Sir Stanley Unwin (1884-1968) was one of the most distinguished publishers of the twentieth-century. He founded George Allen and Unwin Ltd in 1914, the day on which the First World War was declared. The timing might have been inauspicious but the company quickly made its mark publishing such major writers as Bertrand Russell, Sidney Webb, R. H. Tawney and Gandhi.
In the late 1930s they had two bestsellers by Lancelot Hogben – Mathematics for the Million and Science for the Citizen. Even greater success was to follow with J. R. Tolkien’s titles and Thor Heyerdahl’s. Sir Stanley’s own The Truth about Publishing was published in 1926, and for generations of people it was the authoritative guide.
Throughout his long career Sir Stanley was a prominent and influential figure in the book trade, active in the Publishers’ Association, the International Publishers’ Association and the British Council. To his credit he appeared on the Gestapo ‘Black List’, and, at the age of seventy-six, his belief in the freedom of ideas undimmed, he appeared as a witness for the defence in the Lady Chatterley trial in 1960.