Although George Borrow’s works have been published by many publishers, a number of them have special associations with Borrow. This page is a brief summary of those, but is not a complete list. There’s a lot more detail on all the items below in articles published in The George Borrow Society Bulletin.
The newest addition to the Borrovian publishers is The Lavengro Press, which was launched during the George Borrow Society’s conference at Peterborough on 12 April 2014. The first two publications of the Press are now available and may be ordered through the Press’s website at www.lavengropress.co.uk. The first is a historical study of Borrow's journey through Cork in Ireland in 1815, and the second includes two lectures on Welsh themes — Borrow and David Jones, and Borrow and Goronwy Owen — as well as a detailed study of Borrow's apocryphal work ‘Joseph Sell’. The third publication due in September will be a comprehensive account of Borrow's journey to Cornwall in 1853–4.
The earliest publisher associated with George Borrow was Sir Richard Phillips. Borrow had a number of his translations published by Phillips in The Monthly Magazine (in October 1824). At the time Borrow was working for Phillips on Celebrated Trials which was to appear on 19th March 1825. Borrow’s relations with Phillips are immortalised in Lavengro, with a few further digs in the Appendix of The Romany Rye.
Borrow self-published a number of his own works, as well as acting as publisher for the Manchu New Testament in St. Petersburg (1835) and printing Testaments in Spain. Borrow published Faustus on 18th April 1825 in London; Romantic Ballads, 1826, Norwich, (with Simon Wilkin); Targum 1835, St. Petersburg; the Gypsy Luke 1838, Madrid and The Sleeping Bard, 27th June 1860, Yarmouth.
Between January and May 1826, Simon Wilkin, the Norwich printer/publisher whose office was at Upper Haymarket (the east side of the Market Square, near where Primark now stands), published Borrow’s Romantic Ballads, translated from the Danish; and Miscellaneous Pieces. Wilkin was part of the Norwich Literary circle, involved in developing libraries as well as publishing, and it’s likely he and Borrow would have known each other well.
John Murray II. is the publisher most associated with George Borrow: publishing Borrow’s main works, Knapp’s Life and also being a true friend of Borrow. They first met in November 1840, when Borrow offered Murray The Zincali which Murray brought out in April 1841. The Bible in Spain followed in December 1842 — it was a runaway success. After a long and difficult period, Lavengro came out February 1851, followed by The Romany Rye, May 1857, — which at the time were not the soaring success Murray evidently hoped for. Whilst Murray didn’t publish Borrow’s Sleeping Bard (1860), he did allow Borrow to use his name on the title page. Murray initially (20th November 1862) declined to publish Borrow’s last major work, Wild Wales, but eventually brought it out in December 1862, and it made a profit of over £500 within a year.
In the early 1900’s T. N. Foulis of Edinburgh published very attractive editions of classic books, commissioning well-known artists to illustrate them. In 1914 Lavengro appeared illustrated by Edmund J. Sullivan. Sullivan’s illustrations (some appear in our Website banner at the top of this page) brought a very welcome reconsideration of Borrow’s characters.
Methuen published a number of Borrow’s works, but it was their series of small-format classics (The Little Library) that made two essential contributions to Borrovian studies. Methuen got gypsy expert Francis Hinde Groome to write an introduction for Lavengro (1901) which is useful as a first attempt to relate Borrow to the Gypsy cannon. John Sampson, another Gypsy expert, wrote the introduction to The Romany Rye (1903) and amongst other things attempted a chronology of the tramp of Lavengro. This was the first major attempt (Knapp excluded) to chronicle Borrow, a never-ending task that continues to this day.
Another publisher of classic literature, their edition of The Bible in Spain (1891) had a brief biography of Borrow written by George Thomas Bettany which recycled previously published material. However their 1893 Lavengro had an introduction by Borrow’s friend Theodore Watts-Dunton which added a lot of new material for Borrovian studies and included personal anecdotes. By the time they published The Romany Rye (1900) Borrow’s reputation was under attack, and Watts-Dunton used the introduction to write the classic piece: In Defence of Borrow. This abounded in personal anecdotes of Borrow, which would have been lost forever if it wasn’t for the publisher.
J. M. Dent (publisher) gave the world the famous Everyman Library: hundreds of classic books in a handy “pocket-sized” format with introductions and Ernest Rhys selecting the books and sometimes providing introductions. Their Lavengro (1906) had an introduction by Thomas Seccombe; their Wild Wales (1906) an introduction by Theodore Watts-Dunton. J. M. Dent were later to publish Readings from Borrow.