The Bodley Head

The Bodley Head is an English publishing house, founded in 1887 and existing as an independent entity until the 1970s. The name was used as an imprint of Random House Children's Books from 1987 to 2008. In April 2008, it was revived as an adult non-fiction imprint within Random House's CCV division.

The Bodley Head
Parent companyPenguin Random House
Founded1887 (1887)
FounderJohn Lane and Elkin Mathews
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Headquarters locationLondon
Publication typesBooks

As of 2019, The Bodley Head is an imprint of Vintage Publishing UK.


Originally Elkin Mathews and John Lane, The Bodley Head was a partnership set up in 1887 by John Lane (18541925) and Elkin Mathews (18511921), to trade in antiquarian books in London. It took its name from a bust of Sir Thomas Bodley, the eponymist of the Bodleian Library in Oxford, above the shop door. Lane and Mathews began in 1894 to publish works of ‘stylish decadence’, including the notorious literary periodical The Yellow Book. Also notable amongst Bodley Head's pre-Great War books were the two volume sets: Foundations of the Nineteenth Century (1910 and later editions, selling over fifty thousand copies), and Immanuel Kant, both by Houston Stewart Chamberlain.

Herbert George Jenkins was a manager at the firm during the first decade of the twentieth century, before leaving to set up his own publishing house in 1912.[1] The Bodley Head became a private company in 1921. In 1926 it published the Book of Bodley Head Verse, an anthology edited by J. B. Priestley. The firm published some mainstream popular authors such as Arnold Bennett and Agatha Christie but ran into financial difficulties. It continued after 1936 backed by a consortium of Allen & Unwin, Jonathan Cape, and J. M. Dent. Allen Lane, John Lane's nephew who had inherited control, finally left to found Penguin Books.

In the 1930s, "The Bodley Head" was used as a series title by Penguin Books. For Example A Short History of the World by H. G. Wells appeared in the series in 1936.

The firm was bought in 1957 by Ansbacher & Co., headed by Max Reinhardt. During this period Bodley Head published the work of authors such as George Bernard Shaw, Graham Greene, Charles Chaplin, William Trevor, Maurice Sendak, Muriel Spark, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Sam Haskins and Alistair Cooke. Max Reinhardt was also responsible for the expansion of one of the outstanding children's books lists in modern publishing. The imprint was still important in the 1970s when it was drawn into the Jonathan Cape/Chatto & Windus group. The firm was sold to Random House in 1987, who published children's books under The Bodley Head name until 2008.

The archives of The Bodley Head Ltd are kept at Reading University.[2][3]


The Bodley Head imprint was relaunched by Random House as an adult imprint in April 2008. Its two principal strands are stated to be books “of scholarship in both the humanities and sciences”, and books which “contribute to the intellectual and cultural climate of our times”.[4]

See also


  • Stetz, Margaret; Lasner, Mark Samuels (1990). England in the 1890s: Literary Publishing at the Bodley Head. Georgetown Univ Press. ISBN 0-87840-509-7.
  • J. W. Lambert and Michael Ratcliffe The Bodley Head 1887–1987. The story of John Lane, Allen Lane, Unwin and Max Reinhardt and their links with Bodley Head. ISBN 0-370-30949-9.


  1. "Obituaries - Mr Herbert Jenkins". The Times. 9 June 1923. p. 12. Retrieved 26 March 2012. (Subscription required for online access)
  2. "Archives of The Bodley Head Ltd – University of Reading". Retrieved 29 September 2013.
  3. Archives of The Bodley Head Ltd, Retrieved 13 November 2018.
  4. "Bodley Head". Vintage Books. Retrieved 29 September 2013.
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