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Bodley Head is an Englishmarker publishing house, founded in 1887 and existing as an independent entity until the 1970s. The name has been used as an imprint of Random House Children's Books since 1987. From April 2008 it will be revived as an adult non-fiction imprint within Random House's CCV division.


Originally John Lane and Elkin Mathews — The Bodley Head was a partnership set up in 1887 by John Lane (1854–1925) and Elkin Mathews, to trade in antiquarian books in London. It took its name from a bust of Sir Thomas Bodley, the eponymist of the Bodleian Librarymarker in Oxford, above the shop door. Lane and Matthews began in 1894 to publish works of ‘stylish decadence’, including the notorious literary periodical The Yellow Book. Also notable amongst Bodley Head's pre-Great War books were the two volume sets: Foundations of the Nineteenth Century (1910 and later editions, selling over fifty thousand copies), and Immanuel Kant, both by Houston Stewart Chamberlain.

The Bodley Head became a private company in 1921. In 1926 it published the Book of Bodley Head Verse, an anthology edited by J. B. Priestley. The firm published some mainstream popular authors such as Arnold Bennett and Agatha Christie but ran into financial difficulties. It continued after 1936 backed by a consortium of Allen & Unwin, Jonathan Cape, and J. M. Dent. Allen Lane, John Lane's nephew who had inherited control, finally left to found Penguin Books.

Bought in 1957 by Ansbacher & Co. headed by Max Reinhardt. During this period Bodley Head published the work of authors such as; George Bernard Shaw, Graham Greene, Charles Chaplin, William Trevor, Maurice Sendak, Muriel Spark, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Sam Haskins and Alistair Cooke. Max Reinhardt was also responsible for the expansion of one of the outstanding children's books lists in modern publishing. The imprint was still important in the 1970s when it was drawn into the Jonathan Cape/Chatto and Windus group. The firm was sold to Random House in 1987, who have published children's books under The Bodley Head name since.

The archives of The Bodley Head Ltd. are kept at Reading University.[75751]


The Bodley Head imprint was relaunched by Random House in April 2008. Its two principal strands are stated to be books of scholarship in both the humanities and sciences, and books which contribute to the intellectual and cultural climate of our times.

See also


  • Stetz, Margaret; Lasner, Mark Samuels (1990). England in the 1890s: Literary Publishing at the Bodley Head. Georgetown Univ Press. ISBN 0-87840-509-7.
  • J W Lambert and Michael Ratcliffe The Bodley Head 1887-1987 The story of John Lane, Allen Lane, Unwin and Max Reinhardt and their links with Bodley Head. ISBN 0370309499.

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