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Rigby Rigby i(A36934 works by) (Organisation) assertion (a.k.a. Rigby Ltd; Rigby Limited)
Born: Established: 1859 Adelaide, South Australia, ; Died: Ceased: 1984 Adelaide, South Australia,
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English immigrant William Charles Rigby who had 'a sound knowledge of books and stationery' opened a bookshop at 53 Hindley St Adelaide in 1859, landing five cases of books valued at 229 pounds. By 1875, the business had grown so much that he built new premises at 64 King William St, soon becoming one of Adelaide's leading booksellers, a position he retained until his retirement in 1909. Aside from retailing books, occasionally the company published a book under its own imprint. After Rigby's death in 1913, Rigby became a limited company under the management of John Morley Bath who published occasional books including Women of South Australia in the State's centenary year, as well as the Pixie O'Harris Fairy Book, and Arthur Gask's mystery novel The Secret of the Sandhills.

The Rigby business diversified but struggled in the 1920s and early 1930s but was revived when Bath's elder daughter Mary married Vernon Branson in 1931. Branson was a book lover who learned the business and became the managing director when the company went public. By 1939 the company was thriving; prosperity was interrupted by World War Two. In 1945 when Bath died, Branson took over as Managing Director. Rigby moved into educational publishing in 1947 and started publishing general books - 'books by and for Australians' - in the 1960s. 'Bread and butter' general titles included Green and Gold Cookery, Handbook of Physical Activities and A. Bertram Cox's Farming is Fun.

In 1956, all of Rigby's Adelaide operations were consolidated at new premises in James Place, which was the most up-to-date wholesale warehouse at that time in Australia. Thereafter, Rigby's list and especially its textbook list expanded rapidly.

Though Rigby is better known for educational publishing, especially its Happy Venture and Wide Range readers which sold in the millions, during the 1960s and 1970s it published a large number of Australiana titles, such as the Dreamtime books, The Art of Hans Heysen, The Art of Ivor Hele and The Paintings of Tom Roberts, and re-published many Australian classic novels. From the early1960s until his retirement in 1973, Branson was assisted by Fred Cawte who led educational publishing, as well as Ian Mudie, then Michael Page, who developed the fiction list. Rigby's fiction authors included Colin Theile. In 1968 Branson initiated two popular series, the Seal Australian paperback series and Instant Books series, which were published by Althea Tebbutt. Instant Books were pocket-sized information books on a wide range of topics that 'sold in their millions'.

By the 1970s Rigby produced a wide range of titles, had established branches in all states of Australia, and distributed books for several large overseas agencies including Octopus. It also had a major investment in the educational market. By 1977 Rigby was the country's largest Australian-owned book publisher, representing 35% of the sales of Australian-owned publishing. Staff totalled over 250, half of whom were based in Adelaide, half in branch offices in other mainland cities. In 1977, too, Octopus and MacMillan were both interested in buying Rigby but offers did not eventuate; the Octopus franchise was ended in mid-1978.

In 1979, Rigby Limited was acquired by asbestos manufacturer James Hardie Ltd and in 1984 publisher and manager Frank Thompson and all Rigby staff were dismissed; it survived 'for a while' as a subdivision of the Reed Elsevier group.

Most Referenced Works

Known archival holdings

Albinski 191
Last amended 26 Jun 2007 11:01:27
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