The Allen Lane Story
1967 was the summer of love, flower power, Sergeant Pepper, anti-war protests and young people taking off their clothes and dancing a lot. Though not quite as obviously trailblazing as Jimi Hendrix burning his guitar on stage, the creation of Allen Lane the Penguin Press, nevertheless heralded the start of a particular kind of publishing revolution.
Allen Lane, the already revolutionary founder of Penguin Books, was looking for a way to acquire exciting new books and hold on to their authors. He saw that creating hardbacks alongside his by now-famous paperbacks would guarantee a stream of saleable titles. The hardback non-fiction imprint Allen Lane the Penguin Press was born. The first ever book on the list was the rather weighty antiquarian tome Biblipola, but soon Allen Lane titles had gained a reputation for their elegant design, modern look, editorial independence and groundbreaking subject matter, with early works including Hunter S. Thompson's cult classic Hell's Angels; Robin Lane Fox's defining biography Alexander the Great; Studs Terkel's landmark social history Division Street: America; Hannah Arendt's powerful treatise On Violence; and Marshall McLuhan's prophetic bestseller on the power of mass media, The Medium is the Massage.
Today Allen Lane encompasses some of the most exciting, provocative, opinion-forming authors writing today, many of whom have been with us for years: names like environmental iconoclasts James Lovelock and George Monbiot, legendary journalists Alistair Cooke and Ryszard Kapuscinski, controversial scientists Daniel C. Dennett, Steven Pinker and Richard Dawkins, anti-globalization gurus Naomi Klein and Joseph Stiglitz, political crusaders Michael Moore and Eric Schlosser, spellbinding historians including Ian Kershaw, the world's leading expert on Nazi Germany, charismatic contrarian Niall Ferguson and well-loved chronicler of modern Britain Peter Hennessy, plus a whole host of cultural trend-spotters such as Malcolm Gladwell and Nicholas Nassim Taleb.
Portrait of Allen Lane by Douglas Glass © J.C.C Glass