The Quince Tree Press
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The Quince Tree Press

The Quince Tree Press is the imprint established in 1966 by J. L. Carr to publish his maps, pocket books and novels.[1] The Press is now run by his son Robert Carr and his wife, Jane.

History of the press

The house in Kettering where J. L. Carr established the Quince Tree Press

When Carr took 2-year leave of absence from teaching in 1967 aged 55 years with savings of £1,600, his aim was to see if he could make his living by selling decorated maps of English counties and small pocket books of poems.[1] These he published from his house at Mill Dale Road in Kettering, Northamptonshire, under the imprint The Quince Tree Press. The quince is a fruiting tree native to the Caucasus and there was one in the front garden of Carr's house.

Carr's maps are of architectural and historical interest rather than being geographical, and give brief details, observations and quotations in a quirky style about buildings, historical events and people related to places in the old counties of England, before they were reorganised in 1974. The maps are meant to be read and framed and to stimulate conversation.[2]

Carr's small books are typically 16 stapled pages, usually about 13 x 9 cm, with decorated card covers. Carr wrote: 'These books fit small envelopes, go for a minimum stamp and are perfect for cold bedrooms - only one hand and a wrist need suffer exposure'. Carr recorded in 1983 that sales of the small books reached a peak in 1980, when he sold 43,369 copies,[3] and by 1987 he had sold more than 500,000 in total.[1] Many titles are still published by the Quince Tree Press, as well as some new ones, for example Florence Nightingale and Laurence Sterne.

Carr sold his novels and small books published by the Quince Tree Press directly to booksellers and by mail order to readers, and offered copies of his other novels bought as remainders from his previous publishers. For example, Carr obtained 900 remaindered copies of The Harpole Report from Secker and Warburg at 12 pence each[3] and was able to sell them all at their full price of £1.75 after Frank Muir had named it on Desert Island Discs as the book he would take with him to the imaginary island.[2]

Novels by J. L. Carr published by the Quince Tree Press

At the age of 76 years and unhappy both with the different publishers of his six novels to date and with the advance that he had been offered for his seventh novel, Carr decided to publish the next book himself. What Hetty Did was published as a paperback by the Quince Tree Press in 1988 in an edition of 2,850 copies and was soon reprinted.[2] Carr followed this novel four years later with his last, Harpole & Foxberrow General Publishers, in an edition of 4,000 copies.

Carr also bought back the rights to the novels A Month in the Country, How Steeple Sinderby Wanderers Won the F.A. Cup and The Battle of Pollocks Crossing and published them under the imprint of the Quince Tree Press. Since Carr's death in 1994, the rest of Carr's novels have been reprinted by the Quince Tree Press.

  • (1988) What Hetty Did. (ISBN 9780900847912). First edition. First issue 2,850 copies; 2nd issue 3,000 copies.
  • (1991) A Month in the Country. (ISBN 9780900847929). First issue, 3,000 copies. Revised edition of novel first published by Harvester Press in 1980.
  • (1992) Harpole & Foxberrow General Publishers. (ISBN 9780900847936). First edition. First issue 4,000 copies.
  • (1992) How Steeple Sinderby Wanderers Won the F.A. Cup. (ISBN 9780900847943). First issue 2,000 copies. New edition of novel first published by London Magazine Editions in 1975.
  • (1993) The Battle of Pollocks Crossing. (ISBN 9780900847967). First issue 2,000 copies. New edition of novel first published by Viking Penguin in 1985.
  • (2003) A Day in Summer. (ISBN 9781904016076). New edition of novel first published by Barrie and Rockliff in 1963.
  • (2003) A Season in Sinji. (ISBN 9781904016083). New edition of novel first published by Alan Ross in 1967.
  • (2003) The Harpole Report. (ISBN 9781904016069). New edition of novel first published by Secker and Warburg in 1972.

In each of his novels published by the Quince Tree Press Carr cited words by Beatrice Warde, an eminent American typographer:

"This is a Printing Office,
Cross-roads of Civilisation,
Refuge of all the Arts against the Ravages of Time.
From this place Words may fly abroad,
Not to perish as Waves of Sound but fix'd in Time,
Not corrupted by the hurrying Hand but verified in Proof.
Friend, you are on Safe Ground:
This is a Printing Office."

Illustrated maps

A literary map of Yorkshire by Carr

Carr drew his first map in 1943, of England and Wales, while stationed in West Africa during the Second World War.[2] Carr reported that the first four maps he published were of Yorkshire, Gloucestershire, Kent and Norfolk and initially sold for £1 each.[3] However these may have been preceded in late 1965 by what Carr called a 'longsheet', a narrow printed drawing showing towns and places in Northamptonshire which stated at the base: 'Travellers are warned that the use of this map for navigation will be disastrous'. The first five maps given ISBNs were Hampshire (December 1968; ISBN 0900847034), Wales (March 1969, ISBN 0900847042), Sussex (June 1969; ISBN 0900847050), Kent (September 1969; ISBN 0900847018) and Yorkshire (September 1969; ISBN 0900847026). An ISBN was allocated to 54 maps in total, the last issued in December 1976 (Westmoreland, ISBN 0900847751), but no maps have been seen with a printed ISBN.

The different versions of most county maps were not numbered or identified sequentially and only a few were dated, so it is hard to tell in which order they were published. Versions may be distinguished by the number of sheets printed, which was usually recorded on later maps, and assuming that the number was different for each version. The first versions of maps seem to have been issued in editions of 250, 350 or 500 sheets. Robert Carr has reported that some of the maps had editions related to the year in which they were printed. For example, an edition of 978 sheets was probably first published in 1978. The number of sheets of the versions recorded with an ISBN and seen or held in private or public collections are given below and range from 250 to 982 with an average of about 750. If the number of sheets issued was recorded on the version then each individual map was usually numbered by hand, although unnumbered copies are known. The number of different versions published before August 1987, the date of Carr's history of the Press, is shown in parentheses below[1] and at least three new maps (Buckinghamshire, Westmoreland and Wiltshire) were added after 1987. A total of 97 maps were either reported by Carr in his history of the Quince Tree Press,[1] or have been seen. There may be more maps and more versions. A new map of Northamptonshire was produced in 2005 by Robert and Jane Carr.

Carr's illustrated maps were printed on single sheets of thick paper of various types and range in size from 50 to 65 cm high and 35 to 55 cm wide, depending on the shape of each county. The early maps were printed in monochrome but some were hand coloured by Sally Carr.[1] Later maps were printed in colour. Most of the maps were numbered by hand and signed by Carr. Carr often sent proof copies of new maps to retailers. These were printed on thin, poor quality paper, and were marked PROOF. The maps were chiefly printed by Messrs Richardson or Seddon,[1] local printers in Kettering.

The list below gives details where known of: the number of different maps of each county, shown in parentheses, as recorded by Carr in 1987 in his history of the Quince Tree Press;[1] the date of publication with the ISBN, although such numbers seem only to have been applied to maps published between 1968 and 1976 and were not noted on the maps themselves; and the number of sheets, if known, which are not necessarily given in the order of publication.

Small books

Carr's small books are typically 16 stapled pages, 13.0 cm high by 9.5 cm wide, with illustrated card covers unless otherwise noted. Carr launched the series in 1966 with books of poems by William Blake, Andrew Marvell and John Clare whose grandson, Albert, a retired co-op milkman, lived on the same road.[3] The first edition of John Clare's poems was published by Carr for the Northants County Association of the N.U.T., not by the Quince Tree Press.[4] Some of the early books of poems were given an ISBN by Carr from a list of 100 numbers that he was allocated as a publisher, but he did not allocate the numbers in order and did not print the ISBN in any small book that he published. The early titles were registered as published in a Florin Poets Series or a Mini-poets Series.

A few books are dated or can be dated by their publication to coincide with a particular event, such as the Peasants' Revolt of 1381. Some books are numbered, but the numbers are not always unique: at least nine are numbered 71 (Francis Bacon, Thomas Bewick, Geoffrey Chaucer, John Donne, Hilda Frank, Joan Hassall, Samuel Johnson, Bryan North Lee and the Rossettis) and six are numbered 85 (John Bunyan, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Edwards Lear, the Devil's Dictionary, The Dictionary of Parsons and Henry Vaughan). It seems that Carr applied a partial numbering system retrospectively in the order in which he published the work of a poet. For example, a later impression of the poems of Andrew Marvell is numbered 3, but no impressions of any small books numbered 1 or 2 have been seen while no small books numbered 4,5 or 6 have been seen but two are numbered 7 (Rupert Brooke/Wilfred Owen and William Barnes). A few of the dictionaries list the impressions published but none of the books of poems list the printing history. Carr mostly had 3,000 copies printed at a time, sometimes using a different background colour on the cover for a new impression. Carr is known to have published at least 102 small books in his series, most of which are listed below. Many titles are currently reprinted by the Quince Tree Press, which is now run by Robert and Jane Carr in Bury St Edmunds, and they have published several new titles, which are noted.


Most small books are of the work of a single poet, some are of two, usually printed back to back, such as Rupert Brooke and Wilfred Owen. There are at least two editions of some poets: for example, there are two editions of poems by Thomas Herrick and George Byron, each issued with a different cover. But there are also at least two editions of different poems of John Clare, both of which used the same photograph of a bronze bust of Clare on the cover. The numbering of editions may not necessarily be consecutive. The first book of the poems of Robert Herrick, which is entitled Ten Poems and is not numbered, was probably published before the second, entitled Parson and Poet, which is numbered 9 in the series. Carr seems to have applied the number 9 retrospectively to the second book, perhaps because the first book of Herrick's poems was the ninth that he published. No numbered editions of the poems of William Blake or John Clare have been seen, which were two of the first three titles, but a later edition of the poems of Andrew Marvell is numbered 3.

Collected poems

  • The death of Parcy Reed. The Battle of Otterburn. Cover by J. L. Carr. No. 76.
  • A Christmas Book. An anthology of words and pictures. No. 52. (Reissued by R. D. & J. M Carr, ISBN 1-904016-04-9)
  • The Hearth and Home Reciter. Elizabeth Welbourn's Celebrated Reciter for all Occasions. Sixteen poems plus guidance for elocutionists. No 55.


Carr's dictionaries have their origins in the Year Books of the Midlands Club Cricket Conference in the early 1950s, nearly 30 years before the first dictionary was published.[5] For the 1950 Year Book Carr wrote 'A Miniature Anthology for Damp Days', a collection of quotations and anecdotes about notable cricketers, then followed this in the 1951 Year Book with a cartoon and more entries, seemingly to fill empty spaces at the bottom of pages. Carr developed this idea fully in 1977 when he published a 16-page dictionary containing 126 entries on notable cricketers and events related to cricket. It was an immediate success and led to an order from the bookseller W. H. Smith, for 4,000 copies of a title that had initially been printed in an edition of only 3,000.[3] This popular bookseller may also have sold early editions of some poets as an edition of William Barnes is known to contain a W. H. Smith & Son price sticker for 10p, which dates it after Decimal Day in February 1971. The Dictionary of Extra-ordinary Cricketers was reprinted at least nine times between 1977 and 1981 before it was republished by Quartet Books in 1983. A new edition with cartoon illustrations drawn by Carr was published by Aurum Press in 2005.

Carr's wife, Sally, proposed the next Dictionary, of English Queens, to coincide with the Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth in 1977,[1] which he then followed with a Dictionary of English Kings. Carr is believed to be the author of Welbourn's Dictionary of Prelates, Parsons, etc, as Welbourn was his mother's maiden name.[2] The compiler of two dictionaries of eponymous terms, A. J. Forrest, was a cricket writer, while the only biographical information provided about Mr R. G. E. Sandbach, who compiled the Dictionary of Astonishing British Animals, was that he lived in Tunbridge Wells.[6]

Carr said that he was planning other dictionaries[7] and a dictionary of Alchemists is listed inside the back cover of Forrest's Dictionary of Eponymous Places but, according to Robert Carr, it was never published. The Dictionaries are listed below in what is believed to be their order of publication.

  • J. L. Carr (1977). Carr's Dictionary of Extra-ordinary English cricketers. 126 entries. First published July 1977. Revised September 1977, January 1978.
  • J. L. Carr (1977). Carr's Dictionary of English Queens, Kings' Wives, Celebrated Paramours, Handfast Spouses and Royal Changelings. The Quince Tree Press. 91 entries. No. 84. (ISBN 0-900847-78-6). First published to coincide with the Queen's Silver Jubilee.[3]
  • A. J. Forrest (1978). Forrest's Dictionary of Eponymists. 135 entries. First published February 1978, revised April and November 1978.
  • J. L. Carr. Carr's Dictionary of English Kings, Consorts, Pretenders, Usurpers, Unnatural Claimants and Royal Athelings. The Quince Tree Press. 107 entries. (Reissued by R. D. & J. M. Carr, ISBN 1-904016-02-2).
  • R. G. E. Sandbach. Sandbach's Dictionary of Astonishing British Animals. 105 entries collected by R. G. E. Sandbach, edited by J. L. Carr. A later edition with a green, not blue, cover has an Appendix with another 37 entries.
  • J. L. Carr (1985). Gidner's Brief Lives of the Frontier. 88 entries. No. 77. Issued as a companion volume to The Battle of Pollocks Crossing, published in 1985.
  • J. L. Carr. Welbourn's Dictionary of Prelates, Parsons, Vergers, Wardens, Sidesmen and Preachers, Sunday-school teachers, Hermits, Ecclesiastical Flower-arrangers, Fifth Monarchy Men and False Prophets. 129 entries. No. 85.
  • Ambrose Bierce. The Devil's Dictionary. 223 entries selected by Mike Hill. No 85.
  • A. J. Forrest. Forrest's Dictionary of Eponymous Places. 108 entries. No. 94. A reissue in 1990 of a title first published by A. J. Forrest himself in 1981.
  • J. L. Carr. A Dictionary of Extraordinary English cricketers Volume 2. 79 entries and a poem by Francis Meynell. No 95.
  • J. L. Carr (2005). Carr's Dictionary of Extra-ordinary English cricketers. Introduction by Matthew Engel. Aurum Press and the Quince Tree Press. (ISBN 978-1-84513-081-7).

Other small books by Carr

  • J. L. Carr (1981?) Forefathers. An illustrated essay on Anglo-Norse carvings and identity.
  • J. L. Carr. The Territory versus Fleming. Transcript of a murder trial edited from an 1887 Dakota newspaper.
  • J. L. Carr (1987). An inventory and history of The Quince Tree Press to mark its 21st year and the sale of its 500,000th small book. August 1987, pp. 24.
  • J. L. Carr (1994). Some early poems and recent drawings by J. L. Carr 1912 - 1994. (Published by R. D. & J. M. Carr).

Artist's picture books

Although Carr's first picture book celebrated the work of the English wood engraver Thomas Bewick, his main aim was to champion the small number of 20th century wood engravers, whose work he thought was neglected.[2] Each book contains small reproductions of examples of each artist's work with no text, usually printed on better quality paper than the small books of poems. Of the 19 artist's picture books, 15 were published by J. L. Carr and four new artists have been added to the series by Robert and Jane Carr.

Other picture books

  • A Little Book of Bookplates. Thirty-six bookplates selected by Bryan (= Brian) North Lee. No 71.
  • The Good Children's Book. Seventeen prints illustrating moral behaviour. A facsimile of an 1820 edition.
  • The Pleasing Instructor. Or, A Packet of Pictures for all good children with prose explanations and poetical applications embellished with numerous engravings. No 95.

Text by English and other writers

Inflammatory evangelical tracts

This is the heading given by Carr to these books in An inventory and history of The Quince Tree Press etc.[1]

  • The Poor Man's guide to the Revolt of 1381. No. 50?
  • The Young Woman's Old Testament. Verbatim extracts from King James's version typical of their authors' attitude towards women. No. 85.

Commissioned celebratory cards

These were illustrated cards in the style of maps with many small drawings and hand-written notes.

  • Forefathers, a guide to Anglo-Norse carvings dedicated to Edmund Blunden.
  • Pictorial Guide to St Mary's Church, the Chichele School and the Bede House at Highham Ferrers.
  • Pictorial Guide to Peterborough Cathedral.
  • The One Thousandth Anniversary of Earls Barton Church.
  • The One Thousandth Anniversary of Brixworth Church
  • The Two Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary of the Ordination of Philip Doddridge, Northampton.
  • Northamptonshire Baptismal Fonts.
  • Northamptonshire Steeples and Spires.
  • Northamptonshire.
  • Norman Northamptonshire


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Carr, J. L. (1987) An Inventory and a History of the Quince Tree Press to mark its 21st year and the sale of its 500,000th small book. August 1987. Kettering: The Quince Tree Press
  2. ^ a b c d e f Rogers, Byron. (2003). The Last Englishman: the Life of J. L. Carr. London: Aurum Press.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Carr, J. L. (1983) "A double life in literature". The Author; Vol 44, No 4, pp. 102 - 104.
  4. ^ Clare, John (No date). John Clare Northamptonshire Poet 1793 - 1864. Kettering: J. Carr, 27 Mill Dale Road, Kettering for the Northants County Association of the N.U.T.
  5. ^ Hall, Andrew (2011). Extra-ordinary cricketers & handfast spouses. Slightly Foxed, No 32, Winter 2011, pp 69-76.
  6. ^ Sandbach, R. G. E. (date unknown). Sandbach's Dictionary of Astonishing British Animals. Kettering: The Quince Tree Press.
  7. ^ Simpson, H. (1986). The mysterious J. L. Carr. A twenty-first anniversary portrait. Vogue May 1986, pp 84-88.

External links

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