William Collins, Sons

William Collins, Sons (often referred to as Collins) was a Scottish printing and publishing company founded by a Presbyterian schoolmaster, William Collins, in Glasgow in 1819, in partnership with Charles Chalmers, the younger brother of Thomas Chalmers, minister of Tron Church, Glasgow.

William Collins, Sons
Parent companyHarperCollins
FounderWilliam Collins
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Headquarters locationGlasgow (1819)
Publication typesBooks
Official websitecollins.co.uk

Collins merged with Harper & Row in 1990, forming a new publisher named HarperCollins.


The company had to overcome many early obstacles, and Charles Chalmers left the business in 1825. The company eventually found success in 1841 as a printer of Bibles, and, in 1848, Collins's son Sir William Collins developed the firm as a publishing venture, specializing in religious and educational books. The company was renamed William Collins, Sons and Co Ltd. in 1868.[1] (The Library of Congress reports W. Collins & Co., or William Collins & Company, Collins & Co., etc., before "sometime in the 1860's", then "William Collins Sons and Co.", LCCN: nr2001-16410.)

Although the early emphasis of the company had been on religion and education, Collins also published more widely. In 1917, with Sir Godfrey Collins in charge, the firm started publishing fiction. Collins Crime Club (1930–94) published all but the first six of Agatha Christie's novels, starting in 1926, as well as the British editions of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe books and many others from the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. Upon purchasing the rights to the works of C. S. Lewis, Fount was established as Collins's religion imprint.

Collins ultimately became a diverse and prolific company, publishing a wide range of titles, including many aimed at a juvenile audience, such as the books of Dr. Seuss (in the Commonwealth) and Racey Helps in the 1950s. By the late 1970s, Collins was also responsible for publishing the long-running American Children's Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series in the United Kingdom. These were firstly published in a series of digest size hardbacks akin to their American style. Paperbacks (of a 'normal' rather than 'digest' size) soon followed from Collins' Armada Books imprint, although the series as published in England follow a different numbering system to the accepted American one. Collins's Armada Books imprint also published similar series, such as the Three Investigators, alongside such British stalwarts as Biggles, Billy Bunter, and Paddington Bear, and such well-loved authors as Enid Blyton, Malcolm Saville and Diana Pullein-Thompson.

In 1953 Collins launched its Fontana Books series.[2] Later Fontana Books became a Collins imprint complete with its own series, including the Fontana Monarchs, the Fontana African Fiction series[3] and, from 1970, the Fontana Modern Masters,[4] a series of pocket guides to influential writers, philosophers and other thinkers and theorists of the twentieth century. Other William Collins Sons imprints included Fontana Lions and Fontana Young Lions, which published books for children and teenagers, and Grafton Books.[5]

Collins founded its New Naturalist series of nature books relevant to the British Isles in 1945, with Butterflies by E. B. Ford. The most recent three volumes appeared in the summer of 2015.[6]

News Corporation acquired a 40% stake in 1981. In 1983, Collins acquired the publishing operations of Granada. News Corporation became sole owner in 1989. In 1990, the company was merged with US publisher Harper & Row to form HarperCollins.[7] Collins became an imprint of HarperCollins.

On 8 February 2013 it was announced that some parts of the Collins non-fiction imprint would be merged with the HarperPress imprint to form a new William Collins imprint.[8]


  1. Keir, David (1952). The House of Collins: The Story of a Scottish Family of Publishers from 1789 to the Present Day. Collins: London. ISBN B00005XH0X.
  2. Richard Williams, FONTANA BOOKS, 1-500: 1953-1961, South Humberside, Dragonby Press, 1997 (British Paperback Checklist, 14).
  3. Josh MacPhee, 251: Fontana Africa (compiled), justseeds.org. Retrieved 27 October 2019.
  4. Fontana Modern Masters, fontanamodernmasters.org. Retrieved 27 October 2019.
  5. David Leigh, "MI5 officers break silence on Blunt", The Observer, 26 October 1986, p. 2.
  6. No. 128, Lakes, Loughs and Lochs by Brian Moss; No. 129, Alien Plants by Clive A. Stace and Michael J. Crawley; No. 130, Yorkshire Dales by John Lee. Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  7. Cohen, Roger (1990-06-11). "THE MEDIA BUSINESS; Birth of a Global Book Giant". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-12-14.
  8. Farrington, Joshua (8 February 2013). "HarperCollins merges non-fiction divisions". Bookseller. Retrieved 20 February 2013.
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