Publishing the Left Book Club

The Manuscripts Division is pleased to announce the acquisition of the publishing files of Victor Gollancz Ltd relating to its influential Left Book Club (LBC), one of the first book clubs in England. Sir Victor Gollancz (1893-1967) founded the Left Book Club in 1936, nine years after he had established the publishing house that bears his name, and was knighted in 1965. The goal of the book club was to publish books for paid subscribers, who received a new title each month, in order to popularize progressive and socialist ideals and to mobilize British public opinion against Hitler and fascism. Gollancz selected titles with the help of John Strachey and Harold J. Laski. The Left Book Club was so successful in publishing and marketing new titles that by 1939 it could boast 57,000 members and 1,200 organized reading groups. Membership declined during World War II, but the book club’s influence on British politics was significant and contributed to the upset victory of Clement Attlee’s Labour Party over Winston Church’s Conservatives in the 1945 general elections. Between 1936 and 1948, when it ceased operations, the Left Book Club published more than 230 titles, including works by Frederick Allen, Léon Blum, G.D.H. Cole, Arthur Koestler, Harold J. Laski, André Malraux, Franz Neumann, Clifford Odets, George Orwell, Edgar Snow, Stephen Spender, John Strachey, R. H. Tawney, Sidney Webb, Leonard Woolf, and other authors, social scientists, intellectual émigrés, and political figures. Four boxes of Left Book Club files, organized by author and title, include correspondence, publishing contracts, and printed promotional flyers (see image below), as well as occasion materials related to later reprints and anthologies. It should be noted that Rare Books already had a collection of the Left Book Club printed books.

See the finding aid for the Victor Gollancz Publishing Files (C1617), which also includes files relating to Gollancz’s titles by Irish authors and books on Africa, race, colonialism, and related subjects. The Manuscripts Division also has the Victor Gollancz Author Files (C1467) for Miguel Ángel Asturias, Edith Sitwell, and Richard Wright. For other archives of British and American publishers and books clubs, search finding aids or contact Public Services, rbsc@princeton.edu

Left Book Club promotional flyers

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