Ernest Benn Limited

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Ernest Benn Limited
FounderSir John Benn
Defunct1987 Edit this on Wikidata
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Publication typesBooks, magazines

Ernest Benn Limited was a British publishing house.

Sir John Benn[edit]

Founded by Sir John Benn as Benn Brothers in 1880, it started as the publisher of the trade journal, The Cabinet Maker.[1]

Ernest Benn[edit]

After Sir John was elected to Parliament in 1892, he passed control of the firm to his eldest son Ernest, who became managing director and started publishing more trade journals, such as Gas World, the Fruit Grower and the Electrician, as well as "technical books for each specialized public".[2] In 1923, Ernest changed the name of the firm to Ernest Benn Limited.[1] However, the name 'Benn Brothers' was subsequently revived with the formation of Benn Brothers plc.[3]

Benn hired Victor Gollancz in 1921.[4] Gollancz published a very successful series of art books. He later recruited the writers Edith Nesbit, Robert W. Service and H. G. Wells.[citation needed]

Thanks to Gollancz's gifts as a publisher, the company's turnover increased 100-fold in seven years. But Benn was unwilling to cede control of the company to him. Moreover, Benn had moved to the political right and Gollancz to the left. Gollancz left the firm in 1927 to form his own firm, Victor Gollancz Limited.[5]

The firm published a number of books for children and young people, including The Story of the Amulet (1927) by E. Nesbit, Moominsummer Madness (1955) by Tove Jansson, Donkey Days (1977) by Helen Cresswell, and Sybil and the Blue Rabbit (1979) by Jane Johnson.[6]

Book series[edit]

In addition to individual books, Ernest Benn Limited was known for a number of series:

  • Benn's Essex Library[7]
  • Benn's Yellow Books
  • The Blue Guides – travel guides (previously published by Muirhead)
  • Chats Series: Practical Handbooks for Collectors
  • Contemporary British Artists[8]
  • Contemporary British Dramatists
  • Drawings of the Great Masters
  • Kai Khosru Monographs on Eastern Art
  • Leaders in Philosophy[9]
  • Mermaid Critical Commentaries
  • Mermaid Series[10] – reprints of English Elizabethan, Jacobean and Restoration plays
  • The New Mermaids – new version of Benn's Mermaid Series[11]
  • New Ninepenny Novels
  • The Players' Shakespeare
  • Self and Society Booklets[12]
  • Sixpenny Library[13] – early paperback educational series[14]
  • Sixpenny Poets[15]
  • Stead's Poets, begun by W. T. Stead in 1895 and re-issued by Benn from  ?–1926[16][17]
  • Stories of the Commonwealth Series
  • Tolley Tax Guides[18]
  • University College (London) Monographs on English Mediæval Art


Ernest Benn Ltd, along with Benn Brothers plc and the other members of the Benn Group of Companies, was taken over by the Extel Group in June 1983.[19][20] Extel was taken over by United Newspapers in 1987.[19][21]


  1. ^ a b "John Benn", Spartacus Educational
  2. ^ Ruth Dudley Edwards, Victor Gollancz: A Biography, Faber & Faber, 2012 (Faber Finds) (ebook edition), chapter 7. Retrieved 5 July 2020.
  3. ^ Benn Group of Companies Staff Handbook (1984)
  4. ^ Ruth Dudley Edwards, Victor Gollancz: A Biography, Faber & Faber, 2012 (Faber Finds) (ebook edition), chapter 6. Retrieved 5 July 2020.
  5. ^ Rubin, Merle. "The story of Britain's colorful, contradictory publisher Gollancz". The Christian Science Monitor.
  6. ^ Ernest Benn Limited (London and Tonbridge), Retrieved 5 July 2020.
  7. ^ Essex Library (Ernest Benn), Retrieved 5 July 2020.
  8. ^ "Contemporary Artists", The Queenslander, 26 July 1924, p. 3. Retrieved 6 July 2020.
  9. ^ Leaders of Philosophy (Ernest Benn) - Book Series List, Retrieved 12 October 2021.
  10. ^ Mermaid Series, Retrieved 5 July 2020.
  11. ^ The New Mermaids (Ernest Benn) – Book Series List, Retrieved 5 July 2020.
  12. ^ "Self and Society Booklets" (review), The Spectator, 2 February 1929, pp. 23-24. Retrieved 5 July 2020.
  13. ^ Benn's Sixpenny Library (Ernest Benn Limited) – Book Series List, Retrieved 5 July 2020.
  14. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica, Web edition, 20 December 2012, s.v. Ernest John Pickstone Benn, 2nd Baronet
  15. ^ D. H. Lawrence, The Letters of D. H. Lawrence, Cambridge University Press, 1989 (2002 paperback reprint), p. 626. Retrieved 5 July 2020.
  16. ^ "The Penny Poets (The Masterpiece Library: Series I) ("Review of Reviews Office"; Stead's Publishing House) – Book Series List". Retrieved 22 February 2021.
  17. ^ "Sally Wood-Lamont, "W.T. Stead's Books for the Bairns" | W.T. Stead Resource Site". Retrieved 22 February 2021.
  18. ^ Tingley, Kenneth Raymond (1989). Tolley's retirement relief. p. i. Retrieved 20 April 2021.
  19. ^ a b Eric L Harvey, A Short History of Tolley, p 4
  20. ^ "United leaves Benn to Extel". The Glasgow Herald. 20 May 1983. Retrieved 18 January 2015.
  21. ^ Watts, Robert. "How family money embarrassed Hilary Benn". The Daily Telegraph.