William Pickering (1796–1854) was apprenticed to a London bookseller and publisher in 1810. In 1820 he set up his own bookshop, specialising in the antiquarian trade, and immediately started publishing. His first major project was the miniature Diamond Classics, comprising reprints of Latin, Italian, Greek and English literature. They were followed by the Oxford English Classics and new editions of Edmund Spenser, John Milton, Francis Bacon and William Shakespeare. In 1828 he met Charles Whittingham, who was to be his chief printer, and in the same year he adopted the dolphin and anchor device used by the Venetian printer Aldus Manutius (1449–1515). In 1830 he began publishing the Aldine Edition of British poets.
As well as reprints of classics, Pickering published modern writers such as S.T. Coleridge, Jeremy Bentham, Thomas Malthus, Coventry Patmore and Edward Fitzgerald. He had a strong attachment to the Anglican Church and published editions of seventeenth-century divines and The Book of Common Prayer (1844). He also published journals, such as the Gentleman’s Magazine and the Church of England Quarterly Review. His poor business practices eventually led to bankruptcy and he was forced to sell his stock shortly before his death.
Quintus Horatius Flaccus, which Pickering published in 1820, was one of the first English books to be issued with a binding of dyed cotton cloth with a printed label on the spine. The Poetical Fragments of Richard Baxter (1821) was bound in the same way and he followed the practice throughout his career. Although imitated by other publishers, the smooth red, magenta, puce or dark blue cloth used by Pickering remained the distinguishing mark of his books.
The Pickering Collection held in the Library was assembled by Harold S. Lindfield of Worcester Park, Surrey. He was a bookseller, but the Pickering Collection was part of his personal collection.
The Pickering Collection was purchased from the London fine art and library agents, Stevens and Brown, in 1961.
The Pickering Collection comprises about 440 titles (650 volumes) published by William Pickering between 1820 and 1854. They include 152 books that were not seen by Geoffrey Keynes when he compiled William Pickering: A Memoir and a Handlist of his Editions (1924).
The following titles illustrate the range of the Pickering Collection:
Andersen, Hans Christian, Danish Fairy Legends and Tales (1846)
Bacon, Francis, The Works of Francis Bacon, Lord Chancellor of England (16 vols, 1825–34)
Bentham, Jeremy, A Fragment on Government, or a Comment on the Commentaries (1823)
Bernier, François, Travels in the Mogul Empire, A.D. 1656–1668 (1826)
The Book of Common Prayer (1844)
Coleridge, Samuel Taylor, Aids to Reflection in the Formation of a Manly Character on the Several Grounds of Prudence, Morality and Religion (1836)
Dyce, Alexander, Specimens of English Sonnets (1833)
Fuller, Thomas, The History of the Holy War (1840)
Greene, Robert, The Dramatic Works of Robert Greene, to Which are Added his Poems (2 vols, 1831)
Herbert, George, Works (2 vols, 1846)
Horace, Quintus Horatius Flaccus (1824)
Jupp, Edward, An Historical Account of the Worshipful Company of Carpenters of the City of London (1848)
Meyrick, Samuel, Specimens of Ancient Furniture Drawn from Existing Authorities by Henry Shaw (1836)
Milton, John, The Poetical Works of John Milton (3 vols, 1826)
Morell, J.D., Elements of Psychology (1853)
Pigott, Grenville, A Manual of Scandinavian Mythology (1839)
Roberts, William, History of Letter Writing, from the Earliest Period to the Fifth Century (1843)
Shakespeare, William, Poems of William Shakespeare (1825)
Shaw, Henry, The Decorative Arts, Ecclesiastical and Civil, of the Middle Ages (1851)
Thomas, à Kempis, De imitatione Christi: libri quattuor (1827)
Thomson, James, The Seasons (1830)
Walton, Izaak and Cotton, Charles, The Complete Angler, or the Contemplative Man’s Recreation (1826)
The collection also has strong holdings of some of the series published by Pickering:
- Aldine Poets (50 vols, 1830–53)
- Christian Classics (17 vols, 1847–53)
- Diamond Classics (30 vols, 1821–31)
- Small books on great subjects (23 vols, 1845–52)
The set of the Aldine Poets is almost complete; in his bibliography Keynes identified 53 volumes.
The Pickering Collection is kept together as a formed collection within the Rare Books Collection. It is located at RB 655.142 PIC. The books have been catalogued individually. Catalogue cards for the 152 books in the collection that were not listed in Keynes’ handlist have been photocopied and bound. The volume is held at N 016.655442 P596K.
Keynes, Geoffrey, William Pickering: A Memoir and a Handlist of his Editions, Chiswick Press, London, 1924.
Munby, A.L., The Sales of William Pickering’s Publications, The Book Collector, vol. 21 (1), Spring 1972, pp. 33–9.
Warrington, Bernard, William Pickering, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, vol. 44, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2004, pp. 217–18.