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Stanley Unwin (publisher)

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Stanley Unwin
Portrait by Walter Stoneman, 1946.
Stanley Unwin

(1884-12-19)19 December 1884
Lee, Lewisham, England, United Kingdom
Died13 October 1968(1968-10-13) (aged 83)
London, England, United Kingdom
Burial placeGolders Green Crematorium
Known forFounder of Allen & Unwin
SpouseAlice Mary Storr (m. 1914–1968)
  • Elizabeth Spicer Unwin (1916–1916)
  • David Severn (1918–2010)
  • Ruth Severn Unwin (1920–1998)
  • Rayner Unwin (1925–2000)

Sir Stanley Unwin, KCMG (19 December 1884 – 13 October 1968) was a British publisher, who founded the Allen & Unwin publishing firm.[1]



Unwin started his career at the publishing firm of his step-uncle Thomas Fisher Unwin. In 1914, Stanley Unwin purchased a controlling interest in the firm George Allen and Sons, and established George Allen & Unwin, later to become Allen and Unwin.[2]

The company found success publishing authors such as Bertrand Russell, Sidney Webb, R. H. Tawney and Mahatma Gandhi.[2]

In the 1930s, Unwin published two bestsellers by Lancelot Hogben: Mathematics for the Million and Science for the Citizen.[3]

In 1936, J. R. R. Tolkien submitted The Hobbit for publication and Unwin paid his ten-year-old son Rayner Unwin a shilling to write a report on the manuscript.[4] Rayner's favourable response prompted Unwin to publish the book. Once the book became a success, Unwin asked Tolkien for a sequel, which eventually became the bestselling The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien had wanted to publish The Silmarillion, but it was turned down for being "too Celtic"; it was finally published after his death by Allen & Unwin in 1977.

In 1950, Unwin published another bestseller, Thor Heyerdahl's The Kon-Tiki Expedition.

During his career Unwin was active in book trade organs such as the Publishers Association, the International Publishers Association and the British Council.[2]

Personal life


Stanley Unwin was born on 19 December 1884 at 13 Handen Road, Lee, Lewisham, south-east London. His father was Edward Unwin (1840–1933) and his mother was Elizabeth Unwin (née Spicer). Edward Unwin was a printer whose father, Jacob Unwin, was the founder of the printing firm Unwin Brothers.

The publisher Thomas Fisher Unwin was his father's youngest stepbrother, therefore Stanley Unwin's step-uncle. The children's author Ursula Moray Williams was his niece.[5]

Unwin was a lifelong pacifist, and during the First World War, as a conscientious objector, he joined the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD).[6]

Unwin died on 13 October 1968 and was honoured with a blue plaque at his birthplace.



  • The Price of Books (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1925)
  • The Truth About Publishing (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1926; 8th revised edition, Allen & Unwin, 1976)
  • Book Trade Organisation in Norway and Sweden (1932)
  • The Book in the Making (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1933)
  • Two Young Men See the World (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1934). Joint author: Severn Storr.
  • The Danish Book Trade Organisation (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1937)
  • Best-sellers: Are They Born or Made? (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1939). Joint authors: George Stevens and Frank Swinnerton.
  • Publishing in Peace and War (London : George Allen & Unwin, 1944)
  • On Translations (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1946)
  • How Governments Treat Books (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1950)
  • The Truth About a Publisher: An Autobiographical Record (New York: Macmillan, 1960)
  • Fifty Years with Father: A Relationship (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1982)


  1. ^ "Obituary: Sir Stanley Unwin". The Times. 15 October 1968. p. 13.
  2. ^ a b c "Stanley Unwin | Authors | Faber & Faber". www.faber.co.uk. Archived from the original on 4 January 2019. Retrieved 31 May 2018.
  3. ^ Primers for the Age of Plenty (George Allen & Unwin) - Book Series List, publishinghistory.com. Retrieved 4 May 2019.
  4. ^ Plimmer, Charlotte and Denis (21 October 2015). "JRR Tolkien: 'Film my books? Its easier to film the Odyssey'". The Daily Telegraph. London, UK. Retrieved 20 February 2016.
  5. ^ "Obituaries: Ursula Moray Williams". The Independent. London, UK: INM. 7 November 2006. Archived from the original on 24 May 2022. Retrieved 20 February 2016.
  6. ^ Dictionary of National Biography.

Further reading

  • Philip Unwin, The Publishing Unwins (London: William Heinemann Ltd., 1972)
  • Philip Unwin, The Printing Unwins (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1976)