Henry Frowde, M. A.

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HENRY FROWDE came of Devonshire stock, from which, he liked to recall, Froude, the historian, sprang, and he was a relative of Mortimer Collins. At the age of 16 (he was born on 8th February, 1841), Mr. Frowde entered the service of the Religious Tract Society, and later became manager of the London Bible Warehouse, in Paternoster Row. Professor Bartholomew Price, afterward Master of Pembroke, became Secretary to the Delegates at Oxford in 1868. His was one of the greatest names connected with the Press, and his was the inspiration to offer the management of the London Office of the Oxford University Press to Mr. Frowde, who entered upon his new duties in February, 1874. In 1874 there were 25 Oxford Editions of the Bible current; twenty years later the number had increased to 78. Now the numbers are larger still.
The first Oxford Bible that Mr. Frowde published was a diamond 24mo, of which 250,000 copies were sold promptly. This was printed on Oxford India paper, which was soon to revolutionize the trade in Bibles, devotional works, volumes of poetry, etc. Some paper had been brought in 1841 from the Far East, just sufficient for the printing of 24 copies of a diamond 24mo Bible, not for sale. At Mr. Frowde’s suggestion experiments were made to imitate this paper, with the happy results known to all book-lovers. Mr. Frowde rose fully to the occasion with the Oxford Bible for Teachers, which in 1876 had assumed a shape generally resembling its present form. Many millions of this have been sold. Mr. Frowde had a happy knack of creating and anticipating public taste. His Finger Prayer Book is a case in point; within a few weeks 100,000 copies were sold. Thus, undoubtedly, the name of Frowde appeared on more volumes than that of any other publisher, and if this be fame, he attained it abundantly. But Mr. Frowde was seen at his best when something out of the ordinary had to be done; when, for example, new editions of the Prayer Book had to be produced at top speed, following changes in the royal succession, or in the titles of the Royal Family, for example, the present King, who before he became Prince of Wales, appeared in the Prayer Book as Duke of York.
Only those personally acquainted with Mr. Henry Frowde, and they were few, could appreciate his undoubted genius which was of the painstaking order. Mr. Frowde never spared himself, and his energy was extraordinary. His foresight in business was not less remarkable than his courage and organizing ability. It is true that he was fortunate in his stage-the Oxford University Press-and in the spacious times in which he labored. He was the hero of what has been called “the greatest publishing feat on record,” the publication within twelve hours of a million copies of the Revised New Testament. That was in 1881, and one cannot imagine the present generation exhibiting such excitement over a Bible (it was noticeable to a less degree when the Revised Bible was published in 1885), nor bookseller selling now, as then, 150,000 copies in one day.
But Mr. Frowde was always proud of the Caxton Memorial Bible (1877). The printing of this began at Oxford at 2 a. m.; the sheets were forwarded to London, there folded, rolled, collated, sewn, gilded, bound in Turkey Morocco, and delivered at South Kensington before 2 p.m., where the 400th Anniversary of Caxton was being celebrated. Mr. Gladstone described this “as the climax and consummation of the art of printing.”
In 1880, Mr. Frowde was appointed Publisher to the University, taking over the publication of the classical and learned Clarendon Press books. His stupendous success with Bibles, etc., his main interest, made it possible for the delegates to arrange for the publication of works which would have taxed too severely the resources of an ordinary publisher, for example, the Oxford English Dictionary.
Mr. Frowde was a fine judge of printing and binding, but he was not a professed scholar, much less an author-publisher; yet the honorary degree of M. A. which the University granted him in 1897 was as much appreciated by him as it was deserved. In the meantime Mr. Frowde had opened branches in Edinburgh and Glasgow, to be followed in due course by branches in New York and elsewhere, laying the foundations on which his successor, Mr. Humphrey Milford, built to such striking purpose. Mention should be made of the Oxford Poets and other popular series which owe their being to Mr. Frowde and are now famous.
Not demonstrative in his religious views, all his Christian life he was associated with brethren known as “Exclusive.”
In 1913, at the age of 72, Mr. Frowde retired with, as it was thought, but a short time to live. The doctors were wrong, however, and the last 14 years he spent quietly at Croydon, enfeebled, but interested to the last in the great institution to which he had devoted his great gifts for 39 years. He was called Home on March 3rd, 1927. W. B. C.