Los Angeles independent publisher Unnamed Press has unveiled Smith & Taylor Classics, a new imprint helmed by acquiring editors Allison Miriam Woodnutt (née Smith) and Brandon Taylor, the award-winning author of Real Life, Filthy Animals, and The Late Americans. The imprint will publish trade paperback editions of lesser-known novels by familiar authors.

“Our focus for now is on open-domain reissues, creating a collectable series,” Woodnutt said. “Smith & Taylor Classics fits right in with Unnamed’s mission to publish urgent, challenging, and unexpected work that still values fun at its core.”

On November 26, S&T will release its first four titles simultaneously: George Gissing’s The Odd Women, from 1893, concerning three unmarried sisters navigating gender mores in Victorian London after the death of their father; Victor Hugo’s The Toilers of the Sea, an 1886 novel that follows a fisherman as he braves saltwater and a sea monster to recover a steam engine from a shipwreck; Sarah Orne Jewett’s The Country of Pointed Firs, from 1896, about a writer’s summer in a Maine seacoast town; and Edith Wharton’s Twilight Sleep, a 1927 novel about motherhood with a title that references an anesthetic used during labor and delivery. S&T is open to pitches and ideas for other unsung books of yesteryear.

“We’re pulling from long-held obsessions (like mine with Toilers of the Sea) and the public domain, so we're scouring copyright law,” Woodnutt said. “Some things required direct asks, like certain author portraits in the care of overseas galleries.”

The imprint came together after publisher Chris Heiser observed that Taylor and Woodnutt tended to take over staff meetings with discussions of niche Victorian titles. Consequently, every S&T title will feature an introductory back-and-forth between two contemporary writers, critics, or educators, setting the stage for the reader. “We wanted to incorporate the feeling of our staff meeting book club,” Taylor said. “The whole point of the series, we like to think, is to capture the excitement of pushing your favorite, maybe obscure book into hands of new readers.”

Taylor and Woodnutt wrote the introduction to Twilight Sleep. “Allison and I both love Edith Wharton, and since we seem to be living in a bit of Wharton renaissance, it seemed like an opportunity to bring readers one of the later novels they might not be familiar with,” Taylor said. “Similar with Gissing—people love New Grub Street, but Allison and I were shaking our fists and saying that they should also be reading The Odd Women, which of course is so incredibly relevant to our contemporary moment.”

The duo has tapped National Book Critics Circle board member Adam Dalva and New Yorker contributing writer Merve Emre to talk about The Odd Women. In addition, Baruch College assistant professor Stephanie Hershinow and Yale Review contributor Brandy Jensen team up to introduce Jewett’s place-based novel. Bookpackers creative director Andrew Chater and environmental justice advocate Maya Weeks will introduce Hugo’s Toilers.

“Thinking about how best to honor these long-dead authors often feels like conversing with ghosts,” Woodnutt said. S&T wants to promote “a different approach to classics, an openness to dive into literary sensibilities of great artists and craftspeople who are still so relevant to our lives today.”