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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
Dates: 1856-1933 (bulk 1894-1930)
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.
Call Number: Manuscript Collection MS-02195
Language: English
Access: Open for research

Administrative Information

Acquisition: Purchases, 1986-1998 (R10976, R12321, R14286)
Processed by: Bob Taylor, 2000

Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Organizational History

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.

Series Descriptions

Series I. Business Records, 1856-1933 (bulk 1894-1930), 63 boxes.
This series is arranged in two subseries: A. Correspondence, 1856-1933 (62 boxes), B. Other Records, 1895-1928 (1 box).
The large Subseries A includes letters from over three thousand correspondents dealing with matters typically raised by authors--queries about manuscripts submitted, about accepted manuscripts "in process" before publication, about royalties not received, about advertising campaigns. These queries were in part addressed to Lane himself, but in many cases were directed to members of the editorial staff. Other topics occur within the series: efforts of Lane and others to obtain a pension for Thomas Hake, readers inquiring whether or not The Love of an Unknown Soldier is a work of fiction, acknowledgements from ships' crews and prison camp inmates for books supplied by the firm during World War One.
Some idea of the range and character of the correspondence included in Subseries A may be suggested by noting the presence of significant groups of letters from F. P. Barnard, John Buchan, Lord Alfred Douglas, Kenneth Grahame, Vernon Lee, J. Lewis May, the Baron Redesdale, Clement K. Shorter, and M. P. Willcocks.
In the absence of a good biography of John Lane it is difficult to place many of the letters--particularly early ones--written to him, but it is likely many of these correspondents were relatives or friends from his early years in London.
Virtually nothing from the period of Lane's partnership with Elkin Mathews survives in the records, apart from a group of remarkable letters written Lane by Edward Shelley, a young man hired by Lane (it has been said) to spy on Mathews and later involved with Oscar Wilde.
Internal communications of the firm are not systematically represented--those included in the records date primarily from 1898 to about 1903 and from 1915 to 1920. Even so, there are enough from Lane to his lieutenants (Frederic Chapman, Roland Clarke, B. W. Willett, and Herbert Jenkins) to give some idea of how the firm functioned. There are also a substantial number of letters to Lane from Jenkins written during Lane's trips to New York between 1900 and 1903. Outgoing correspondence is limited to a single folder.
The small group of "other records" represented in subseries B is varied, but not without interest. A journal kept by Temple Scott during his brief tenure in Lane's New York office in 1900 is present, as are some fragmentary financial records. A file dealing with a lawsuit brought about by Lane's publication of Odette Keun's My Adventures in Bolshevik Russia completes the subseries.
Series II. Creative Work, 1894-1930, 12.5 boxes.
This series is arranged in two subseries: A. Readers' reports, 1894-1930 (10.5 boxes), B. Manuscripts, 1894-1917 (2 boxes).
Subseries A contains a substantial number of readers' reports prepared for manuscripts submitted to the firm between 1894 and 1930. These reports are arranged chronologically by year submitted and alphabetically by submitting author thereunder. In the main the reports were written by various members of the firm, but others requiring specialized knowledge were commissioned. Many of the reports were initialed or signed, and others can be identified by handwriting. The reports are a valuable source of information on the firm's publishing guidelines and also on the kinds of manuscripts being submitted to them in the period.
Subseries B includes the manuscript of Lascelles Abercrombie's Emblems of Love, as well as the galleys to Interludes and Poems, marked with his manuscript corrections. Also present are typescripts of H. B. L. Webb's The Silences of the Moon and Charles S. Wayne's A Prince to Order. A number of works by William Watson are represented in manuscript or typescript, together with incomplete galleys of his Collected Poems and Poems vol. 1-2.
Series III. John Lane Personal Materials, 1869-1925, 1 box.
This final series comprises such a mixture of bits and pieces relating to the life of John Lane the man that it can be regarded as little more than a collection of biographical clues. A 30-page typescript autobiography carries Lane's life up to the point of his departure for London. Another group of notes appears to be the beginnings of an intended history of British and European art in India. A group of theater programs issued between 1869 and 1896 suggest Lane's interest in the lively arts and are in several cases annotated in his hand with the names of his fellow theater-goers.

Scope and Contents

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.

Index Terms:


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

John Lane Company Records--Folder List