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Sir Allen Lane

(1902—1970) publisher

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British publisher and founder of Penguin Books Limited. He was knighted in 1952 and made a CH in 1969.

After leaving Bristol Grammar School, Lane was apprenticed to his uncle, a publisher at The Bodley Head, whom he succeeded as managing director in 1925. Ten years later the impending collapse of The Bodley Head led Lane into a personal gamble that he had been considering for some time – the publication of good-quality sixpenny paperbacks of well-established hardback books. The success of this venture led to the formation of Penguin Books Limited, which with the introduction of Penguin Specials (original books on topical subjects) established the new company as market leaders in the expanding field of paperback publishing. Lane's publication of the unabridged version of D. H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover in 1960, and his subsequent triumph in the law courts, where the publication was clumsily challenged for obscenity, won him considerable favourable publicity, enormous sales of the book, and a handsome oversubscription when he floated the company a few months later. A man of limited intellectual stature himself, he is remembered for his commercial sense and his wise judgment in surrounding himself with intellectuals of great ability.

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