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Fredric John Warburg (November 27, 1898 - May 25, 1981) was an English publisher best known for his association with the British author George Orwell. During a career spanning a large part of the 20th century and ending in 1971, Warburg published Orwell's Animal Farm (1945) as well as Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), and works by other leading figures such as Thomas Mann and Franz Kafka. Other notable publications include the controversial The Third Eye by Lobsang Rampa in 1956, Pierre Boulle's classic The Bridge over the River Kwai, Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf, and William Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (1960).


Warburg was born on November 27, 1898, to John Cimon Warburg (a photographer) and Violet Amalia (née Sichel), both of Jewish descent. At the age of 9 Warburg was sent to Wilkinson's boys prep school and then later won a scholarship to attend the prestigious Westminster Schoolmarker. He was to describe his first two years as 'among the most hateful of my life'. Whilst he excelled academically, as a Jew he often felt an outsider and he was to find refuge and solace in his love of books.In summer 1917 Warburg was commissioned to serve as an officer in the Royal Artillery and was stationed in the Ypresmarker area until the end of the war. After demobilization, Warburg was to read chemistry at Christ Church, Oxfordmarker, but later switched to classics and philosophy, proceeding to become an MA in 1922. That same year he was to start his publishing life as an apprentice at the publishing firm of Routledge & Sons Ltd.Warburg's first marriage (July 5, 1922), to May Nellie Holt (born in 1902), was to produce three sons, David (born in 1923); Hew (born in 1925) and Jeremy (born in 1928) but ended in divorce in 1932. A year later, on January 21, 1933, Warburg married the painter and designer Pamela Bryer (née de Bayou, widowed) and they were to have a son that died of a brain haemorrhage within twenty-four hours of birth in 1933.During World War II Warburg served as a corporal in the Home Guard, in the same section where Orwell held the rank of sergeant.Fredric Warburg died of heart failure at University College Hospitalmarker, Londonmarker, on May 25, 1981 at the age of 82.


Upon his appointment as an apprentice at the firm of Routledge & Sons Ltd, Warburg found himself under the tutelage of William Swan Stallybrass, a man he regarded as 'the greatest scholar-publisher of his day'. Stallybrass died in 1931 and Warburg was to become increasingly dissatisfied with his post at Routledge, leading to his eventual dismissal from the company in 1935. Later that same year, he and Roger Senhouse were to purchase the publishing firm of Martin Secker (that was in receivership) and renamed it as Secker and Warburg.

The firm became renowned for its political stance, being both anti-fascist and anti-communist (at least communism in its Sovietmarker incarnation), a position that put them at loggerheads with many intellectuals of the time. Among the books published by Warburg were C. L. R. James's World Revolution, Reg Groves's We Shall Rise Again, Boris Souvarine's Stalin, and André Gide's Back from the USSR. When George Orwell parted company with Victor Gollancz over publication of The Road to Wigan Pier, it was to Secker and Warburg that he took his next book Homage to Catalonia. Thereafter they were to publish all of Orwell's work, with author and publisher becoming intimate friends.

With its financial position devastated by paper shortages during and after the war, Secker and Warburg were forced to join the Heinemann group of publishers in 1951.

During the 1950s and 1960s Secker and Warburg were to publish the works of, amongst others, Simone de Beauvoir, Collette, Alberto Moravia, Günter Grass, Angus Wilson, Melvyn Bragg and Julian Gloag. In 1961 Warburg was made a director of the Heinemann group, a post he retained until his retirement in 1971. He also published two volumes of autobiography: An Occupation for Gentlemen (1959) and All Authors are Equal (1973).


In 1952 Warburg became a member of the committee of the Society for Cultural Freedom (S.C.F.), an organisation established to 'promote Western culture and defend it against the communist culture of the East'. The S.C.F. were to produce a cultural magazine, Encounter, which was later to receive sustained criticism when it emerged that much of the money used to produce the magazine came directly from the CIA.

More controversy was to follow in 1954 when Warburg was prosecuted for publishing the supposedly obscene book The Philanderer by Stanley Kauffmann. Although offered the chance to plead guilty and escape with a minimal fine, Warburg opted for the much riskier option of a public trial by jury at the Old Baileymarker. This decision was vindicated when he was unanimously acquitted by the jury. The presiding judge's summing up was added as an appendix in later editions of The Philanderer and also published separately by Secker and Warburg.


Books written by Fredric Warburg

  • An Occupation for Gentlemen (1959)
  • All Authors are Equal (1973)

Publications relating to Fredric Warburg

  • The summing-up by Mr Justice Stable in Regina v. Martin Secker & Warburg Ltd., Fredric J. Warburg, The Camelot Press Ltd ("The Philanderer" case) at the Central Criminal Court July 2, 1954 (1954)

External links


  1. An Occupation for Gentlemen, Fredric Warburg, Hutchinson, London, 1959, p. 30.
  2. ibid., p. 121.
  3. Newsinger, John "Orwell and the Spanish Revolution" International Socialism Journal Issue 62 Spring 1994
  4. All Authors are Equal, Fredric Warburg, Hutchinson, London, 1973, p. 154.
  5. The New York Times - Obituaries

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