New display at the University of Reading Library

Items from the Leo Cooper archive of military history publishing feature in a new display at the University of Reading Library. Leo Cooper, who died at the age of 79 in November 2013, gave his archive to the University and the collection of business, editorial and artwork files for his firm can now be consulted in the Reading Room at Special Collections.

In 1968, after thirteen years working for publishing houses Longmans, Andre Deutsch, and Hamish Hamilton, Leo Cooper established his own publishing business, Leo Cooper Ltd. Cooper had already established the Famous Regiments Series with Hamilton and he took this with him to start the new firm. Over the years the Leo Cooper imprint published hundreds of military themed books with titles that include Gunners, game and gardens, Hunters from the sky and Red spy at night. The imprint specialised in publishing regimental histories and memoirs of soliders, many recounting their experiences of the Second World War. Spy stories are amongst these and include The escaping habit; the story of Joseph Orna’s escape from a prisoner of war camp in Northern Italy followed by his 2000 mile journey to safety, dressed as a Benedictine monk.

Leo Cooper’s proudest publishing achievement, he said, was the publication of A history of the British cavalry 1816-1919. This was an eight volume series, published over 25 years and written by George Charles Henry Victor Paget, 7th Marquess of Anglesey, who, in correspondence with Cooper described the series as ‘my life’s work’. Twenty files of editorial correspondence, much between publisher and author, survive in the archive; these tell the story of the how the books came to be and how a friendship grew between Leo Cooper and the Marquess of Anglesey. Below is is one of the many postcards, a photograph of himself taken in Wales in 1950, sent by the Marquess to Cooper declining an invitation. “Wasn’t I pretty in ’50?!” he writes.

The display will be at the University library during February and March.

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