Archives of The Longman Group

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Longman premises suffered from two fires, the first in 1861 and the second in the Blitz in December 1940. The archives which remain are therefore not complete, but do form an extensive collection. They are divided into three parts

Part I contains ledgers, registers and bound records relating to the publishing side of the business. They include 'commission' and 'divide' records (referring to items published at the author's expense or with division of profits between author and publisher) 1807-1913; royalty ledgers 1884-1908; statement books 1902-1941; records of dates of publication and of legal deposit 1843-1933; London letter books 1811-1837, 1881, 1914, 1936-1940; Bangkok letter book 1901-1907; Indian letter books 1902-1905, 1929-1945; impression books (recording costs and numbers of copies printed) 1794-1963; copyright ledgers 1794-1926; catalogues of antiquarian books 1814-1846; monthly lists produced for the book trade1858-1917; notes on books published (for the book trade) 1855-1948.

Part II consists of miscellaneous items deemed worthy of preservation by the firm at various points. They include copies booksellers' trade catalogues and lists 1718-1768; correspondence about the discount allowed to booksellers 1894-1898; notebooks and research material of C.J. Longman relating to the publication of House of Longman 1724-1800; selective Longman lists and prospectuses 1802-1901; autograph letters from Longman authors 1799-1900 (authors include Matthew Arnold, Winston Churchill, Edward Bulwer Lytton, Florence Nightingale, Christina Rossetti, Robert Southey, Sir Walter Scott, Charles Dickens, Benjamin Disraeli, William Wordsworth and Thomas Babington Macaulay); scrapbooks of Walter Jefferay, manager of the New York office, 1903-1930s; sundry articles, pamphlets, letters etc. relating to Longman authors 1746-1974; counterpart leases, mortgages and other deeds for Longman properties 1669-1879; papers relating to foreign copyrights 1863-1913; partners' ledgers 1856-1925; staff ledgers 1876-1913; William Longman's letter book 1902-1925 and loose copy-letters 1925-1931; memoranda and certificates relating to share capital 1838-1937; directors' minutes 1931-1948; administrative correspondence files 1930-1970; photographs, prints and drawings of members of the Longman family c. 1800-1962; photographs of Longman staff and premises 1890-1927; letters of condolence on the deaths of Thomas Norton Longman in 1842 and of Thomas Longman IV in 1879;news cuttings and obituaries referring to the Longman family 1877-1896; Longman advertisements and publicity 1916-1967; staff registers 1793-1965; staff memoranda 1862-1901; obituaries and cuttings relating to Longman staff; authors' agreements c. 1800-1959; letters, notes, photographs etc. relating to the history of the Longman family 1662-1972; publishing correspondence 1950-1972.

Contained in both Part I and Part II of the archive are papers relating to firms acquired by Longmans. These include J.W. Parker, Son and Bourne; Sir Richard Phillips; A.J. Valpy; Thomas Cadell.

Part III contains books published by or connected with the firm. These include books with the imprint of precursors of Thomas Longman I at the Sign of the Ship in Paternoster Row; books relating to Longman history; Longman's magazine 1882-1905; selected books with Longman imprints 1725-1970s.

Administrative / Biographical History

In 1724, aged twenty-four, Thomas Longman bought the business in Paternoster Row which had been built up by William Taylor, and in doing so founded one of the great family publishing houses, which his descendants would continue to manage for the next two and a half centuries. He died in 1755 and was succeeded by his nephew Thomas Longman II, who continued to develop the business until the end of the century. It was the third Thomas Longman, who took over in 1797, who led the firm to a position as one of the most distinguished publishing houses of its time. In partnership with Owen Rees, he bought the copyrights of Joseph Cottle, Bristol, when the latter retired in 1799, and began the new century with the publication of the work of Wordsworth and Sir Walter Scott, becoming part of the great renaissance of English poetry, as well as continuing to publish scholarly works on a wide range of subjects. In 1842 the fourth Thomas Longman took over the business, which he managed together with his brother William, and they were succeeded by their sons in the later years of the century. The firm continued to be successful in different fields, with authors including Macaulay, Disraeli, Christina Rossetti and Florence Nightingale. This period also saw the takeover of John W. Parker, Son, & Bourne, in 1863, and of the business of Francis Hansard Rivington on his retirement in 1890. The company gained a new focus with the arrival in 1884 of the schoolteacher J.W. Allen, who was keen to build up the educational lists and to develop markets in India and elsewhere. The schools and academic publishing were to remain a key part of the firm's output.

The sixth generation of Longmans, Robert Guy and William L., became partners in 1909. They took a keen interest in expanding the overseas branches. Educational publishing continued to be the mainstay of the firm during the twentieth century, but their literary reputation was maintained, with authors such as Stella Gibbons, Mary Renault and Thornton Wilder, and later Gavin Maxwell, Stevie Smith and the children's writer Leon Garfield. Other useful earners were Roget's Thesaurus and Gray's Anatomy. The firm survived the destruction of the Paternoster Row offices and most of their stock in the blitz and in 1948 became a public company. In the late 1950s Longmans joined many of the larger publishing houses in leaving London, establishing new premises at Harlow in Essex. The independence of the firm finally came to end in 1968, when they accepted a bid by the Financial and Provincial Publishing Company, becoming chief publishers in a group which also included the medical publishers J. & A. Churchill and E. & S. Livingstone, and the general and educational lists of Oliver & Boyd. Shortly afterwards Constable Young Books was amalgamated with the Longmans juvenile list. The chairman of the group was Mark Longman, last of the family to manage the business, who in 1970 negotiated a merger with Penguin Books. By his death in 1972 the group was known as the Pearson Longman Group.

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

The company

Note

This description was compiled by Bridget Andrews

Other Finding Aids

An item level list is available