William Pickering (publisher)

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William Pickering (2 April 1796 – 27 April 1854)[1] was an English publisher, notable for introducing cloth binding to British publishing.[2]

Life and career[edit]

Pickering began working as an antiquarian bookseller before 1820, and quickly moved into publishing. In 1819 he began publishing a series of Diamond Classics, miniature books[3] set in tiny type that were offered in a uniform binding of cloth or leather at an affordable price of 6 shillings. These are probably the first publishers' bindings in cloth, an innovation which had a rapid and profound impact on the publishing industry.

Pickering also published original work: from 1828 he became Samuel Taylor Coleridge's publisher, as well as bringing out the first edition in ordinary typography of William Blake's Songs of Innocence and of Experience. [4] 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 writing. This was named the Aldine Poets, after the Aldine Press founded in Venice in 1494. Some of the poets were

After William Pickering’s death, the business was carried on 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.[5]

Book series published[edit]

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


  1. ^ "History of Wood Engraving". University of North Texas. Retrieved 2009-03-02.
  2. ^ The Earliest Publisher's Cloth Bindings, Issued by William Pickering (1821–1825), historyofinformation.com. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
  3. ^ Pickering Collection, nla.gov.au. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
  4. ^ Keynes, Geoffrey. William Pickering publisher: a memoir and a check-list of his publications. London: The Galahad Press, 1969.
  5. ^ "Pickering & Chatto Antiquarian Booksellers". Retrieved 2014-03-17.

Further reading[edit]

  • 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", escholar.manchester.ac.uk. Retrieved 31 May 2017.

External links[edit]