2017 sees the publishing house Harper Collins celebrating its 200th year of printing and publishing some of the world’s best and most famous books. Thanks to the hard work and innovative nature of a group of book lovers, we have had access to some wonderful literature, many of which have become classics over the decades.
Thanks to their fantastic anniversary website (Harper Collins Publishers 200) we can bring you a brief insight into the history behind one of the biggest publishing houses in the world today.
In 1817 two brothers, James and John Harper opened J & J Harper Printers in New York City and soon after printed their first publication, an English translation of Seneca’s Morals by Lucius Annaeus Seneca.
Around the same time, in 1819, Chalmers and Collins were publishing and printing in the UK, with their first book The Christian and Civic Economy of Large Towns by Dr. Thomas Chalmers.
By 1848 J & J Harper had become Harper & Brothers thanks to the addition of two more siblings, Fletcher and Joseph Wesley Harper, and were the first to publish American editions of works by the Brontë sisters.
Interestingly, Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë was not well-received in the US, with a group of Bostonians declaring it profane, and demanding their money back!
In 1853 the steam press by William Collins was perfected, and used by publishers Collins and Sons to produce Shakespeare for mass consumption.
Thanks also to these amazing advances in printing, Harpers were able to start a magazine named Harper’s Weekly, and serialised stories from Charles Dickens (Bleak House) and Mary Ann Evans under the pseudonym George Eliot (Middlemarch).
Fast-forward to 1917 when Harper & Brothers produces the first ever children’s audio bundle books named Bubble Books. This combined a phonograph of nursery rhymes and the corresponding book.
The Department of Books for Boys and Girls was established at Harper & Brothers in 1926 which went on to publish the now-well-known titles such as Charlotte’s Web, The Giving Tree, Where the Wild Things Are, and so many more!
Through the 20th century Collins Publishing and Harper & Brothers (later Harper and Row), produced some of the world’s best loved books. Notable examples being The Art of Loving by Eric Fromm, Agatha Christie’s first Hercule Poirot novel The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, and a favourite among our Reading Addicts, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.
In 1990 News Corp bought Harper & Row and Collins Publishing and merged them to produce HarperCollins Publishing House, complete with fancy new logo consisting colophons of fire for Harper and water for Collins.
The beginning of the 21st century started with a literary celebration for China; Gao Xingjian became the first Chinese author to win the Nobel Prize for Literature after HarperCollins published his novel Soul Mountain.
Soon after HarperCollins India published The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga, which went on to win the 2008 Man Booker Prize.
Another first came for womenkind in 2012 as Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel, published by HarperCollins in the UK, won the Man Booker Prize. This made Mantel the first ever woman to win the prize twice, having first won for Wolf Hall in 2009.
Thank you HarperCollins for 200 years of innovation, imagination, and education!
Here’s to 200 more!