Page 16 - August 2017
P. 16

|  The Greycaine Book Company |                            |  Continued  |

         The titles of the Readers’ Library   the edition went ahead in leaps and
       were said to be selected by ‘one of   bounds until it nearly reached the half
       the most distinguished of living men of   million mark”.
       letters’, and very likely this was Ralph     Two months later the Alliance noted
       Caine’s father, (Thomas) Hall Caine – the   that Greycaine had a workforce of 1,200,
       novelist! The Readers’ Library was also   and had recently handled an order for
       the fi rst to produce ‘the book of the fi lm’.   ‘six million large books (500,000 each of
       Greycaine put up most of the capital   12 vols.) printed and fully bound’. This
       and had a controlling share with Ralph   would have been the Encyclopaedia
       Caine’s brother, Derwent, as Managing   called The Wonderland of Knowledge,
       Director and Frank Grey a Director.   which was published by Odhams Press,
         The books sold for sixpence in      printed and bound by Greycaine. Volume
       Woolworths and newsagents shops –     3 contains a section showing how
       very popular, well-produced, hardback   the book was produced, with several
       books, and regardless of some disdain,   photographs taken inside the Greycaine
       made some good novels accessible to a   works.
       wide audience. Penguin Books were also     However, by 1935-6 the Company
       later sold for sixpence, but Sir Allen Lane,   was in trouble. The Readers’ Library had
       their founder, recalled that when he fi rst   succumbed, resulting in an enormous
       approached Woolworths, their buyer said   loss of work. Also, in 1936, Odhams
       he thought “Readers’ Library is better   Press, which had provided Greycaine
       value”.                               with a lot of work, moved to Watford and
       Changing fortunes – Odhams starts     started printing its own books. You might
       printing                              ask why Odhams did not just buy up or
         Although Readers’ Library had its   go into partnership with the Greycaine
       heyday, it eventually succumbed to stiff   works, but I don’t have the answer to
       competition from rivals such as Penguin   that.
       paperbacks, and the Queensway Press’s     Frank Grey was not a man to give up.
       Chevron books with card covers.       In 1937 he decided to embark on colour
       Nevertheless, Greycaine, in a 1934 article   printing, and bought some expensive
       in the journal of the Home Counties   equipment from abroad. This tipped the
       Master Printers’ Alliance, was portrayed   Company over the edge, and in 1938,
       as a fl ourishing company.             the Court made a Winding-Up Order
         “Probably the most astounding       placing the Company in the hands of
       development associated with the plant   the Receiver and the Liquidator. Printing
       installed originally for the manufacture   continued but by 1941 Greycaine was
       of Readers’ Library has been the Firm’s   put up for sale as a going concern and
       association with the Odhams Press in   Taylor, Garnett & Evans moved in, initially
       launching the sixteen volumes edition   keeping ‘Greycaine’ in the title; but by
       of Charles Dickens’ Works. The placing   1956 it had disappeared. And the last
       of this work in the hands of the masses   ‘Kelly’s Directory’ entry at that site for
       at a price they were able to pay was   Taylor Garnett Evans & Co is 1972. It is
       probably the greatest thing ever done   now a mixed-use industrial estate and
       in the world of books. The demand from   Greycaine survives only as a name in
       the fi rst was enormous and orders for   history.
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