According to the preface of Characteristics of English Poets; From Chaucer to Shirley by William Minto, the work, 'Bring[s] into as clear light as possible the characteristics of the several poets within the chosen period. And...trace[s] how far each poet was influenced by his literary predecessors and his contemporaries.' It was published in 1874 by William Blackwood and Sons, this being a first edition.
The boards are bound in red cloth, the front and back being plain with only an embossed rectangular border around the outside edge. The spine has the title (without sub-title) near the top, the author's surname in the middle and W. Blackwood & Sons at the bottom, all written horizontally. On the top and bottom edges of the spine are pairs of horizontal gold bands. All of the board edges are worn, the corners are bumped and the top/bottom of the spine are frayed and torn. Additionally, there is a tear on the hinge, between the edge of the spine and the front board.
Both sets of endpapers are coloured dark brown, on the surface, and are split/torn between inner and outer sheets. There is a yellow sticker in the top left hand corner of the first endpaper, stating, 'D. Wylie & Son, Book Sellers and Stationers.' On the back of the inner front endpaper, a previous owner has written in pencil, '1ST EDITION 1874' and, '£5.' The rear endpaper, where it is attached to the back board, is stained and bubbled as if damaged by water. The first title page is inscribed with a previous owner's name and dated 1874, in ink. All of the title pages are foxed. There is a split in the binding between the list of contents and the body of text. The binding tends to be looser at the front than at the back.
All of the page edges are light faded and the fore-edge is deckle edged. The page faces have random patches of foxing. At the rear of the book is an appendix and a list of titles published by Blackwood & Sons.