Merlin Press Archive

Reference: MS 5069Date: 1956-2004Extent: 7 boxes

The Merlin Press emerged as a result of fractures in the British Communist movement after the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956. The Press’ founder, Martin Eve, grew up surrounded by Socialist ideas and was keen to publish material that catered to the emerging New Left. The first book published by the company was Folksong-Plainsong by George Chambers, a founding member of the Communist Party.

After the publication of their first book, the Press began working on translations as a way to fill the gap between the first book and the second. The first translation they published was The Life of Henry Brulard in 1958, soon followed by de L’Amour in the same year. The Press also began publishing yearly volumes of drawings by BBC producer Hugh Barnett, which had a considerable effect on the company. Although they differed from the books the Press was used to printing, they gave them a foothold in bookshops, as well as providing a regular source of income. The first of these was released in 1960 titled Top Sacred and featuring monks in a variety of situations.

Across their history, they published works by a number of notable authors such as György [Georg] Lukács, Ernest Mandel, István Mészáros, Sheila Rowbotham, Hilary Wainwright and E P Thompson, a lifelong friend of Merlin Press founder Martin Eve.

One of the things they became best known for was the Socialist Register, a journal edited by Ralph Miliband and John Saville. First published by Merlin in 1964, it became a key forum for the Left, providing an annual survey of movements and ideas. The Socialist Register is still published annually today in the UK, USA and Canada.

In 1968, the Seafarer Books imprint of the Merlin Press emerged, beginning with the publication of In Grandma’s Wake by Frank Mulville. It went on to publish numerous sailing narratives including Martin Eve’s own An Old Gaffer’s Tale, an account of his and his family’s adventures on their boat Privateer. They also published ‘green’ books such as Lands Alive by Rene Dumont, a French environmentalist.

In 1998, the founder Martin Eve passed away and the company came under new ownership. Since 2000, it has been run by Anthony Zurbrugg and they continue to publish predominantly social & political titles to this day.

The Merlin Press archive contains draft copies, artwork files and reviews for a number of books including English Popular Art, Protest and Survival: Essays for EP Thompson and Capitalism. The collection also includes of certain titles, files on rejected books and accounts records. Correspondence in the collection comprises letters between Merlin Press and its authors and distributors, as well as the correspondence of Hungarian Marxist philosopher György [Georg] Lukács. There is also publicity material and catalogues, book lists and dustjackets. Some material relating to imprints Seafarer Books and Green Print is also included.

Sources used to compile this information:

  • ‘Obituary: Martin Eve’, The Independent (1998)
  • ‘Martin Eve Obituary’, Bookseller (13 November 1998)
  • Kemsley, Walter (ed.), Martin Eve Remembered (Suffolk, 1999)
  • ‘About the Journal’, Socialist Register [website], (Accessed: 15th September 2022)

More Information

  • A full description is available on our online database
  • A handlist of the whole collection is available here
  • See also George Allen & Unwin Ltd. Archive for correspondence with Merlin Press regarding the sale of rights in paperback to Parliamentary Socialism by Ralph Miliband. (Reference: AUC 993/13)
  • See also Martin Eve Remembered, Kemsley, Walter (ed.), (Suffolk, 1999), Reference –070.5092-EVE/MAR