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9 MM CMYK - REVERS E MAT T L AMI NAT I ON

a
hundred
years
of
Allen &
Unwin
1914–2014
A
1914–2014
First published in 2014

Copyright © Allen & Unwin 2014

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Allen & Unwin
83 Alexander Street
Crows Nest NSW 2065
Australia
Phone: (61 2) 8425 0100
Email: info@allenandunwin.com
Web: www.allenandunwin.com

Cataloguing-in-Publication details are available
from the National Library of Australia
www.trove.nla.gov.au

ISBN 978 1 76011 251 6

Typeset and designed by Alissa Dinallo
Printed and bound by McPherson’s Printing Group

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
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1
I

What’s in a name?
On 4 August 1914, England declared war on
Germany and a new book publisher by the
name of George Allen & Unwin Ltd opened
for business in London with one Stanley Unwin
at its head. As a young man, Stanley had learnt
the ropes of publishing while working with his
uncle T. Fisher Unwin at his eponymous firm.
After eight years there and then a year travelling
around the globe, Stanley returned to London
determined to set himself up as an independent
book publisher. He bought an ailing publishing
company called George Allen & Company and
shrewdly added his name at the end, knowing
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A HUNDRED YEARS of ALLEN & UNWI N
that most booksellers in those days paid their
monthly accounts alphabetically. It would
therefore be advantageous to have ‘Allen’ up
front, while ‘Unwin’ loitered not so humbly at
the rear.
So came together the two names that one
hundred years later make up today’s Sydney-
based and wholly Australian-owned Allen &
Unwin, with offices in Melbourne, Auckland
and indeed London. And so too was born
the fine publishing tradition upon which the
Australian company was established as an
outpost of the London head office in 1976
and then, on 10 July 1990, as an Australian
independent company that continues to proudly
bear the name Allen & Unwin today.
But let’s go back to the very beginning
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A HUNDRED YEARS of ALLEN & UNWI N
(well almost)—to forty years before the guns
of August 1914 and Stanley’s publishing
intervention, to the very conception of the
publishing tradition upon which George Allen
& Unwin Ltd and eventually Allen & Unwin
Pty Ltd would be built.
George Allen was a pupil and friend of the great
English art critic, writer and polemicist John
Ruskin. He knew nothing of the book business
when he set up George Allen Ltd in the middle
of a country field in Kent in 1871, in accordance
with Ruskin’s Arcadian beliefs, to hand-print
and publish Ruskin’s books and tracts. Business
was good and eventually a London warehouse
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A HUNDRED YEARS of ALLEN & UNWI N
was opened at 8 Bell Yard, Temple Bar. By 1893,
Allen had acquired a considerable list of books,
and as long as Ruskin was alive the demand for
his books was sufficient to sustain the firm. With
Ruskin’s death in 1900, Allen had to further
diversify when, as Stanley Unwin writes in his
autobiography, ‘profits proved elusive’. Some
titles of note from this period include illustrated
editions of Pride and Prejudice and The Faerie
Queene. The latter was illustrated by Walter
Crane, who also designed the firm’s colophon
of St George slaying the Dragon. Maurice
Maeterlinck’s The Life of The Bee (1901),
Hilaire Belloc’s The Path to Rome (1902), The
Muirhead Library of Philosophy (with authors
such as Bertrand Russell and G.W.F. Hegel)
and Gilbert Murray’s distinguished series of
The original George Allen & Unwin Ltd colophon,
designed by Walter Crane
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A HUNDRED YEARS of ALLEN & UNWI N
translations of classic Greek plays all featured
in this fin de siècle period.
On George Allen’s death in 1907, his two
sons and daughter inherited an ailing firm,
by then known as George Allen & Sons Ltd.
They tried to shore it up by buying the assets
of the London publishing business Bemrose
in 1909 and amalgamating in 1911 with Swan
Sonnenschein & Co., which had been founded
in 1878 and was the first English language
publisher of Karl Marx’s Capital (1887). The
firm was now known as George Allen & Com-
pany, but by the time young Stanley Unwin
came along it was well and truly in crisis.
Stanley Unwin was a son of Edward
Unwin of the printing business Unwin Brothers.
Born in 1884 with printer’s ink in his veins,
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A HUNDRED YEARS of ALLEN & UNWI N
he did his ‘publishing’ apprenticeship in his
uncle’s firm, where he mastered every branch of
the business. He then took a year to travel the
world and meet the ‘international trade’ in the
best tradition of ‘know your markets’ (recounted
in his memoir Two Young Men See the World),
before returning to the United Kingdom in
December 1913. On 4 August 1914, George
Allen & Unwin Ltd was opened for business.
During his travels Stanley had met ‘a fine
old Australian bookseller’, George Robertson,
and it was Robertson who wrote to Stanley not
long after he established the company: ‘It is a
great thing to bear your yoke in your youth.
If you can stand a knockout blow on the day
you start you will take whatever comes to you
in life with perfect equanimity.’ Under Stanley,
Stanley Unwin, 1915
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A HUNDRED YEARS of ALLEN & UNWI N
the company not only survived World War I
but flourished, and for the next fifty years or so
Stanley, later Sir Stanley, went on as governing
director, proudly heading one of the most
successful independent publishing houses in
the United Kingdom. On his death in 1968, his
son Rayner became chairman.
Stanley Unwin had not known George Allen.
In fact, it is doubtful he even knew any of
the Allen children who succeeded George.
Stanley’s dealings were only with the receiver
and the debenture holders. Yet the marriage
of the two names brought about a fiercely
independent publishing house that Stanley
would successfully manage for more than half
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A HUNDRED YEARS of ALLEN & UNWI N
a century. Books that matter was the proud
catchphrase later printed along the bottom of
the dust jacket of books published by George
Allen & Unwin Ltd, and ‘matter’ many of them
surely did. Each year the catalogue of new books
was strong in general non-fiction, reference and
academic books, so who could have predicted
that the company’s most famous author would
be an academic turning his mind to what would
become a fantasy world for children and adults?
In 1935 Stanley gave the ten-year-old Rayner
a manuscript to read. Rayner recommended
publication of The Hobbit and was paid a shilling
for his effort. Ruskin might have been more
talked about than read, but J.R.R. Tolkien’s
sales increased year upon year.
The name George Allen & Unwin Ltd
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A HUNDRED YEARS of ALLEN & UNWI N
continued as the proud masthead of a house to
be reckoned with for most of the seventy-plus
years that followed its establishment, until its
eventual merger in 1986 with the house Bell &
Hyman (George Bell was the original publisher
of Samuel Pepys in 1893), when it became
Unwin Hyman Ltd. During these seven
decades many thousands of books were brought
to market. Each year’s list was dominated by
serious non-fiction and academic works, but also
included fiction and children’s books, adventure
and fantasy. Among the many famous authors
associated with George Allen & Unwin Ltd
were Oswald Spengler (The Decline of the West),
Arthur Waley (Chinese Poems, The Tale of Genji
trans.), Harold Laski (A Grammar of Politics),
Albert Schweitzer (Memoirs of Childhood and
One of two colophons designed in 1948 by Joan Hassall
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A HUNDRED YEARS of ALLEN & UNWI N
Youth), J.R.R. Tolkien (The Hobbit, The Lord
of the Rings), Thor Heyerdahl (The Kon-Tiki
Expedition, The Ra Expeditions), Roald Dahl
(Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and
the Giant Peach), James Pope-Hennessy (Queen
Mary), Richard Burton (The Kama Sutra of
Vatsyayana trans.), Erich Fromm (The Art of
Loving), Adelle Davis (Let’s Get Well ) and many,
many others.
On 10 July 1990, the United Kingdom
firm—having found no magic bullet for future
prosperity over four dark years as Unwin
Hyman Ltd—was bought by HarperCollins
and ceased to exist as a company, or even as an
imprint, in the United Kingdom. The list was
simply folded into the new owner’s list, and
quite soon parts were sold to other publishers.
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II

A new beginning
All was not lost, however. On 18 January 1976,
an English publisher arrived in Sydney with
the parting words of his UK managing director
ringing in his ears: ‘Now then, young Gallagher,
don’t you go native!’ Patrick Gallagher had been
transported Down Under to start an Australian
branch of the company, and for two years Allen
& Unwin (Australia) was a one-man band,
building an Australian list in the offices of the
Australasian Publishing Company, Allen &
Unwin’s Sydney-based distributor.
In 1978 Allen & Unwin expanded to take
on its own sales and promotion activities, and
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A HUNDRED YEARS of ALLEN & UNWI N
Patrick was joined by Paul Donovan (sales
and marketing), Roger Ward (academic) and
Rhonda Black (production and editorial). Early
sales were spearheaded by the parent company’s
new release The Silmarillion and other bestsellers
by J.R.R. Tolkien. The Australian list also grew
rapidly, first through academic publishing and
then increasingly through mainstream trade
titles such as David Marr’s Barwick, Peter
Corris’s crime fiction and the novels resulting
from the Australian/Vogel Award, which was
set up in 1981.
John Iremonger’s arrival from Hale &
Iremonger saw his and Patrick’s output dominate
social science publishing, with ground-breaking
books by Richard White, Henry Reynolds, Max
Neutze, Rosemary Pringle, Richard Broome,
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A HUNDRED YEARS of ALLEN & UNWI N
Edna Carew, Ann Curthoys, Milton Osborne
and many other leading scholars.
The 1980s saw continuing growth across
the list. Fiction flourished, with books by Tim
Winton and Tom Flood winning the first of
Allen & Unwin’s five Miles Franklin Awards.
Further breadth came to the local publishing
program in the form of Rosalind Price’s Little
Ark list for children and the Rathdowne Books
commercial imprint in Melbourne. A good
balance of overseas lists was provided by Allen
& Unwin (UK) and the newly founded and
fast-growing Bloomsbury. Further breadth came
from the publishing arm of the ABC, and Allen
& Unwin also began publishing in New Zealand.
While Allen & Unwin was flourishing in
Australia, things were not so bright for the
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A HUNDRED YEARS of ALLEN & UNWI N
company in Maggie Thatcher’s Britain. In
an attempt to arrest the decline in the UK
company’s fortunes, a merger was put together
between Allen & Unwin and the predominantly
schoolbook publisher Bell & Hyman. The new
company was to be run by Robin Hyman and
named Unwin Hyman, but pressure to take the
Unwin Hyman name was firmly resisted by the
typically independent Australians. And just
as well, because the merger failed and Unwin
Hyman was purchased by HarperCollins in
1990. In Australia, however, directors Patrick
Gallagher, Paul Donovan, Peter Eichhorn
and Rhonda Black seized the opportunity to
make independence a reality. With the help of
the Unwin family, who had become minority
owners and forced sellers of the parent company,
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A HUNDRED YEARS of ALLEN & UNWI N
a management buyout was engineered and, on
10 July 1990, Allen & Unwin became Australia’s
largest independent book publisher.
This was not an auspicious time to
launch a new company—a major recession
was looming—and the first few years of
independence were challenging. The loss of the
UK company’s turnover had to be replaced, and
one of Paul Donovan’s urgent tasks was to sign
new agencies, notably the fast-growing Orion
Group and Fourth Estate. The book trade
showed its appreciation of the newly formed
company by voting it the inaugural Publisher of
the Year in 1992.
By 1995, Allen & Unwin’s annual turnover
had more than doubled, from $10 million to
$23 million. Over two hundred new titles a year
The f irst Allen & Unwin colophon,
deisgned by Michael Fitzjames
The second Allen & Unwin colophon,
deisgned by Nada Backovic
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A HUNDRED YEARS of ALLEN & UNWI N
were published, ranging from biography, and
illustrated and narrative non-fiction to literary
and crime fiction, children’s books, Australian
history, politics, military studies, contemporary
issues and gender studies. The 100,000-copy
hardback bestseller Maggie set new records for
autobiography, and the children’s list regularly
scooped the pool in annual awards. As the
company grew, so did its international scope,
with authors such as Minette Walters, David
Suzuki, Michael Connelly and Jodi Picoult
being brought into the list. The overseas
companies represented by Allen & Unwin also
produced their share of bestsellers, with titles
such as The Shipping News, Sophie’s World,
A Suitable Boy and Snow Falling on Cedars.
The sale of foreign rights became increas-
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A HUNDRED YEARS of ALLEN & UNWI N
ingly important, as did overseas distribution of
Australian titles, with long-term distribution
arrangements being set up in the UK, USA
and Southeast Asia. Allen & Unwin had
also developed an exceptional reputation
for its distribution service to the book trade
in Australia, and this led in 1999 to the
establishment of a joint distribution venture
with Hodder Headline, Alliance Distribution
Services (ADS). Headed by Peter Eichhorn,
from the start ADS became the benchmark
for distribution quality in Australia and New
Zealand.
In July 2000, Allen & Unwin threw a party
at Sydney Town Hall for seven hundred or so
close friends from Australia, New Zealand
and the UK to celebrate its first ten years as an
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A HUNDRED YEARS of ALLEN & UNWI N
independent company. Speeches from authors,
booksellers, agents and staff testified to a decade
of successful publishing. Rayner Unwin made his
final, emotional appearance before retiring the
Unwin family’s financial stake in the company,
following that of the investment bank the year
before, thus leaving the company’s ownership
100 per cent in Australian hands. Also in 2000,
the company purchased 83 Alexander Street,
Crows Nest, and added ‘The Terrace’, which
has been the venue over the years for numerous
functions, both for Allen & Unwin and the
wider book trade.
In 2000, the fourth book in Bloomsbury’s
Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Goblet
of Fire, became the fastest-selling book of all
time on its release and, together with the next
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A HUNDRED YEARS of ALLEN & UNWI N
three in the series, went on to sell over a million
copies. This was a triumph for the sales effort,
but also a monumental logistical achievement
for both Allen & Unwin and ADS, with
simultaneous publication at 9.01 a.m. in every
bookshop in Australia and New Zealand.
The ‘Harry Potter phenomenon’ extended
the company’s reach still more widely into
all sectors of the market, and both local and
overseas titles made regular appearances on the
bestseller lists. When Patrick Gallagher was
‘kicked upstairs’ to become chairman and Paul
Donovan took over as managing director in
2005, he declared his aim to increase turnover
from Australian titles by 50 per cent in four
years, only to achieve this in three. The list
of independent UK houses now represented
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A HUNDRED YEARS of ALLEN & UNWI N
included Bloomsbury, Granta, Faber, Profile and
latterly Atlantic, Canongate and Nosy Crow.
At the twentieth anniversary celebrations
in 2010—with another seven hundred close
friends—CEO Robert Gorman, who had first
joined Allen & Unwin as a college rep, was able
to point to a company with one of the leading
and longest-standing publishing programs in
the country, and certainly the widest-ranging.
Bestsellers and prize winners featured regularly
from authors such as Alex Miller, Thomas
Keneally, Andrew McGahan, Michelle de
Kretser, Christos Tsiolkas, Kate Morton, Ron
Brooks, Alison Lester, Shaun Tan . . . the list
goes on. And Allen & Unwin continued to take
out the Publisher of the Year Award, winning it
another eleven times.
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A HUNDRED YEARS of ALLEN & UNWI N
The third decade of the company’s
independent existence has seen developments
that are changing the publishing landscape
dramatically, and publishers are having to move
with these changes. Allen & Unwin now has
several thousand ebook titles available, making
up over 20 per cent of its total sales. Publishers
now need to be international in their thinking
and activities, so in addition to its busy export
and foreign rights sales, Allen & Unwin has
begun publishing out of its London office, and
is now the majority owner of Atlantic Books
in the UK. International markets also feature
highly in the sales of Murdoch Books, the
Australian publisher of high-quality cookbook
and lifestyle titles acquired by Allen & Unwin
in 2012.
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A HUNDRED YEARS of ALLEN & UNWI N
In a hundred years, much has changed. Much,
however, has remained the same, notably the
fiercely independent spirit nurtured in London
by George Allen, and Stanley and Rayner
Unwin, and maintained in Australia by Patrick
Gallagher, Paul Donovan and Robert Gorman.
And while the company has grown from a one-
man band to employing over 150 people across
three countries, the belief in the words carried
on the jackets of the early company also remains
the same: Books certainly do matter.
9 MM CMYK - REVERS E MAT T L AMI NAT I ON

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