22nd July 2011. Reading a Pleasure for Life.
The 1930.s saw the introduction of the many faceted ‘Penguin’ paper-backs by Allen Lane. In 1954 ‘One of our Submarines is Missing’, was chosen as the 1,000th book for which Teddy Young, who had designed the first covers for Penguin, produced a new design.
Young had started work sharpening pencils at another publisher, Bodley Head, then left with Allen Lane to launch Penguin as the first major paperback imprint.
Routledge [Paul], still publishing in modern times, was one of the first to begin, in the field, with his ’Yellow Books’ Library of 1849. These were cheap novels, also called ’Mustard-Plaster Novels’, brightly coloured and competing with the less wholesome output of the day, the ‘Penny Dreadfuls’.
However the once gentlemanly world of publishing was rocked Today in 2011 when Macmillan Publishers was forced, in a civil-recovery claim, by the High Court to hand over £11.2m after dubious West African deals between 2002-2009.
It constituted one of the highest awards made, though ‘not technically a fine’, said the Daily Telegraph, but no doubt felt like it to the publishers!
It resulted from a Serious Fraud Office investigation into a World Bank claim which said, ‘Macmillan had made bribery payments to secure a deal to print text books in South Sudan’.
It represented a sad terminal blow for the publisher founded in 1843 by the grandfather of once Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, responsible for publishing books of many well known Victorian and Edwardian authors such as Thomas Hardy and Tennyson.
The company was the first to publish Charles Kingsley and Lewis Carroll, before making a fortune in educational textbooks. Kipling, Thomas Hardy and W.B. Yeats were dealt with personally by ’Mr Harold’ as he was known.
As with many other large companies, Macmillan’s is now in foreign hands, being owned by Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck a German publisher which owns 50 % of Die Zeit newspaper.
Many household name publishers were founded in the 20th with the growth of literacy. The Left Book Club was founded in 1936 by Victor Gollancz who was joined by a new breed of émigré publishers escaping from Nazi Germany, including the eponymous publishers Andre Deutsch and Paul Hamlyn.
George Weidenfield joined forces with Nigel Nicholson after meeting his father at the BBC and first came to the public eye with his magazine ‘Contact’ at a time of acute paper shortage post war, and many were the war memoirs in the 1960.s.
Other well known publishers were Phaidon, Thames and Hudson, and Faber & Faber who in 2009 celebrated their 80th anniversary. The founder was a brewer at Strong’s Romsey Ales, Geoffrey Faber, whose wife suggested he set up in a new profession, as living ‘over the shop, she didn’t like the smell of beer’.
In 1925 he joined with Lady Gwyer, a publisher of nursing manuals, a company that four years later became Faber & Faber, there wasn’t a second Faber, but it sounded more euphonious.
Faber’s success was in attracting strong-minded people around him such as Richard de la Mare, son of the poet, with much of their work poet orientated, though they did reject Larkin, which must say something.
In 1944 with a paper shortage and rationing the Directors were judging up to twenty manuscripts a week, but accepting two.
70 million books were collected in the early days of World War II, to be pulped, which helped re-stock bombed libraries or sent to servicemen overseas.
One of the Author’s early memories is of the cheap, paper-back, Penguin Book with its simple logo, and instrumental in introducing many to wider horizons.