Archives of Swan Sonnenschein & Co

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The collection contains letterbooks 1878-1911, together with some incoming correspondence 1882-1916, minute books of directors' meetings 1895-1913, account books 1884-1903, articles of association 1895, and balance sheets 1902-1910.

Administrative / Biographical History

William Swan Sonnenschein was born in 1855, third of the six children of Adolphus Sonnenschein, a teacher and writer of textbooks originally from Moravia, and his first wife Sarah Robinson Stallybrass. William's name derived from the fact that his maternal grandfather, Edward Stallybrass, had been a missionary to Mongolia with William Swan and they worked on a Mongolian translation of the New Testament together.

As a young man William was apprenticed to the firm of Williams and Norgate where he gained experience of second hand bookselling before founding his own company, W. Swan Sonnenschein & Allen, with the first of several partners, J. Archibald Allen, in 1878. This partnership was dissolved in 1882 when William married and the firm's name changed to W Swan Sonnenschein & Co. The firm published general literature and periodicals but specialised in sociology and politics. Sonnenschein was involved with the Ethical Society and published their literature.

In 1895 Swan Sonnenschein became a limited liability company and in 1902 William Swan Sonnenschein left to work at George Routledge and Sons and later at Kegan Paul. Swan Sonnenschein was amalgamated with George Allen & Co in 1911.

In the light of the hostility to Germans during the First World War William Swan Sonnenschein changed his surname to Stallybrass for the remainder of his life as did some, but not all, of his family. He died in 1934.

Conditions Governing Access

Open to all researchers. No reader's ticket is required but an appointment is necessary. Check www.reading.ac.uk/special-collections/using/sc-using.asp for contact details and opening hours.

Acquisition Information

MSS 3280 and 3282 deposited by Allen & Unwin 1984-1987, MS 4058 bought from Ian Jackson, 1993

Other Finding Aids

An index to a microfilm of MS 3280 was compiled by Chadwyck Healey

Archivist's Note

This description was compiled by Gil Skidmore with reference to various sources including From Swan Sonnenschein to George Allen & Unwin, Ltd by Frank Arthur Mumby, London, 1955.