Book Publishing Notes

On A Selection Of Titles Illustrated by William Hole

The following sections summarise my research into the publishing history of a selection of book titles that have been illustrated by William Hole.  The information is designed to assist you in identifying the main differences in the published editions of the selected titles; if you are collecting books illustrated by William Hole, you should then find it easier to identify the books that are important to your own personal collection.

Mark O’Hanlon

1. Auld Licht Idylls

Auld Licht Idylls was J.M. Barrie’s second book and his first serious work of fiction. It comprised a series of stories centred around a religious sect called ‘Auld Licht’ in the Scottish community of Thrums, which was based loosely on Kirriemuir in Scotland, where Barrie was born.

The book was first published in 1888 and became an instant success. The USA edition preceded the UK edition by several months but it ran to two editions that year, was reprinted again in 1889 and then twice again (4th and 5th editions) in 1890. Further editions followed over the next few years. The publishing history gets rather confusing, no doubt a result of so many editions being published in such a short time span and across different geographical borders. The 9th edition appears to have been published in 1893; then a 10th edition in 1895.

The first UK edition to include illustrations by William Hole was the 10th edition, published in 1895 by Hodder & Stoughton. It was produced in a large format (26cm x 18cm) as a limited edition of 550 books of which the first 50 books were signed by the author and the artist. It included eighteen illustrations; later editions only had twelve. An anomaly is that USA publishers R.F. Fenno & Co. published an edition in 1894 which also included William Hole’s illustrations and this one predated the first UK edition. The illustration used as a frontispiece in the 1894 edition was different from the one used in the UK edition; in fact it originally appeared in 1892 as a frontispiece in A Window in Thrums which was written as a sequel to Auld Licht Idylls.

2. A Window in Thrums

A Window in Thrums was J.M. Barrie’s third novel. It was first published in 1889 and comprised a continuation of his first novel, Auld Licht Idylls which had been published the previous year. The story was set in Thrums which was a thinly disguised reference to Kirriemuir in Scotland, where Barrie was born.

William Hole first illustrated the book in 1892 when it was published by Hodder and Stoughton of London, in a large format (26cm x 18cm), as a limited edition: the first fifty of these were personally signed by both the author and the artist. They included an extra set of illustrations which were printed on Japanese paper, bound within the volume. There is conflicting information about how limited the edition actually was though. The first fifty copies contained a notice stating: “This edition is strictly limited to 560 copies, of which 550 are for sale in Great Britain and America, and each copy numbered. The plates of the first fifty copies are on Japanese paper, and these copies have the signatures of the Author and Artist.” This was followed by the issue number and signatures. However, the remaining copies simply stated: “Five hundred and fifty copies of this edition have been printed. This is No…”

The 8th, 9th and 10th editions had also been published in 1892 but, did not contain William Hole’s illustrations. Subsequent UK editions, including but not limited to editions published in 1894, 1898, 1899, 1902 and 1904, did include the illustrations but by 1898 these had been reduced from eighteen to just twelve.

William Hole’s illustrations were also included in the 1894 USA edition published by R.F. Fenno & Co., New York; they may also have been included in other editions around the same time but it has not yet been possible to verify this assumption.

3. The Little Minister

This is J. M. Barrie’s sentimental tale of a young Scottish preacher who marries, loses, and regains Babbie, his gypsy bride. Barrie’s novel of the minister and the gipsy girl, set in Kirriemuir (“Thrums”), was tremendously successful and much reprinted; it was essentially a love story set in the Scottish village of Thrums, about the middle of the nineteenth century. The hero, Gavin Dishart, is a boy preacher of twenty-one, small of statue but great in authority. Grouped about him are his parishioners, who watch with vigilance, ready to adore, criticize, and generally interfere in his life.

This three-volume novel, considered by many to be one of Barrie’s best works, was first printed in serial form in Good Words (Jan-Dec 1891) with 11 full-page illustrations by J. Watson Nicol. In 1897, it was subsequently made into a highly successful play starring Maude Adams (a limited edition of 350 copies, each signed by the actress, was published by R.H. Russell, New York in 1898) and later filmed on several occasions, most notably in 1934, staring Katherine Hepburn.

The Little Minister was first published in London by Cassell & Company in 1891 as a three-volume set enclosed in a slip-case of which there appear to have been two variants: a blue morocco-backed slipcase and a half-brown morocco, three-compartment slipcase, respectively. The first edition, first issue (with pp16 adverts dated “5G.9.91.”) was published in brown cloth boards. Each volume contained pp.viii, 232, (plus pp.16 adverts), pp.viii, 239 and pp.viii, 232, respectively.

The book was also published in 1891 by Lovell, Coryell and Co., New York in hardback with illustrations by John William North and by the American News Company, New York, as a paperback. A special two-volume, limited edition set of 260 copies (signed by the publisher, Lovell, Coryell and Co.), was printed in 1892 as a ‘Kirriemuir Edition’. This was embellished by ten tissue-protected etchings by G.W.H. Ritchie. Interestingly, another publisher (Merrill and Baker, New York) also produced a deluxe edition limited to 450 copies with 26 lettered copies, (so 476 copies in total) in 1892. This edition was produced in dark blue cloth boards with a top-edge gilt and, like the other limited edition, included ten tissue-protected etchings. Yet another publisher (Grosset & Dunlap, New York) also produced a mass-market edition in 1892 so one can assume that the book was widely distributed and read. In the same year, it was also first published in the UK in a single-volume format by Cassell & Co., but illustrations (a frontispiece and eight etchings) by William Hole did not accompany the volume until 1893 by which time 34,000 copies had already been produced.

4. Beside the Bonnie Brier Bush

This novel, set in the Scottish village of Drumtochty, was written by Ian Maclaren, a leading member of the Kailyard School; the sentimental school of Scottish literature to which J. M. Barrie and S. R. Crockett were also contributors. Ian Maclaren was actually the pen-name of the Reverend John Watson who served as a Scottish Presbyterian Minister in Liverpool (between 1880 and 1895) when he wrote and had the book first published. After the success of Beside the Bonnie Brier Bush, his short stories became enormously popular.

Beside the Bonnie Brier Bush was first published in London by Hodder and Stoughton in 1894. It was also published by Dodd, Mead & Company in New York in the same year; neither book was illustrated. The UK twelfth edition, published in 1896, was actually the first to include illustrations by William Hole. This was a large format edition (approximately 26cm x 18cm) bound in blue buckram boards (pp. xii, 323) and was limited to just 415 copies. The first fifty of these were personally signed by both the author and the illustrator and included an extra set of illustrations printed on Japanese vellum paper. A number of later UK editions also included the twelve illustration by William Hole and these comprised but not exclusively, editions in 1898 (13th), 1899 and 1908, amongst others.

So as to avoid any confusion, it is worth noting that the American publisher, Dodd, Mead & Company, also published an illustrated limited edition in 1896, this one limited to just 306 copies signed by the author. However, the illustrations in this book were from photographs taken in Logiealmond (Drumtochty) by Clifton Johnson, rather than the etchings of William Hole. Clifton Johnson was also responsible for illustrating other books in this manner. He specialised in using actual pictures of scenes in which the stories were set, and of the people who featured in those scenes, or from whom the characters were drawn, in much the same way as William Hole, except that Hole chose to convey those images through the medium of his remarkable etchings.

Postscript:  If you wish to expand your own collection of books and periodicals featuring the illustrations of William Hole, you may wish to visit the Shopping page on our website.  This features links to a number of websites that specialise in listing second-hand books from booksellers located worldwide:  SHOP HERE.