English Monarchs Series Publishers
A look at the publishing houses that gave us the history books,
especially Methuen and Yale.
“Two households, both alike in dignity”.
In this section we will look at the publishers of the English Monarchs series, how the series (probably) started, how it evolved in the hands of Methuen and then Yale, where it has resided for the last twenty years.
There have been several publishers who have issued the 31 English Monarchs series books, including the four existing books brought into the series by Yale.
• Eyre and Spottiswoode (2 titles)
• Eyre Methuen (3 titles)
• Methuen (7 titles) [12 books in total for this publishing house]
• Yale - published simultaneously in the UK and USA. See below.
In the United States:
• The University of Alabama Press (1 title)
• The University of California Press (10 titles)
• Yale University Press (21 titles - and 2 more in preparation)
In case you skipped the overview:
The first two books in the series were published in 1964 and 1967 by Eyre and Spottiswoode which from the third book in 1968 became Eyre Methuen and with the sixth book in 1973 just Methuen. During this period The University of California Press published the books in the United States (except the second title) in partnership with Methuen up to 1992. UC continue to hold the printing rights for three titles, but these are also issued by Yale. Yale commenced publishing all reprinted and new titles in the series in 1997.
The motivation for Eyre and Spottiswoode to commence the series is unknown (other than to be a profitable undertaking) although there are some broad clues in these early titles as to what happened in the early 1960s towards the commencement of this project. It’s instructive to know that Eyre and Spottiswoode issued both King John in 1961, before the first series book, and William the Conqueror in 1964, the first series title issued. These signposts are important points in the establishment of the English Monarchs series.
By 1960 Eyre and Spottiswoode were recognised as publishers in many fields but of only the occasional fine historical/political biography, for example ‘The Black Prince’ by John Cammidge in 1943 and ‘James II’ by F.C. Turner in 1948. However it seems that their output in this field accelerated in the 1960s: ‘Citizen-King: Louis-Philippe’ by T.E.B. Howarth and ‘King John’ by W.L. Warren were published in 1961; ‘Sir Walter Raleigh’ by Norman Lloyd Williams, ‘Simon de Montfort’ by Margaret Wade Labarge and ‘Richard II’ by Harold F. Hutchinson were published in 1962; ‘Phillip of Spain’ by Sir Charles Petrie was published in 1964 and ‘Robert Bruce’ by G.W.S. Barrow in 1965 (both in production before the first English Monarch title) and ‘Saint Louis: the life of Louis IX of France’ by Margaret Wade Labarge in 1968. All these new titles were added to Eyre and Spottiswoode’s history list in quick succession.
One key work, published by Eyre & Spottiswoode, and still a standard today, was a landmark publication which wrenched the publisher's focus to history books. A series called 'English Historical Documents' commenced in 1953. Volumes 1 (1955) and 2 (1953) were prepared by Dorothy Whitelock and David Douglas respectively. Further volumes followed quickly although out of sequence: Volume 4 followed in 1969 by Alec R. Meyers and Volume 3 by Harry Rothwell in 1975, with others in between. Reprints of these volumes were issued by Methuen in the 1970s and subsequently Routledge in the 1990s. The importance for the English Monarchs series is obvious - that suddenly Eyre and Spottiswoode was a publisher of prestigious history books. Volumes one to four also are significant for the names behind them. All four held commissions to write an English Monarchs biography on the reign of their speciality. Only Douglas, however, saw a book to print. The other three books were never completed. See the for further information. Additionally, the author of George IV in the English Monarchs series - E.A. Smith - prepared Volume 11 (1959). The direction was clear - serious history written by scholars was arriving to a wide audience.
We can surmise from this increased output that in the years following the arrival of these books that a decision was made by Eyre and Spottiswoode to publish more widely in the area of biographical history. These biographies of English monarchs would be advertised as being in a series of regularly published books which, for marketing purposes, would be promoted under an umbrella title for the public to expect the next release with some excitement. In the early books the publisher was keen to promote the new series by including in each new published work a list of about half a dozen forthcoming titles - a few of which were never published!
Methuen published a history of itself in 1989 called 'A Thousand Capricious Chances' (vanity publishing on a professional scale!) in which it was recorded that in May 1957 an amalgamation of the Eyre and Spottiswoode, Methuen, and Chapman & Hall publishing houses occurred. This lasted until 1982 when Eyre & Spottiswood ceased to be used and the company was known simply as Methuen. While Eyre and Spottiswoode continued to produce the occasional history titles, Methuen commenced a new venture to cater for the expanding educational book list "for students who need for standard academic works in a cheaper form". Their University Paperbacks series commenced in May 1960 and reprinted standard academic texts in paperback at an affordable cost. Number 301 of this series in 1969 was a reprint of its own first English Monarchs book - William the Conqueror.
Thanks to a note made by Professor Bates in the prologue of his 2015 biography of William the Conqueror we now know that the contract for the David Douglas biography of William, published as the first in the series in 1964, was sent to him from Eyre and Spottiswoode on 13 September 1958. This is a significant date for the evolution of this series, and places its origins a full six years earlier than the date we have been observing as the start of the series - 1964. David Bates further noted that there is an archive for the English Monarchs series, from which no doubt he sighted the paperwork for Professor Douglas’ book. What a chamber of secrets this would prove to be.
Work on the book, close to its publication, was presented at the Ford Lectures in 1963. Subsequently Douglas was asked to co-ordinate the publication of titles by his professional colleagues, starting with James I for the second title for Eyre & Spottiswoode in 1967 (issued in the USA by the Univeristy of Alabama Press - their only book in the series) and Henry VIII in 1968. Henry VIII was the first book in the series to bear the imprint Eyre Methuen, indicating that the change of name happened in 1967 or 1968. More titles were added to the series as Eyre Methuen evolved through several company name changes and mergers with other publishing houses.
Scanning through the inventories of many second hand book vendors it became apparent that Methuen, in its several iterations, was not a huge publisher of biographies nor of much history other than of the ancient world. Up to the end of the 1950s Methuen had few existing history series:
* '' which had commenced in 1932, covering the years 776 BCE to 337 CE in seven volumes, with only sporadic additions to the series up to the last volume in 1958.
* 'History of Medieval and Modern Europe, an 8 Volume set (1938 - ?) with later reprints into the 1960s.
The little history Methuen produced otherwise was popular history such as life of Disraeli (1952) or ‘Portrait of the Prince Regent’ (1953) to give early examples. In this company, the Methuen English Monarchs titles stand out like a lighthouse in a storm for their quality and gravitas.
One oddity was unearthed in the research - ‘Charles VII of France’ (Eyre Methuen and University of California, 1974) by (1942- ), of the University of York. What is very intriguing about this publication is that it was intended to be a part of a French Monarchs series. No other titles in this “series” were issued, alas, although nine further studies were promised.
Nevertheless, it seems that by the 1990s Methuen was ready to leave this area of the trade to an academic publisher. The specific reasons for the move of the series from Methuen to Yale are undocumented. No comments were found in any of the books regarding Yale’s acquisition of the existing titles or their first commissions of new titles in the series. Michael Prestwich says, in a general comment, that Methuen "lost interest in the project" (footnote in The Journal of Interdisciplinary History, Volume 40, number 3, page 329) and on the same page adds "...the [slow] pace at which the volumes were produced does not suggest any great enthusiasm for the project. For many years the publisher showed no great anxiety to carry the project to fruition." He further comments that the series at its inception "...was not seen as a revival of biography, [but] in the longer term it may well have served to give biography a good name." He may be a little harsh on Methuen here, given that the 1960s was the dawn of quality historical biography as we know it today and that the number and frequency of new biographies accelerated from the 1960s, yet he is on the money in that Methuen did seem to take a long time to decide the "house style" of the books in the series. The James I book would never have been admitted to the series in the 1970s, for example. He is also correct that Methuen's attention to the series was waning. Their 1989 republishing of John Miller's fine study of James II ought to have been issued as a series book, but it wasn't until the Yale reprint in 2000 that the book was elevated to series status.
One significant event which might suggest some change at Methuen and their wish to pass the series to another publisher is the change of ownership of the publishing group in which Methuen resided during the mid-1990s. Methuen was part of Reid International which sold off some of its publishing units at this point in time. This may have resulted in a re-alignment of the areas in which Methuen published. If this is so then Yale found the series an attractive package to acquire and one which meshed with their own publishing agenda. Conveniently, Yale’s secondary publishing address was (and remains) in London. The London office was established in 1961 (again, a significant year for Eyre and Spottiswoode with the first publication of the landmark biography of King John - later added to the English Monarchs series). It must be presumed that editorial decisions about the English Monarchs series have been made at the London office of Yale since that point. The London office says it "originates" about 120 books per year so it certainly has the authority to commission books from there, rather be subordinate to New Haven's commissioning decisions with regards to British interests.
Yale states in the '' page on the website of the London office that it was after the 1980s that the publisher in Britain "...expanded to include history, biography, politics, music, religion, literature and current affairs." The publisher's new interest in these named fields of study neatly co-incided with Methuen's contraction and abandonment of superior history and the English Monarchs series. It is to the credit of the then Managing Director in the London office, Robert Baldock, that Yale proceeded to take on the series, refurbish it, and build upon the strong foundations set by David Douglas and J.J. Scarisbrick - especially in the wake of Methuen's neglect.
The first entirely Yale book in the series - commissioned and edited - was King Stephen (2011), which is a turning point in the series. Prior to that a combination of Methuen-originated but Yale-published titles (and reprints) were issued, in addition to the four existing titles brought into the series. Two further Methuen-commissioned titles remained to be published, Edward III (2011) and Henry III, the second volume of which should be released in the near future to conclude Methuen's last vestige of influence in the series.
SERIES GENERAL EDITORS
Given the long history of English Monarchs it a surprise to find that it has had only two credited series editors, and two further unofficial supervising editors:
• 1964-1981 : Professor David C. Douglas
• 1981-2004 : Professor J.J. Scarisbrick
• 2004-2015 : Dr. Robert Baldock
• 2015- : Ms. Heather McCallum
We must compare at this point the different way the supervision of the series was managed Methuen and is managed by Yale. Methuen appointed an outside academic to look after the series (Douglas and Scarisbrick), while at Yale this responsibility resides with the Managing Director who acts as both commissioning editor and supervisor of the books. Additionally, there is a period of overlap of some years between the work of Dr. Baldock and Ms. McCallum which makes nominating a definitive date an arbitrary division. 2015 simply is an acknowledgement of the formal handover.
The first editor for the series was Professor David C. Douglas - an early contributor himself with his 1964 biography of William the Conqueror. A note by Charles Ross in the acknowledgements page to the 1997 Yale edition of his Edward IV biography of 1974 comments that Professor Douglas held the consultant editorial role until 1981. That year saw the publication of two new books in the series: Henry VI and Richard III and Methuen was to publish three more titles before relinquishing the series to Yale.
In 1981 the editorial role passed to Professor John Scarisbrick and remained with him into the early 2000s. The Methuen books blandly give the credit of 'Editor' while Yale's books carry the credit (to Scarisbrick) as 'Consultant Editor'. The first acknowledgement of Scarisbrick as a commissioning editor is for the third book in his time: Henry V, published 1992. Scarisbrick is thanked by the author for asking him to write the book. We can be reasonably sure that the remaining books in the time Scarisbrick is nominated as series editor were also commissioned by him. It is likely to have been he who chose to add the four already published books into the series: John (1997); James II (2000); George I; and Anne (2001). The involvement of Scarisbrick as a commissioning editor for the two books prior to Henry V is assumed - William II (1983) and Edward I (1988). Neither Douglas nor Scarisbrick is thanked by name in these two books.
The last book crediting Professor Scarisbrick as series editor was the paperback version of Henry I in 2003. From that point the editor credit was dropped by Yale. No direct credit is given by Yale nominating an overseeing series editor from that point. This tells us that the role had been taken in-house rather than performed by an academic outside the publishing house. We know this because Yale had a managing director in the London office who was credited in the acknowledgement pages of most of the mid-2000s titles onwards: Dr. Robert Baldock. For example, Edmund King specifically thanks him by name for commissioning him to write his King Stephen book - and for waiting for it patiently. These credits were absent however for the 2016 published entries in the series. Dr. Baldock had been at this post since 2004, which was about the time that Professor Scarisbrick was last credited as series editor, and before that he had been a history editor for the London office since 1985. If anyone at Yale was responsible for commissioning the English Monarchs titles in this period it would have been Robert Baldock. Therefore I have (unofficially) nominated him as the series editor from his advent as Yale's UK Managing Director in 2004 to 2015, his last credit being for William the Conqueror pubished in 2016.
In 2015 Robert Baldock stood down as Managing Director of the London office of Yale, but retained the post of Editorial Director. Dr. Baldock's successor at Yale was Heather McCallum and, as we have seen, her influence in the English Monarchs books was being felt several years prior to her assumption of Yale UK's Managing Director in July 2015. Ms. McCallum was acknowledged and thanked in the Æthelstan and Mary I books, both published in 2011. In 2017 she, along with Rachael Lonsdale, were thanked in Dr. Bolton’s book on Cnut. In an for the Yale UK blog page in January 2019 Ms. McCallum described herself as Yale's commissioning editor and this makes it clear that she has oversight of Yale output in Britain and, therefore, the English Monarchs series.
Accordingly for books published after 2015, this site will credit Heather McCallum the editor for each book and, using the Methuen terminology, series general editor. In earlier works, such as Æthelstan in 2011, published during the period of overlap of work on the books by the two Managing Directors, an attempt will be made to distinguish between a commissioning editor and the book editor.
PUBLISHER EDITION NOTES
Generally but not always the Yale printings are slightly amended or corrected versions and in publishers' terms a new edition but not really warranting the label of new edition. Some books, like the paperback copy of Richard I, might have a new introduction by the author giving some indication of the changes, though this is not universal. However from what can be seen they do not state “Second Edition”.
Publishers and vendors are notoriously inconsistent when it comes to describing the edition and one should always be careful in coming to an assessment. Most of the time they state a new edition when it would be accurate to say it is a new printing, for example. Bibliographers use the standard set by the landmark 1949 'Principles of Bibliographical Description' by Fredson Bowers (or colloquially 'Bowers') which defines an edition as "the whole number of copies printed at any time or times from substantially the same setting of type-pages" - including all variants thereof for additions such as spelling corrections, a new note from the author, an extension to the bibliography, an extra appendix, and so on. See the King John book for an example on how misleading the "edition" statements can get. Book collectors have yet another definition which is even more granular to distinguish different printings of an edition - their "first edition" is actually a first printing, but that does not concern us here. Library cataloguers will describe a book in terms of what is stated in the book. This is called the physical description; a statement in a standard format of the physical presence of the book and what information it bears about itself. Therefore what you will see in a library catalogue entry is what the publisher has printed in that book, not the status of that printing in bibliographical terms. Confused?
Generally Yale’s English Monarchs reprints are explicit in their changes, but not always. In the Yale's 2002 paperback version of his Richard I book Professor Gillingham indicates that errors were corrected and a few sections had minor changes but fundamentally it is the same as the 1999 hardback. The 1972 S.B. Chrimes Henry VII book was republished by Yale in 1999. The only changes were a new introduction and some bibliographic embellishments. Note that the author died in 1984 so no changes could be made to the text, but this is not readily apparent from a cursory look at the book itself.
This is an area of publishing which publishers struggle to get right (from a bibliographer's point of view) and some make no attempt at all! There are countless examples of a reprinting being called a “new edition” or “the paperback edition” when it is the same book either in a new medium such as ebooks or even the same format. It’s not helpful, either, to call a title a new or second edition when it has only a new foreword or some typographical corrections made for the later printing. A second edition, for purchasers and students of these serious history books, ought to mean a revision of large sections of the book or even a complete re-write. Edward Gregg’s ‘Queen Anne’ is a good example of this. See the notes on that book’s page to see why. Educational textbooks are much more accurate in proclaiming a difference to an earlier iteration because, as we have all experienced, buying school or university textbooks is a painful and expensive experience if the direction is to get the “new” edition, so you want the purchase to be worthwhile and the description accurate enough for the publisher to justify the high cost of the text book. Additionally, there are those books bearing different titles in, for example, the UK and the USA, and many a customer has bought two titles not knowing they were getting the same book: see and for one recent example.
EBOOK AND AUDIO EDITIONS
Ebook editions are being released by Yale for every new history title. The back catalogue is also being digitised. Ebooks are not released simultaneously in the USA and Britain. Most English Monarchs titles are now available digitally. (See the book bage herein for a title of your interest). Yale lists the ebook varieties it offers. Please note that only the Kindle versions have been researched for these pages.
Audiobooks are being published by , under licence from Yale, for download and on CD. From the end of 2019 this format became available for the Yale books Matilda, Philip II, and Richard III (by Michael Hicks) and in 2021 Cromwell. None of these are in the series. The Trantor Media website has links to Audible and Audiobooks.com to buy the audiobook versions, but other online vendors also offer the audiobooks.
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This video from Random House publishers, part of the Penguin publishing house, shows how publishers work. It describes the job of editors, publicists, and sales. What is seen in this video is true of all publishers.
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A brief description of these publishers has been added for bibliophiles.