Herbert van Thal

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Bertie Maurice van Thal (1904–1983), known as Herbert van Thal, was a British bookseller, publisher, agent, biographer, and anthologist.


Van Thal's grandfather was a distiller (King's Liqueur Whisky), and was a director of the theatre proprietors, Howard and Wyndham. Henry Irving and Harry Lauder were friends of the family.[1]

After the Second World War, he founded the short-lived publishing house of Home and van Thal, with his friends Margaret Douglas-Home and Gwylim Fielden Hughes. The house was known as a "mushroom" publisher, since it sprang up overnight after the war. Later he became a general editor of the Doughty Library published by Anthony Blond.[2]

Van Thal was a friend and publisher of the critic James Agate, whom he met in 1932. He had been impressed by Agate's review of Wycherley's The Country Wife. Agate once described him as looking like "a sleek, well-groomed dormouse" out of a John Tenniel illustration of Alice in Wonderland, due to Bertie's tendency to dress in a dapper suit, bow tie, monocle, and black shiny shoes. [3]

He had deep familiarity with Victorian literature, opera, and Restoration dramatists. He was one of the first publishers to recognize the talent of Hermann Hesse, and reprinted novels by George Gissing and Theodore Hook. He also edited anthologies of detective and horror stories; the Pan Book of Horror Stories series ran to 24 volumes, from 1959 to 1983. He edited an anthology of Hilaire Belloc for Allen and Unwin in 1970, and edited the papers of famous music-critic Ernest Newman.[4][5]


Editor and Pan Book of Horror Stories expert Johnny Mains is credited with writing the first biography on van Thal. Lest You Should Suffer Nightmares was first published as an addendum to the critically acclaimed anthology Back From the Dead: The Legacy of the Pan Book of Horror Stories (Noose and Gibbet Publishing 2010) and was reprinted as a stand-alone book by Screaming Dreams in 2011 with artwork by Les Edwards.


  1. ^ Van Thal, H., The Tops of the Mulberry Trees, London, George Allen & Unwin Ltd, 1971.
  2. ^ "Arthur Waugh Reminisces About Gissing" Gissing Journal Volume XXX Number 4 October 1994
  3. ^ Agate. A Biography, James Harding, Methuen London, 1986.
  4. ^ Ernest Newman, Testament of Music: Essays and Papers, ed. H. Van Thal. (London: Putnam, 1962)
  5. ^ Herbert Van Thal, Fanfare for Ernest Newman. (London : A. Barker, 1955)