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Three different cover designs of the Oxford World's Classics series. From left to right: 1987, 1993, 2009.
World's Classics paperbacks were printed with minor variations in design and colour scheme.
The cover of Giorgio Vasari's Lives of the Artists in the Oxford World's Classics series.

Oxford World's Classics is an imprint of Oxford University Press. First established in 1901 by Grant Richards and purchased by the Oxford University Press in 1906, this imprint publishes primarily dramatic and classic literature for students and the general public. Its competitors include Penguin Classics, Everyman's Library, and the Modern Library. Most titles include critical apparatus – usually, an introduction, bibliography, chronology, and explanatory notes – as is the case with Penguin Classics.[1]



Grant RichardsEdit

The World's Classics imprint was created by London publisher Grant Richards in 1901.[2] Richards had an 'ambitious publishing programme',[2] and this ambition led to the liquidation of Grant Richards in 1905. Henry Frowde, manager of the Oxford University Press, purchased the series in October 1905.

The Oxford World's Classics were classed as "the most famous works of the English Language"[3] and many volumes contained introductions by distinguished authors, viz. T. S. Eliot and Virginia Woolf, amongst others.[4] The books were marketed as a cheap and accessible series for the general public to read some of the greatest works of literature:

“Cheaply and in little shelf space, the general reader can build up a library of those books, which, having become part of himself, he wishes now to make a part of his home.”[5]

Many of the initial titles in the series are reprints of texts established by the earlier Oxford English Novels series, with revisions.[6][7]Some of these titles have since been updated with new introductions and notes by different editors, while retaining the original base text.[7]


World's ClassicsEdit

World's Classics were first published as 'pocket-sized hardbacks'.[4] In response to competition from Penguin, the series was relaunched in paperback format in 1980.[8]To this day, World's Classics are published in paperback, with selected titles in hardback.

Relaunch: Oxford World's ClassicsEdit

The World's Classics series was relaunched in 1998 as Oxford World's Classics.[9]The new series initially had a dark blue and off-white colour scheme, but this was changed to red and off-white after a lawsuit by Penguin Books USA in 1998, alleging an infringement of their trade dress rights through similarities in design.[8] A decade later, a second relaunch followed with a new design for all titles, which retained the basic colour scheme.[10]


Oxford English DramaEdit

Oxford English Drama editions offer a selection of plays, selected from an author's œuvre or as an anthology of plays linked by topic or theme (e. g. Four Revenge Tragedies). Renaissance, Restoration and eighteenth-century plays have glossaries of archaic words appended, in addition to the usual array of critical material. The series' general editor is Michael Cordner of the University of York. Scholar Anne Barton praised the series as a 'splendid and imaginative project', adding that it 'should reshape the canon in a number of significant areas'.

Major WorksEdit

Major Works are mini-anthologies of an author's most notable works and selected correspondence. For example, the Major Works edition of Alexander Pope includes the major poems like The Rape of the Lock and The Dunciad, alongside prose essays like Peri Bathous, and an excerpt of his translation of Homer. Some editions include whole novels as well; the Major Works edition of Oscar Wilde anthologises many of his plays and prose alongside the whole of The Picture of Dorian Gray.[11]They are often reprints (with revisions) of volumes from an earlier Oxford University Press series, Oxford Authors, general editor Frank Kermode.[11]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Oxford World's Classics". Oxford University Press. Oxford University Press. 
  2. ^ a b Louis, William (2013). History of Oxford University Press: Volume III: 1896 to 1970. Oxford University Press. p. 141. ISBN 9780199568406. 
  3. ^ Dust Jacket Leaflet (Robbery Under Arms (1949) Oxford University Press: London).
  4. ^ a b Oxford World's Classics blurb
  5. ^ Dust Jacket Leaflet (Rolf, Boldrewood (1949) Robbery Under Arms Oxford University Press: London).
  6. ^ Austen, Jane (1992). Emma. Oxford University Press. p. xix. ISBN 0192827561. 
  7. ^ a b Vickers, Brian. "Books". Retrieved 1 December 2017. 
  8. ^ a b Robbins, Keith, ed. (2017). History of Oxford University Press: Volume IV: 1970 to 2004. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780192519580. 
  9. ^ Drabble, Margaret (2000). The Oxford Companion to English Literature (6th ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 1117. 
  10. ^ "Relaunching the Oxford World's Classics". OUP Blog. 
  11. ^ a b Murray, Isobel, ed. (2000). The Major Works of Oscar Wilde. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780192840547. 

External linksEdit