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Profiles in Publishing: Sir Allen Lane

Name: Sir Allen Lane

Birthdate/Place: September 21, 1902. Bristol, England.

Publishers Associated With: Penguin Books

Claim to Fame: Sir Allen began his career at publishing company Bodley Head as an apprentice to his uncle, founder John Lane. After John Lane’s death, Allen changed his last name to Lane to retain control of the company– the original Lane had no children. Sir Allen conceived of paperback editions when he was traveling home from a meeting with Agatha Christie and he found himself on a train platform, stuck with nothing to read. He came up with the idea of a “vending machine” to dispense paperbacks at train stations. It was first called the ‘penguincubator‘. He also expanded Puffin Books, as well as the Penguin Classics line.

Our Inner Literary Nerd Loves: He was knighted in 1962! And after chief editor Tony Godwin reportedly tried to force him out of the company, Lane stole an entire book’s print run and burnt it as an act of protest…and, like a boss, was then reinstated to his previous post.

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