Dicks’ Standard Plays

Among the collections in EPB are a lengthy run of plays in the series ‘Dicks’ standard plays’. John Thomas Dicks, born in 1818, advanced his publishing career enormously with the success of ‘Reynolds’s Miscellany’ in 1848. By 1868 the author G.W.M Reynolds was referred to in ‘The Bookseller’ as ‘the most popular writer in England’. Such popularity could only have been beneficial for his publisher too.

By the mid-1860s Dicks’ cheap reprints of Shakespeare led to another expansion of the flourishing business. Around the same time he began publishing ‘Dicks’ standard plays’. Over 1,000 titles were published over a twenty year period –averaging more than one a week! The library copy of ‘List of Dicks’ standard plays and free acting drama’ (London: ca. 1884) identifies Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’ as being the first play in the series. Irish interest was heavily represented early on with R.B. Sheridan’s ‘School for Scandal’ (#2), ‘Pizarro’ (#15), ‘The Rivals’ (#18); Oliver Goldsmith’s ‘She Stoops to Conquer’ (#4) and Charles Macklin’s ‘The Man of the World’ (#16).

Drama scholars today are thankful to John Thomas Dicks as in many cases his publications are the only source that remains of some of the lesser known works.

The publishing format included an illustrated paper cover, often pink in colour, with a repeat of the illustration on the title page. The verso of the title page shows costume and stage direction. The printing was done in two columns per page.

Dicks died in France in 1881. However, John Dicks Press Limited continued to publish up until 1963.

Holdings of the series in the Department are chiefly located at 149.u.166-182. See our online listing for more details.