Brethren Archive

Henry Frowde

Born: 8th February 1841
Died: 3rd March 1927

Intro, Biographical Information, Notes etc:

Chief Men Among the Brethren Biography

HENRY FROWDE, M A .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, afterwards 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, e.g., 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 organising ability. It is true that he was fortunate in his stage—the Oxford University Press—and in the spacious times in which he laboured. 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, e.g., 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.


Tom said ...

Interesting person I had never heard of before. I like the quote about how he related to his work colleagues;

'Frowde came from the book trade, not the university, and remained an enigma to many. One obituary in Oxford's staff magazine The Clarendonian admitted, "Very few of us here in Oxford had any personal knowledge of him."'

Saturday, Dec 8, 2018 : 19:27
Theophilus said ...
Perhaps this explains how the original Scofield Bible (1909) and subsequent editions came to be published by OUP.
Saturday, Dec 8, 2018 : 21:46
Tom said ...

Yes I saw some notes to that effect;

Scofield visited England twice and spent two years in Switzerland while researching material and seeking technical advice concerning the publication of the Study Bible. One man who would prove to be invaluable in the latter regard was Henry Frowde of London. Frowde fellowshipped all his adult life with those known as “Brethren” and had distinguished himself as an authority in the printing and binding of Bibles.

In 1880, he was appointed Publisher to the Oxford University Press and Clarendon Press. He achieved at Oxford what was once considered impossible–the publication of 1,000,000 New Testaments in one 12-hour period.

While in England, with the encouragement of Alwyn Ball of New York, Mr. Scofield was introduced to Mr. Frowde. After meeting with Frowde, Scofield was advised, “There is only one publishing house which can handle your Reference Bible, and that is the Oxford University Press.” An agreement was reached between Scofield and Oxford University Press, and in January of 1909, the first Reference Bible rolled off the presses.

Saturday, Dec 8, 2018 : 22:34
Tom said ...

His Finger Prayer Book is a case in point; within a few weeks 100,000 copies were sold

It's interesting though if he was an "Exclusive", how he did things like publish The Book of Common Prayer. Wonder what branch of the meetings he was with.

Saturday, Dec 8, 2018 : 22:35
Paula said ...
Fascinating story on Henry... I came across an old concordance Bible and it had no date ( it may have been torn out cant tell) so i wanted to research and find a value and a date... I'm attempting to read it ..need a magnifier but very exciting...
Sunday, Oct 20, 2019 : 08:31
Paula said ...
Fascinating story on Henry... I came across an old concordance Bible and it had no date ( it may have been torn out cant tell) so i wanted to research and find a value and a date... I'm attempting to read it ..need a magnifier but very exciting...
Sunday, Oct 20, 2019 : 08:33
Timothy Stunt said ...

The Publishers' Circular and Booksellers' Record of British and Foreign Literature, Volume 63 (Aug 17, 1895) pp.158-62 carried an article about the Oxford Clarendon Press, based  on a lengthy interview with Henry Frowde.  It includes a photograph of Frowde as a younger man than the picture in Chief Men. see []  Timothy Stunt

Monday, Oct 21, 2019 : 01:51
Rodger said ...
Is this the same Mr. Frowde mentioned here: ? And is this article by him, or another?
Monday, Oct 21, 2019 : 02:52

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