Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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John Lane Company:

An Inventory of Its Records at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: John Lane Company
Titles: John Lane Company Records
Inclusive Dates: 1856-1933,
Extent: 76 boxes, 1 galley file, 2 oversize flat files (32 linear feet)
Abstract: The records of the John Lane Company, 1856-1933, are comprised mainly of incoming correspondence. Also present are manuscripts and proof copies, financial records, notes, documents, and autobiographical materials of John Lane. In addition, there are readers' reports prepared for manuscripts submitted to the firm between 1894 and 1930. The reports are a valuable source of information on the firm's publishing guidelines and on the kinds of manuscripts submitted during that period.
RLIN Record #: TXRC00-A11

Open for research


Purchases, 1986-1998 (R10976, R12321, R14286)

Processed by:

Bob Taylor, 2000

Repository: :

Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

The future publisher of The Yellow Book and other works that typify Nineties literary decadence was born into a Devon farming family on March 14, 1854. In his mid teens John Lane migrated to London and soon found employment as a clerk in the Railway Clearing House. An ambitious and energetic autodidact, Lane had by the mid 1880s gained the knowledge, interest, and capital to consider entering the London book trade. A chance association with Elkin Mathews quickly led the pair into a partnership, culminating in the creation in 1887 of the Bodley Head, a firm initially involved in the antiquarian book trade.

Within a few years the Bodley Head had begun publishing limited editions to appeal to a sophisticated market, attracting such authors and illustrators as Oscar Wilde, Richard Le Gallienne, Aubrey Beardsley, and Charles Ricketts. Elkin Mathews was increasingly unhappy with the direction the firm was taking, and in 1894 the partnership was terminated. Lane retained the firm's imprint and to it prefixed his own name: John Lane the Bodley Head. In 1896 he opened a New York branch.

In the same year as Mathews' departure Lane launched the audacious Yellow Book, with Henry Harland as editor. The flamboyant periodical quickly became the talk of literary London, but the uproar produced by Oscar Wilde's legal difficulties and public reaction against the artistically esoteric hastened the end of The Yellow Book in 1897. Lane's 1898 marriage to a wealthy American author, Anna Eichberg King, perhaps abetted his own increasingly conservative commercial and artistic instincts, and after the Yellow Book debacle he pursued a more conventional course.

In the early years of the twentieth century John Lane broadened the scope of his publishing activities, issuing a considerable range of nonfiction and, most notably, prose fiction. An array of fashionable authors including Arnold Bennett, G. K. Chesterton, Agatha Christie, Ford Madox Ford, C. S. Forester, Kenneth Grahame, Stephen Leacock, W. J. Locke, Alice Meynell, J. B. Priestley, Saki, and H. G. Wells were closely associated with the Bodley Head imprint into the 1920s.

Lane's personal interest in visual art found an outlet in The Speakers of the House of Commons from the Earliest Times to the Present Day (1911). The principal text was by Arthur I. Dasent, but the notes on the portraits of the speakers were by Lane himself.

Following World War One the Bodley Head became a limited liability company as Hubert Carr-Gomme and Ronald Boswell joined the firm, along with Allen Lane, a young cousin of John. At the time of John Lane's death on February 2, 1925, the firm was in decline, culminating in its bankruptcy in 1936. At that point a consortium of publishers acquired the firm's name and assets, while Allen Lane, having recently founded Penguin Books, went on to a successful career in that venture.

Lambert, J. W. The Bodley Head, 1887-1987. London: The Bodley Head, 1987.

May, J. Lewis. John Lane and the Nineties. London: John Lane the Bodley Head, 1936.

Nelson, James G. The Early Nineties: a View from the Bodley Head. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1971.

The records of the John Lane Company, 1856-1933, comprise correspondence, readers' reports, manuscripts and proof copies, financial records, notes, documents, and autobiographical materials. The material is in part in its original order, but in general the current organization is an imposed one.

Business Records, the first series, represents over four-fifths of the entire collection, and the largest portion of this is incoming correspondence. Major groups of correspondence are included from A. M. Broadley, Lady Randolph Churchill, Walter Crane, Stephen Leacock, Richard Le Gallienne, Stephen Phillips, and William Watson. Many other significant figures, including Gertrude Atherton, Arnold Bennett, and Ezra Pound, are represented by smaller groups of correspondence.

While it is evident certain figures associated with the firm (Agatha Christie, C. S. Forester, and Oscar Wilde in particular) are not present, and while there is evidence certain time periods are better represented than others, the correspondence is nevertheless a significant window into the firm's relations with its authors and fellow publishers. The arrangement of this correspondence is a locally-applied one, as it was evident that the material was no longer in its original order.

Scattered throughout the business correspondence is a significant amount of John Lane's personal correspondence. Included here are letters from social contacts of a relatively late date (the Prideaux-Brune family, for example), as well as family and friends from his younger days. Also present is correspondence related to his personal interests (antiques, collectibles, and art, among others, and the book he co-authored with Arthur Dasent). A small quantity of other business records, largely financial and miscellaneous, are found in the series.

Series II, Creative Work, comprises just over ten document boxes of readers' reports for the years 1894 to 1930, along with a small number of manuscripts and galleys. While the readers' reports are not present for all years (there are none for the years 1909 to 1914, nor for 1917-1920), they are in their original order for the years represented in the Center's holdings. A dozen or so manuscripts and marked proof copies are present in the series, including two by Lascelles Abercromie and several by William Watson.

The John Lane Personal Materials series is small and mixed in content, but does include some autobiographical notes, along with rough notes for projected works on British art in India and other art topics John Lane considered of interest. As noted above, Lane's personal correspondence present in the collection is filed in Series I.

Original art work, including prints, drawings, watercolors, and sketches by Vernon Hill, as well as designs for bindings and title-pages for books published by Lane were withdrawn from the John Lane Company records and transferred the the Ransom Center's Art Collection. Additional material withdrawn from the Lane records and housed in the Center's Vertical File Collection includes unbound gatherings of illustrated books, photographs of art works, and newspaper clippings.

Other John Lane Company records are to be found at the University of Reading.


Abercrombie, Lascelles, 1881-1938

Allinson, A.R. (Alfred Richard)

Arkwright, William, 1857-1925

Atherton, Gertrude Franklin Horn, 1857-1948

Bagot, Richard

Baring, Maurice, 1874-1945

Baring-Gould, S. (Sabine), 1834-1924

Barnard, Francis Pierrepont, 1854-1931

Beardsley, Aubrey, 1872-1898

Beerbohm, Max, Sir, 1872-1956

Bennett, Arnold, 1867-1931

Benson, Arthur Christopher, 1862-1925

Black, Alice Elizabeth Knox, 1850-

Bleackley, Horace, 1868-1931

Blunden, Edmund, 1896-1974

Brangwyn, Frank, Sir, 1867-1956

Brinton, Selwyn, 1859-1940

Broadley, Alexander Myrick, 1847-1916

Browning, Oscar, 1837-1923

Buchan, Joh, 1875-1940

Butterworth, Frank Nestle

Byles, C. E. (Charles Edward), 1873

Caine, William, 1873-1925

Calvert, Albert Frederick, 1872-1946

Carlyle, Alexander, 1843-

Chamberlain, Houston Stewart, 1855-1927

Chapman, Frederick, 1918

Chesterton, G.K. (Gilbert Keith), 1874-1936

Churchill, Randolph Spencer, Lady, 1854-1921

Clarke, Roland

Cobb, Thomas, 1854-1932

Coleridge, Ernest Hartley, 1846-1920

Collins, Laurence Churton

Coxon, Muriel Hine

Coxon, Stanley William

Crackanthorpe, Hubert, 1870-1896

Crane, Walter, 1845-1915

Crichton,-Browne, James, Sir, 1840-1938

Cunninghame, Graham, R. B. (Robert Bontine), 1852-1936

Curzon, George Nathaniel Curzon, Marquis of, 1859-1925

Dasent, Aruther Irwin, 1859-1939

Davidson, John, 1857-1909

Dene, Arundel

Dewar, Douglas, 1875-

Dibdin, E. Rimbault (Edward Rimbault), 1853-1941

Douglas, Alfred Bruce, Lord, 1870-1945

Drillien, Bérengère

Dyson, C.C.

E.V.B. (Eleanor Boyle Vere), 1825-1916

Ellis, S.M. (Steward Marsh)

Epstein, Jacop, Sir, 1880-1959

Fea, Allan, 1860

Ffoulkes, Constance Jocelyn

Fish, A.H.

Ford, Ford Madox, 1873-1939

Garnett, Edward, 1868-1937

Garnett, Richard, 1835-1906

Grahame, Kenneth, 1859-1932

Greenwood, G.G. (Granville George), Sir, 1850-1928

Grey, Pamela, 1871-1928

Hake, Thomas St. E. (Thomas St. Edward)

Hardy, O.H.

Harland, Henry, 1861-1905

Hartshorne, Albert, 1839

Herbert, Agnes

Herbert, Alice

Hill, Constance, 1844?-1929

Hill, Ellen G.

Holbach, Maude M.

Holmes, Edmond, 1850-1936

Housman, Laurence, 1865-1959

Howard, Keble, 1875-1928

Howse, Lucie D.

Hutton, Edward, 1875

Jameson, Frederick

Jenkins, Herbert George, 1876-1923

Kennerley, Mitchell, 1878-1950

Kernahan, Coulson, 1858-1943

Kettlewell, John

Keun, Odette, 1890

Lane, John, 1854-1925

Langdale, Stella

Leacock, Stephen, 1869-1944

Lee, Vernon, 1856-1935

Lees, John

Le Gallienne, Richard, 1866-1947

Legge, Arthur E.J. (Arthur Edward John), 1863-1934

Lehmann, R.C. (Rudolf Chambers), 1856-1929

Levetus, A.S.

Lewis, Wyndham, 1882-1957

Lilly, William Samuel, 1840-1919

Locke, William John, 1867-1930

Low, Sidney, Sir, 1857-1932

Lowe, Charles, 1848-1931

Lyons, A. Neil (Albert Neil), 1880-1940

McFadden, Gertrude Violet

Machen, Arthur, 1863-1947

Marriott, Charles, 1869

Marshall, Beatrice

Maxwell, Donald, 1877

May, J. Lewis (James Lewis), 1873

Melville, Lewis, 1874-1932

Mew, Egan

Meynell, Alice Christiana Thompson, 1847-1922

Meynell, Wilfrid, 1852-1948

Money-Coutts, Francis Burdett, 1852-1923

Nepean, Evelyn Maud Reid

Nesbit, E. (Edith), 1858-1924

New, E.H. (Edmund Hort), 1871-1931

Newmarch, Rosa Harriet Jeaffreson, 1857-1940

Niven, Frederick, 1878-1944

Oppenheim, M. (Michael), 1853-1927

Osborn, Edward Bolland, 1867-

Parker, Louis Napoleon, 1852-1944

Paterson, Alfred

Peel, Ethel Adelaide Georgiana

Petre, F. Loraine (Francis Loraine), 1852-1925

Phillips, Stephen, 1868-1915

Phillpotts, Eden, 1862-1960

Pichot, Pierre Amedee

Pinkerton, Thomas A.

Pollock, Walter Herries, 1850-1926

Pound, Ezra, 1885-1972

Prout, Samuel Gillespie

Ramsden, Hermione Charlotte, 1867-

Redesdale, Algernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford, Baron, 1837-1916

Rees, Arthur J. (Arthur John), 1872-1942

Reynolds, Stephen Sydney, 1881-1919

Richards, E.F. (Elinor F.)

Richards, Grant, 1872-1948

Roberts, Harry, 1871-1946

Roberts, Margaret Windeatt

Robinson, Charles, 1870-1937

Ross, Robert Baldwin, 1869-1918

Russell, T. Baron

Sackville-West, V. (Victoria), 1892-1962

Saki, 1870-1916

Sarmento, George

Scott, Temple, 1864-1939

Seaman, Owen, Sir, 1861-1936

Seccombe, Thomas, 1866-1923

Sharpe, Evelyn, 1869-1955

Shelley, Edward

Shepherd, J.A.

Sheringham, George, 1884-1937

Shiel, M. P. (Matthew Phipps) 1865-1947

Shorter, Clement King, 1857-1926

Skilbeck, William Wray, 1864-1919

Spare, Austin Osman, 1888-1955

Sparrow, Walter Shaw, 1862-

Sparroy, Wilfrid

Spender, John A. (John Alfred), 1862-1942

Stacpoole, H. De Vere (Henry De Vere), 1863-1951

Statham, H. Heathcote (Henry Heathcote), 1839-1924

Stebbing, Edward Percy, 1870-1960

Steele, Marshall

Steuart, A. Francis (Archibald Francis)

Stevenson, George, 1875-

Stewart, Charlotte, 1863-

Stirling, A.M.W. (Anna Maria Wilhelmina) 1865-1965

Swettenham, Frank Athelstane, Sir, 1850-1946

Syrett, Netta

Tabb, John B. (John Banister), 1845-1909

Thackery, Francis St. John, 1832-1919

Thompson, Silvanus Phillips, 1851-1916

Thompson, Theodora

Trask, Katrina, 1853-1922

Trevor, Roy, 1869-1922

Turnor, Christopher Hatton, 1873-

Turrell, Charles

Upton, A. Mowbray

Vizetelly, Ernest Alfred, 1853-1922

Watson, Robinson

Watson, William, 1858-1935

Watts-Dunton, Theodore, 1832-1914

Way, Thomas R. (Thomas Robert), 1861-1913

Wells, H.G. (Herbert George), 1866-1946

Whale, Winifred Stephens

Willcocks, M.P. (Mary Patricia), 1869-

Willett, B.W.

Williamson, George Charles, 1858-1942

Wingfield-Straford, Esmé Cecil, 1882-

Woods, Margaret L. (Margaret Louisa), 1856

Yeats, W.B. (William Butler), 1865-1939

Young, Florence Ethel Mills, 1875-1945


James B. Pinker & Son


Lane, John, 1854-1925

John Lane Company

Publishers and publishing, Great Britain, Biography

Great Britain, Intellectual lifestyle, 19th century, Sources

Great Britain, Intellectural lifestyle, 20th century, Sources

Document Types


Cartoons (humorous images)

Christmas cards


Galley proofs

Legal documents