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Hamlyn Hamlyn i(A38396 works by) (Organisation) assertion (a.k.a. Paul Hamlyn; Hamlyn Publishing; Paul Hamlyn Pty Ltd)
Born: Established: 1950 London,
United Kingdom (UK),
Western Europe, Europe,
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One of the small group of German Jewish refugees who did much to rejuvenate British publishing after the Second World War, Paul Bertrand Hamlyn maintained the fundamental social consciousness of his class and race, but, unlike his colleagues, was more interested in building a profitable company than in receiving kudos for publishing serious literature. In this respect, Nicholas Faith writes in 2001 that there seemed to be 'a marked contrast between the brave, generous, apparently insouciant private Hamlyn and the businessman once described as "chillingly ruthless"' (n. pag.). From the very beginning, Hamlyn's outlook was also international. He was one of the pioneers of simultaneously publishing books (especially illustrated ones) in a number of different languages in order to minimise the costs. Later, he was one of the first publishers to have his books printed in Hong Kong and, until 1997, was chairman of one of the biggest printers in the former colony, Mandarin Offset.

The second son of a leading Jewish paediatrician, Professor Richard Hamburger, Hamlyn was born Paul Hamburger in Berlin on 12 February 1926. He came to England with his family in 1933 and was educated at the Hall School, which served as a training ground for many Jewish intellectuals of his and later generations. Rebelling against his background, Hamlyn changed his name at age fifteen, and opened his first bookshop in 1947, using a legacy left to him by his grandfather. Situated in Camden Town, the shop sold mostly publishers' remainders and anything else he could get hold of. He even employed London barrow boys to augment his sales. According to Hamlyn, news of his 'costermongering' activities was not received well by his family ('Lord Hamlyn'). The decision to begin publishing came about in 1949, when stocks of the books he bought cheaply ran low and he realised that an opportunity to enter the market was not only possible but likely profitable, too. As with Allen Lane, founder of Penguin, Hamlyn made his first fortune selling through non-traditional outlets. The name of his first imprint, Books for Pleasure, became as central to his business philosophy as his desire to publish 'fine books with the common touch.' His success in this venture led to his founding, in 1965, Music for Pleasure, a label that produced popular and classical music at budget prices.

In 1964, Hamlyn sold his business to Cecil King's International Publishing Corporation (IPC) for over £2m, becoming a main board director and chairman of the group's publishing interests. When King was deposed after a boardroom struggle in 1969, Hamlyn found that he could not work with the successor and soon afterwards left to start his second business, Octopus Books. The year after Hamlyn left IPC, that company, including Hamlyn Publishing, was bought out by printing company Albert E. Reed (which became Reed International in 1974). Hamlyn's success with Octopus during the 1970s and early 1980s led to him reacquiring his publishing interests from Reed in 1986. In the same year, he established the Mandarin Paperbacks imprint and subsequently combined all his operations, including the Heinemann Group (acquired in 1985), under the one name: Hamlyn Publishing Group. The following year, however, Hamlyn surprisingly resold the whole organisation to Reed for £528m in shares, making him that corporation's biggest single shareholder. The deal allowed him to remain chairman of Octopus. In this role, he oversaw the purchase of a number of publishing houses, notably Methuen, Eyre and Spottiswoode, and George Philip. He also orchestrated a fifty-percent purchase of Book Club Associates.

In 2001, Hatchette Livre bought Octopus Publishing from Reed International. By then, Hamlyn had effectively become an Octopus imprint, a situation in which it still finds itself today.

Hamlyn himself died on 31 August 2001.

Most Referenced Works


  • Publisher's Website

    Further Reference

    Faith, Nicholas. 'Lord Hamlyn.' (Obituary.) Independent 4 Sept. 2001. Online (sighted: 16/06/2011).

    'Lord Hamlyn.' (Obituary.) Telegraph 4 Sept. 2001. Online (sighted: 16/06/2011).

Last amended 16 Jun 2011 13:53:06
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