Pergamon Press

Pergamon Press was an Oxford-based publishing house, founded by Paul Rosbaud and Robert Maxwell, that published scientific and medical books and journals. Originally called Butterworth-Springer, it is now an imprint of Elsevier.

Pergamon Press
Parent companyElsevier
FounderPaul Rosbaud
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Headquarters locationOxford
Nonfiction topicsScience and Medicine


The core company, Butterworth-Springer, started in 1948 to bring the "Springer know-how and techniques of aggressive publishing in science"[1] to Britain. Paul Rosbaud was the man with the knowledge. When Maxwell acquired the company in 1951, Rosbaud held a one-quarter share.[1] They changed the house name to Pergamon Press, using a logo that was a reproduction of a Greek coin from Pergamon. Maxwell and Rosbaud worked together growing the company until May 1956, when, according to Joe Haines, Rosbaud was sacked.

When Pergamon Press started it had only six serials and two books. Initially the company headquarters was in Fitzroy Square in West End of London. In 1959 the company moved into Headington Hill Hall, a country home rented from the city of Oxford.

In 1960 Brian Cox joined Pergamon Press as subscription manager. After the founders' deaths, Cox has become the primary witness to the phenomenal rise of Pergamon Press in the Science, Technology, and Medicine (STM) sector of publishing. The 59 Pergamon academic journals in 1960 became 418 journals in 1992. Cox recalls that in the process some 700 were launched, many transmogrifying rather than ceasing. Cox says "The secret of Pergamon's success was to publish a large number of journals, so that the established titles could support the new ones during their formative years".[2]

In 1962 Pergamon Press started the series called The Commonwealth and International Library of Sciences, Technology, Engineering, and Liberal Studies. By 1970 this series had 1000 titles. Brian Cox says that in all, Pergamon published 7,000 monographs for various authors.[2]

In 1964 Pergamon Press became a public company. With its growth and export performance, the company was a recipient of one of the Queen's Awards for Enterprise in 1966. That year saw construction of a new office block and warehouse at Headington Hill. Pergamon ventured to produce an Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Physics, in nine volumes and four supplements in the decade from 1961.

In 1969, Maxwell lost control of Pergamon and was ejected from the board.[3] An inquiry by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) under the Takeover Code of the time reported in mid-1971:[4] "We regret having to conclude that, notwithstanding Mr Maxwell's acknowledged abilities and energy, he is not in our opinion a person who can be relied on to exercise proper stewardship of a publicly quoted company." It was found that Maxwell had contrived to maximise Pergamon's share price through transactions between his private family companies.[5] Maxwell reacquired Pergamon in 1974 after borrowing funds.[6]

Pergamon continued with International Encyclopedias in biotechnology, chemistry, education, engineering, entomology, linguistics, materials science, and pharmacology & toxicology. The one in education won the Dartmouth Medal from the American Library Association in 1986 as the best reference work of the year.[2]

Pergamon also has offices in Elmsford, New York in the United States.

In his biography of Robert Maxwell,[7] Tom Bower says that Maxwell sold most Pergamon Press to academic publishing giant Elsevier in March 1991 for £440 million to keep his other companies afloat. This is contrary to what is reported in the New York Times[8] that, following Maxwell's death in November 1991, Elsevier bought most of the company for $US770 million after a failed bid by Simon & Schuster. Maxwell retained Pergamon's US books (which became part of sister company Macmillan Inc.), Chess and Bridge, and some smaller properties.[9] The imprint "Pergamon Press" continues to be used to identify journals now published by Elsevier.

See also


  1. Joe Haines (1988) Maxwell, Houghton Mifflin, p. 137. ISBN 0-395-48929-6
  2. Brian Cox (1998) "The Pergamon phenomenon 1951 1991: a memoir of the Maxwell years", Logos: forum of the world book community 9,3 13540
  3. Nicholas Davenport "Money: The End of the Affair", The Spectator, 17 October 1969, p.22
  4. Whitney, Craig R. "Robert Maxwell, 68: From Refugee to the Ruthless Builder of a Publishing Empire - The New York Times". Retrieved 2018-05-25.
  5. Dennis Barker and Christopher Sylvester. "Robert Maxwell obituary | Politics". The Guardian. Retrieved 2018-05-25.
  6. "Robert Maxwell: Overview",
  7. Tom Bower (1991) Maxwell the outsider, Viking Penguin, p. 436. ISBN 978-0-749-30238-2
  8. Cohen, Roger (1991-06-30). "Profits - Dick Snyder's Ugly Word". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-04-03.
  9. Feldman, Gayle (1991-06-21). [ "Going Dutch: Wolters Kluwer and Elsevier are quietly building PSP empires on both sides of the Atlantic"] Check |url= value (help). Publishers Weekly. 238 (27). pp. 19–. ISSN 0000-0019. Retrieved 2019-05-05.
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