Penguin Famous Trials
The books in the photographs are three volumes from Penguin’s Famous Trials series. All ten books in the series had green covers with the exception of volume seven, which describes the three trials of Oscar Wilde at the Old Bailey, and was orange.
The series was founded by Harry Hodge in 1941, who was the Managing Director of William Hodge & Co and was well known in the Scottish courts as one of the foremost expert shorthand writers. The series was an abridged version of The Notable British Trial Series, which Hodge had previously established in 1905. This series, beginning with the trial of Mary Queen of Scots in 1586, had by 1959 issued 85 volumes and forms an unparalleled library of criminal trials.
According to his son, James, “My father thought that the public got little chance of knowing what actually went on in the Courts, and thus the idea of publishing trials germinated; my grandfather, who founded the family firm of publishers of Scot’s Law in 1874, and who like my father was a shorthand writer in his day, thought little of the idea, but he was in Glasgow, and the scheme went ahead.”
The series focused on the trial rather than the crime and cases were selected according to whether they were deemed to have had a notable influence on law and society. Although he would later modify his view, Hodge originally believed that a trial should be at least twenty years old before it can prove itself to have been notable. He also carefully selected his editors and insisted on the greatest possible accuracy in the presentation of the trials.
After his death in 1947 his son James succeeded him as editor of The Notable Trials Series and Penguin Famous Trials. In 1948 he also went on to produce the first volumes in the War Crimes Trials Series.
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