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A policy of splendid isolation: Angus & Robertson, George G. Harrap and the politics of co-operation in the Australian book trade during the late 1930s

Ensor, J.D. (2009) A policy of splendid isolation: Angus & Robertson, George G. Harrap and the politics of co-operation in the Australian book trade during the late 1930s. In: Literature and Politics: 3rd Annual Conference of The Australasian Association for Literature, 6 - 7 July 2009, University of Sydney, Sydney

Abstract

The tension between British and Australian publishers has long been a central property of antipodean print culture histories, particularly in relation to Angus and Robertson whom British publishers looked upon with some unease. John Barnes has argued that the "model of Australian creativity and originality unappreciated and resisted by London publishers has been generally accepted" but has demonstrated the utility of questioning this history. Similarly, though the archival record chronicles a certain amount of antagonism towards Angus and Robertson and that British publishers actively made the path of an Australian publisher more difficult through confirming agreements that froze out opposition, pre Second World War documents reveal a co-operative “axis” between the Australasian Publishing Co. (Sydney), Harrap and Co. (London) and Angus and Robertson (Sydney) whose collective aim was to “work closely in harmony but yet as distinct entities”. The Australian market might have been perceived to be the “special preserve” of some British publishers but in the late 1930s Harrap and Co. took a broader view that Angus and Robertson could be “used in an intelligent way as part of one huge machine whose object it is to increase the sale of books in the English language”. Conscious of how the book trade might react, Walter Harrap, in writing to Stanley Bartlett of the Australasian Publishing Co. about his London-based discussions with Angus and Robertson director George Ferguson, remarked that “a copy of this letter will be given to Mr Ferguson but it will not be seen by anyone and will be destroyed when he has read it”. Fortunately, traces of these discussions survive and thus this paper will examine Angus and Robertson’s negotiations within the “axis” and the broader politics confronting any Australian company which sought to become a publisher of consequence within early twentieth-century English speaking markets.

Publication Type: Conference Paper
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Media, Communication and Culture
Conference Website: http://www.aal.asn.au/conference/2009/index.shtml
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/13727
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