Swan Sonnenschein & Co Archive
The son of Adolphus Sonnenschein and his wife Sarah Robinson Stallybrass, he became an apprentice to London publishers Williams and Norgate as a young man, gaining experience selling second-hand books. Eventually he went on to found his own firm in 1878 with J. Archibald Allen, under the name of W. Swan Sonnenschein & Allen. Allen was the first of many partners in the firm, and in 1882 the name was restyled to W. Swan Sonnenschein & Co after the partnership was dissolved.
The company specialised in publishing scholarly works that specialised in philosophy and the social sciences, including the renowned book series The Library of Philosophy (1890-1911). It was also notable for publishing some of the first English translations of both Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud, as well as periodicals and literature by authors such as J. M. Barrie, Henry James, George Meredith and George Moore. William himself was connected to a number of socialists and activists, publishing works from George Bernard Shaw and Edward Carpenter, along with literature from the Ethical Society, of which he was a member.
Swan Sonnenschein became a limited liability company in 1895, with William leaving the firm in 1902 to work as senior managing director at George Routledge & Sons. He would later take up a further directorial position at Kegan Paul. Eventually Swan Sonnenschein became amalgamated with fellow publishing company George Allen & Co. in 1911, with the now-merged firm rebranding again as George Allen & Unwin Ltd by 1914.
This collection contains letterbooks from 1878-1911, together with some incoming correspondence from 1882-1916. Minute books of Directors’ meetings from 1895-1913 are held in the Allen & Unwin Ledgers series numbers (AU A/258-262), account books 1884-1903 are held in the Allen & Unwin Ledger series numbers (AU A/269-270).
Information about Swan Sonnenschein & Co. taken from the following sources:
- Blacklock, M. (2018) The Emergence of the Fourth Dimension: Higher Spatial Thinking in the Fin de Siècle. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Mumby, F. A. & Stallybrass, F. H. S. (1955) From Swan Sonnenschein to George Allen & Unwin, Ltd. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd.
- Wagner, D. P. (2019) Social Science Series (Swan Sonnenschein & Co.) – Book Series List
- Suarez, S.J, M.F. & Woudhuysen, H. R. (ed.) (2010) The Oxford Companion to the Book. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- William Swan Sonnenschein (2021) Wikipedia.
- A full description is available on our online database.
- A handlist for the whole collection can be found here.