What Is Your Favorite “Brand-Name” Publisher of Classics?


Do you have a favorite “brand-name” publisher of classics?

There are quantities of choices:  Penguin, Dover, and countless other companies publish their own line of classics.  Jane Austen must keep them from bankruptcy:  there cannot be much demand for Eiric the Red and Other Icelandic Sagas or Polybius’s The Rise of the Roman Empire.

I do have a lot of Penguins.  On the bookcase in front of me are several black-cover Penguins, among them Tennyson’s Idylls of the King, Balzac’s A Harlot High and Low (this is an older Penguin, with a yellow frame around the cover art), Natsume Soseki’s Botchan, Plato’s Republic, and Andrei Bely’s Petersburg. I thought all the Penguin classics  had endnotes, until I checked the Japanese novels – these do not – nor does my 1970 copy of Balzac’s A Harlot High and Low. So perhaps the abundant notes are a recent phenomenon. 

I am also fond of Oxford World Classics, which I consider to be in the same class as Penguins.  Most of my Oxfords were published this century, so all have an introduction, notes, and a chronology of the author’s life with the main historical events in another.  I have a few older used Oxfords (Trollopes) with yellow covers –  and I don’t believe those do have notes.  But they are all perfectly durable and readable, with notes or without.

Few classics publishers provide footnotes. That is the advantage of Penguins and Oxfords.  I am a huge fan of the Vintage classics, because I love the covers, but if you want notes, forget it. I do enjoy reading these pretty Vintage  paperbacks of Dickens and the Brontes, but some may be to-be-read once editions, because the paper quality varies.

Modern Library paperbacks used to look dull, but they are sturdy and usually have good-sized print.  Lately they have spruced up the design.  And some of them do have notes!

Some of my used paperback classics are from defunct publishers. Were the old Everyman paperbacks published by Everyman’s Library? I also have some used ’80s Hogarth Press paperbacks of E. F. Benson (okay, not quite a classic) and a few obscure 19th-century writers.  

Are you a Penguin fan? Do you collect new or used paperbacks by certain publishers?  Do you choose one “brand” over another?

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