Penguin special: the life and times of Allen Lane
A stocky, dapper Bristolian who left school at the age of sixteen to work for his uncle at The Bodley Head and went on to found Penguin Books, Allen Lane was the greatest publisher of the twentieth century, and a major influence on the cultural and political life of post-war Britain. He did not invent the paperback, but he revolutionised our reading habits by his insistence that the best writing in the world should be made available for the price of a packet of cigarettes. Though never a bookish man himself, Lane was adept at sensing the spirit of the age and always ready to follow his hunches: he commissioned Nikolaus Pevsner to write the Buildings of England, gave his backing to John Lehmann's Penguin New Writing, arguably the finest literary magazine of its times, risked prosecution by publishing James Joyce's Ullyses for the first time in this country, and a quarter of a century later appeared at the Old Bailey to defend Penguin's publication of Lady Chatterley's Lover, thereby anticipating the liberal reforms of the 1960s.
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