An Evening with the Book Society: A celebration of 100 years of dinners, discussion and friendship
- Publication Date:
- 6th Dec 2022
- Marble Hill Publishers
Our price £14.99
An Evening with the Book Society
In 1921 Hugh Walpole founded the Society of Bookmen, a club for publishers, booksellers and literary agents designed to meet regularly to eat together and share industry knowledge. Now, a hundred years and a name change later, the Society continues to attract new members and be a place to find new connections and ideas. Would Walpole recognise the Society in the twenty-first century? This short history will take you on an evening out with the book men and women whose decisions, guests and speakers throughout the decades have made the Book Society what it is today.
Published by Marble Hill in association with The Book Society
- Fascinating historical and current insights into what goes on behind the scenes in publishing.
- Maria Vassilopulos, a publisher of many years’ experience, is gaining a reputation as an important book trade historian.
- Essential reading for any one working in today’s book trade.
Established in 1921 as the Society of Bookmen, the recently renamed The Book Society is is a club for people in the UK book trade, including publishers, booksellers, literary agents, librarians, and writers.
The history of the society is recounted in An Evening with the Book Society: A celebration of 100 years of dinners, discussion and friendship by book historian and publishing executive Maria Vassilopoulos, currently global sales manager at the University of Wales Press.
It’s a charming read (and short, less than 100 pages), walking us through the society’s first century of operations as if we were going to one of its regular evening dinners where members meet to discuss the state of the industry and listen to an invited guest speaker.
“I was approached to write the book in 2017 after David Taylor, then chair of the Book Society alerted the committee that the 100th anniversary of the Society’s founding in 1921 was coming up,” says Vassilopoulos. “At the time I was working at British Library publishing after leaving The Bookseller magazine and had started a PhD in Book Trade History at UCL. I was given access to the archive and spent the first couple of years of the project researching that and then speaking to past and present members of the Society.
"They included people who had run many of the publishing houses and bookshops in existence today or that have since been merged into other businesses, those who pushed through the name change from ‘The Society of Bookmen,’ and others who were on the committee over the years. Originally the Society was set up by novelist Hugh Walpole to provide a space for authors, publishers, booksellers and librarians to come together and learn from each other, and that is the spirit still adopted over a century later.”
The book is published by Marble Hill Publishers, which is owned by Francis Bennett, one of the ex-chairs of the Society.
The Story Behind...
An Evening with the Book Society
In 2017, David Taylor, then Chair of the Book Society, alerted the committee that the 100th anniversary of the Society’s founding in 1921 was coming up. How to celebrate it? A party - but what else?
When he generously offered Ingram’s print-on-demand services to print an anniversary book free of charge, the decision was taken. A celebratory book it would be. But who should write it? Emma Lowe proposed Maria Vassilopoulos. Maria is a publishing sales manager and has worked in both publishing and bookselling for 18 years. She is also a book trade historian, currently completing a PhD thesis at UCL on the history of the book trade in the 19th century.
Who would publish it? Some years ago Sue Whitley, a former Secretary of the Society, had introduced me to Maria and I have acted as an occasional adviser on her research projects. When Maria told me about the project, I leapt at the chance to publish it under my own imprint, Marble Hill Publishers, in association with the Book Society. Michael Bhaskar, by then Chair of the Society and the committee agreed.
Then the pandemic broke and our lives were put on hold. Unsurprisingly, we didn’t make the anniversary date. To have published without a launch party would have been a wasted opportunity. That explains (in part, at least) why the anniversary edition has only seen the light of day now.
This book could not have come into being without enormous help from David Taylor, Michael Bhaskar, Nick Singh and Jamie Hodder-Williams – and of course Maria, who has researched and written it.
As with all the best projects, it has been a pleasure to work on this book.