John Lane (publisher)

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A stone seat outside a church
The Lane Family Seat at St Nectan's Church, Stoke

John Lane (14 March 1854 – 2 February 1925) was a British publisher who co-founded The Bodley Head with Charles Elkin Mathews.[1]


Originally from Devon, where he was born into a farming family, Lane moved to London in his teens. While working as a clerk at the Railway Clearing House, he acquired knowledge as an autodidact.

After entering the London book trade, in 1887 he became co-founder with Elkin Mathews of The Bodley Head which originally was a bookshop dealing in antiquarian books.

Mathews and Lane started publishing books in 1889. Their imprint was initially given on the title pages as "Elkin Mathews. at the sign of the Bodley Head". with Lane as a sleeping partner, until he gave up his old job in 1992. from which time the imprint became "Elkin Mathews and John Lane, The Bodley Head". The partnership was dissolved in 1894, after 100 titles had been published, and both men continued as publishers each using their own name. Lane's books were published as "John Lane, The Bodley Head". Source: James G. Nelson, The early Nineties. A View from the Bo dley Head. Harvard University Press, 1971.

In 1894, still operating under the name of The Bodley Head, they began to publish books. Mathews left shortly afterwards and began to publish on his own as Elkin Mathews Ltd. and "returned to a great concentration on bookselling".[2]

Lane continued to publish as The Bodley Head and under the name John Lane. He is mainly associated with publishing controversial and audacious texts, especially for a small, sophisticated audience. Examples are the periodical The Yellow Book (1894 - 1897) and Lane's Keynote Series,[3] which included contentious material such as Grant Allen's novel The Woman Who Did (1895), Victoria Crosse's immediate reaction to it, the novel The Woman Who Didn't (1895), and H.G. Wells's novel about his affair with Amber Reeves, The New Machiavelli (1911).

Personal lifeEdit

On 13 August 1898, John Lane married Annie Philippine King, the widow of Tyler Batcheller King and the daughter of Julius Eichberg. Annie Lane was author of To Thee, O Country (national hymn) and of the books Brown's Retreat, Kitwyk (published by John Lane in 1903), The Champagne Standard, Talk of the Town and According to Maria.

His nephews, Allen, Richard and John Lane, founded Penguin Books.

John Lane died of pneumonia on 2 February 1925 at his London home, 8 Lancaster Gate Terrace, Bayswater, London. He was cremated at Golders Green, and his ashes were interred at St Nectan's Church in the hamlet of Stoke, near Hartland, Devon. In the St Nectan's churchyard, there is a stone seat commemorating various members of the Lane family.

Book series published by John LaneEdit

  • The Country Handbooks[4]
  • Handbooks of Practical Gardening[4]
  • Keynote Series
  • The Library of Golden Thoughts[5]
  • Living Masters of Music[6]
  • The Music of the Masters[7]


  1. ^ Archives of The Bodley Head Ltd, Retrieved 11 April 2020.
  2. ^ Elkin Mathews Ltd. mss., ca. 1919-1987, Retrieved 10 April 2020.
  3. ^ Keynotes (John Lane/The Bodley Head; etc.) - Book Series List, Retrieved 22 December 2018.
  4. ^ a b Publisher's advertisement in: Rosa Newmarch, Henry J. Wood, London and New York: John Lane, 1904. Retrieved 28 April 2020.
  5. ^ Publisher's advertisement in: Frank Crane, Footnotes to Life, London: John Lane, The Bodley Head, New York: John Lane Company, and Toronto: Bell and Cockburn: 1914.
  6. ^ Rosa Newmarch, The Life & Letters of Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky, London: John Lane/The Bodley Head and New York: John Lane Company, 1906. Retrieved 28 April 2020.
  7. ^ Publisher's advertisement in: Rosa Newmarch, Poetry and Progress in Russia, London and New York: John Lane, 1907. Retrieved 28 April 2020.

External linksEdit