From 1864 to 1868, he was connected with Robert Carter in editing the Rochester Democrat, a Republican newspaper, and from 1869 to 1872 was editor of the Concord, New Hampshire, Statesman. From 1873 to 1877, he was associated with Messrs. George Ripley and Charles A. Dana in editing the American Cyclopædia. In 1878, he edited the authorized Life of Farragut. From 1879 to 1880, he was associated with Sydney Howard Gay in the preparation of the last two volumes of Gay's History of the United States. In 1883 he became editor of the Annual Cyclopaedia, and from 1886 to 1888 was managing editor of Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. From 1891 to 1894, he was on the editorial staff of the Standard Dictionary. For six years, he was secretary of the New York Authors Club, whose sumptuous and unique Liber Scriptorum (1893) he prepared with J. D. Champlin and G. C. Eggleston.
He devised and edited the series of Little Classics (16 vols., Boston, 1874-1875; two additional vols., 1880; 25th ed., 1887), and has also edited Works of the British Poets, with Biographical Sketches (3 vols., New York, 1876), Famous Single and Fugitive Poems (1877), Play-Day Poems (1878), Fifty Perfect Poems (with Charles A. Dana, 1882), World's Great Books (editor-in-chief, 50 vols., 1898-1901), Great Events by Famous Historians (20 vols., 1904), The Literature of Italy (with Dora Knowlton Ranous, 16 vols., 1906), and The Authors' Digest (1909). In 1876, he tried making abbreviated editions of some of the greater novels of the English language (4 vols., 16 mo., New York). He edited “The Literary Querist” of the Lamp (formerly the Book-Buyer).