Methuen Publishing

Methuen Publishing
Methuen Publishing
Founded 1889
Founder Algernon Methuen
Country of origin United Kingdom
Publication types books
Official website

Methuen Publishing Ltd is a British publishing house. It was founded in 1889 by Sir Algernon Methuen (1856–1924) and began publishing in London in 1892. E. V. Lucas headed the firm from 1924 to 1928.



In June 1889, as a sideline to teaching, Algernon Methuen began to publish and market his own textbooks under the label Methuen & Co.

The company’s first success at publishing came in 1892 with the publication of Rudyard Kipling's Barrack-Room Ballads. The firm soon experienced rapid growth by publishing works by Marie Corelli, Hilaire Belloc, Robert Lewis Stevenson, and Oscar Wilde (De Profundis, 1905)[1] as well as Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan of the Apes.[2]

In 1910 the business was converted into a limited liability company with E. V. Lucas and G.E. Webster joining the founder on the board of directors.[3]

The company published the 1920 English translation of Albert Einstein’s “Relativity, the Special and the General Theory: A Popular Exposition”.

Building on the knowledge he had gained with children’s literature at the publisher Grant Richards, E.V. Lucas ensured the company sustained its early success by developing its list of children’s books. Among the authors Lucas signed to the company were A. A. Milne, Kenneth Grahame, while he also supported illustrators W. Heath Robinson, H.M. Bateman and Ernest Shepard.[4]

By the 1920s it had in addition to the previously mentioned authors a literary list that included Anthony Hope, G.K. Chesterton, Henry James, D. H. Lawrence, T. S. Eliot, Ruth Manning-Sanders and The Arden Shakespeare series.

The Rainbow

Following the publication of Lawrence's The Rainbow (1915), the British Director of Public prosecuted Methuen for obscenity. The firm offered no defense and agreed to destroy the remaining stock of 1011 copies.[2] It is thought that one reason for the firm’s failure to support Lawrence was that he had at the time written an unkind portrait of chief editor’s brother, who had recently been killed in France.[4]

Edward Verrall Lucas

In 1924 E. V. Lucas, succeeded Algernon Methuen as chairman and led the company until his death in 1928.[4] Besides his executive role he also received a separate salary as the chief reader of the company. His commercial judgment added authors Enid Blyton, P. G. Wodehouse, Pearl S. Buck and Maurice Maeterlinck to the company’s list.

In 1930 the company published the popular humorous book 1066 and All That.


Methuen was the English publisher of the book editions of The Adventures of Tintin, a series of classic Belgian comic-strip books, written and illustrated by Hergé. Methuen altered their editions of Tintin by insisting that books featuring British characters undergo major changes. The Black Island, first published in French in 1937, was set in Great Britain, but, prior to publishing it themselves in 1966, Methuen decided that it did not reflect the U.K. accurately enough and sent a list of 131 "errors" to be corrected.[5] It was thus redrawn and reset in the 1960s. Critics have attacked Methuen over the changes, claiming that Black Island lost a lot of its charm as a result[5] and that the changes to Land of Black Gold watered down the context of the international situation in the Middle East.[6]

Other books had alterations based on politics. Land of Black Gold had had a troubled publishing history, but the completed adventure eventually appeared in 1948–50. It was set in the British Mandate of Palestine and featured the conflict between Jews, Arabs and British troops. By the time of its first English publication in 1972, Israel had long since been in existence, and Methuen asked for it to be reset in a fictional Middle East country, Khemed. About a fourth of the book was redrawn.

It is these versions that are most commonly available today in most countries, though the earlier ones have been published as facsimile editions.

Critics have also raised the fact that when Methuen published The Blue Lotus in 1983 it retained the original setting of 1931 during the Japanese occupation of China and the Shanghai International Settlement, which had been abolished in 1943. On the other hand, 1983 was also the year of Hergé's death, and he had specified that there were to be no further official Tintin adventures by other artists or writers or any changes made to the stories published so far. Methuen added an explanatory note of the situation in China at the time. The Tintin books are now published by Egmont Publishing.

Associated Book Publishers

In 1958 Methuen was part of the conglomerate Associated Book Publishers (ABP), and for much of the 1970s was known as Eyre Methuen following its absorption of the Eyre & Spottiswoode firm. When ABP was acquired by the Thomson Organization in 1987, it sold off the trade publishing units, including Methuen, to Reed International's Octopus. Reed Elsevier sold off its trade publishing to Random House in 1997, and Methuen bought itself out in 1998.

In 2003, Methuen Publishing purchased the company Politico's Publishing from its owner Iain Dale.[7] In 2006, it sold its notable drama lists to A & C Black for £2.35 million.

The company is currently based in Victoria, London.


  1. ^ De Profundis, Oscar Wilde. London: Methuen & Co. Ltd., 1905 (22nd Ed., 1911)
  2. ^ a b Stevenson, page 59.
  3. ^ Obituary of Sir Algernon Methuen The Times, Monday, 22 September 1924; page 18. Issue 43763.
  4. ^ a b c Stevenson, page 60.
  5. ^ a b Tintin: The Complete Companion by Michael Farr, John Murray publishers, 2001
  6. ^ Le Figaro magazine, Saturday 26 June 2004
  7. ^ Pierce, Andrew (August 4, 2004). "Methuen writes new chapter for lovers of Politico's intrigue - People". The Times (Times Newspapers Limited): p. 6. 

Further reading

  • Duffy, M (1989) (hardback). A Thousand Capricious Chances – A History of the Methuen List 1889 - 1989. London: Methuen. 
  • Stevenson, Iain (2010) (hardback). Book Makers – British Publishing in the Twentieth Century. London: The British Library. pp. 314 pages.. ISBN 978-0-7123-0961-5. 

External links

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