple collected editions which followed in similar format. The 30 volume Temple Bible, 1901-03, was the same size, but the 48 volume Temple Scott, the 32 volume The Temple Dickens, the 10 volume The Temple Jane Austen, and the 12 volume Temple Brontë all measured 32 × 6 inches. Dent also published the fine Temple Dramatists series which was still being added to, and published, in the same format into the 1930s.
    While these pocket editions were being produced, Dent also published the fine ten volume edition of Hazlitt, edited by G.C. Crump, Garnett's 10 volume edition of Peacock, a fine library edition of the Brontës, Saintsbury's 12 volume Henry Fielding, the 12 volume collection of Maria Edgeworth's novels, and other sets.
    They were also publishing illustrated books, including the elegant Haddon Hall Library of books relating to sport and other country pursuits, childrens' books, and the brilliant Mediaeval Towns series.
    Not content with all this, Dent started the Temple Classics with Israel Gollancz as General Editor and with the same format as the Scott and Dickens editions in 1896. This was to contain the most important works of world literature with new translations, but no introductions and minimal notes by an authority. Some three hundred titles were issued over the years and the series continued until the 1950s.
    Following the immense success of the Classics, Dent felt encouraged to extend his list, and in February 1906, the first fifty volumes of the Everyman's Library were published.
    Dent used many printers over the years including: Turnbull & Spears, the highly superior Edinburgh firm, Ballantyne, Constable, Colston, Riverside, Richard Clay, the Unwin Brothers & William Bredon from south of the border.
    Many forms of illustrations were employed in Dent's books including: wood-engraving, etching, halftones, line blocks and photogravure. When three-colour printing was invented, J.M. Dent's son John became an expert, and was responsible for such editions as the Temple Dickens. The Temple Classics are notable for the wood-engraved borders to their title-pages.
    The cloth, and in some cases, full vellum bindings were always executed with great panache and some bore exquisite designs by such as Reginald Knowles and Henry Granville Bell.
    After the huge success of the Everyman's Library, the print demands were so extraordinary and the flow of money so large, that Dent moved his bindery to Letchworth, a new Garden City close to London, and started his own printing works there - The Temple Press.
    After Everyman there was a rather down-market Traveler's Library which ran for some years and some handsome general publishing, but the real sting had gone.
    Dent died in 1926.

    Organization and Arrangement

    The books listed here are from the Publisher's file.
    Many have a neat rubber-stamped FILE somewhere about their person. Others have such details as published price, date of publication, &c, written in or pasted on a label to the cover.
    There are rather more than seven hundred volumes and the condition is in all cases clean and sound.