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"The strangest publishing company in the world" Jim McClellan, i-D Magazine
"The view from the windows is of busy Deansgate, the business heart of Manchester, England. For a surreal moment in the not too distant past, there was talk of turning the Savoy offices into a huge pirate ship with sails billowing down the side of the building and the Jolly Roger on a flagpole spanning the congested main street. Unmissable, unavoidable. One in the eye of THE ESTABLISHMENT."
Part I (19761981): B r a v e N e w W o r l d s
The Savoy (1896), that other pirate 'vessel' of a fin de siècle, the magazine founded by Leonard Smithers, Aubrey Beardsley and Arthur Symons, was manned by a crew of Romantic anarchistic art rebels whose reputations and philosophies we wholeheartedly identified with (see History). Like Smithers, our own early publishing activities, which started in 1976, were largely supported by bookselling, and Savoy Books took its name from his magazine.
Our first 'base' was 3 Whittle St, Tib St, Manchester, for many years the site of our retail underground book/record-shop, Orbit Books, described by Clinton Heylin in his definitive history of rock bootlegs, The Great White Wonders (Penguin Books, 1994), as "...a shop in the nether regions of central Manchester, free-standing in the centre of an area modelled on Dresden circa 1945." Our publishing offices were BT phone kiosks, post offices, bedrooms and Orbit Book's shop counter. From 1979 we moved to proper offices at 279 Deansgatethe company's headquarters until 1999.
The first insurgenceas Savoy Bookswas as mass-market publishers of imaginative fiction and art, the first UK house to cater to non-generic readers like ourselves who did not see a dividing line between high art and popular culture. We were inspired by the US houses Lancer Books and Ace Books (the fantasy range under Donald Wollheim's control), for the way they updated the American pulp tradition in their jacket design, and Arkham House, publishers of HP Lovecraft's first work. In the UK we looked to Picador, who were using the large-size 'trade' format to present paperback literary fiction in a distinctive way, and Allison & Busby, out-of-category champions of alternative fiction and black writers. For radicality of material we looked to the Paris-based Olympia Press, William Burroughs' first publishers and (under Michael Moorcock's editorship), the London-based magazine New Worlds.
We chose writers and artists we admired, and gave some, like Henry Treece (his historical novels for adults) and Jack Trevor Story, a temporary new life. We gave hard-to-publish notorious works by writers like Harlan Ellison, Samuel Delany and Charles Platt their first UK exposureand published the first UK-originated graphic novel (James Cawthorn's The Jewel in the Skull).
New English Library, Savoy's main distributors for the period (throughout the English-speaking world), handled a total of twenty-one titles. Our usual print run with them was 25,000. The first Savoy title was Stormbringer, published in 1976 by David Britton; the remaining titles (from 1977-1981) were by David Britton and Michael Butterworth, as Savoy Books Ltd. Production and editorial decision-making of our early titles benefited from strong links with Michael Moorcock and ex-New Worlds staffers and artists who were, in no particular order or period, Langdon Jones, Charles Platt, Harry Douthwaite, M John Harrison and Diane Boardman. >>>
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