Frank Cass: Publisher who built a substantial scholarly publishing business from scratch after the war (Obit. UK)

Historians in the News

Starting out just after the war Frank Cass acquired a reputation as one of Britain's leading scholarly publishers. Even after he sold the bulk of his interests to Taylor and Francis, he started to build anew. “Why should I retire,” he would ask, “when I love what I am doing?” and he was still working right up to his death.

Born in 1930 into a Russian-Polish family, Cass spent his formative years in London where he developed an early love of public libraries. He went to Hackney Downs School and took his first job aged 19, as a £3-a-week assistant at The Economist Bookshop. The shop, being near the LSE, was frequented by scholars from many countries, and this experience of internationalism influenced Cass's subsequent career.

Noting that because of the wartime bombing many academic books were difficult to buy, and sensing a business opportunity, he branched out on his own account. When he told the redoubtable Gerti Kvergic, the manager of the bookshop, she suggested he should see a psychiatrist and offered to pay for his treatment. Undeterred, risking his life savings of £117, and with a supportive bank manager, he opened a shop in Southampton Row in 1953. This hole in the wall, 18ft by 10ft, with its fascia painted in the LSE's colours, marked the beginning of a great independent publishing adventure.

Despite Cass's sleuthing abilities some vital texts remained stubbornly elusive. In 1957, therefore, advised by the likes of Theo Barker of the LSE and Bill Chaloner from Manchester, he began to reprint scholarly works, focusing particularly on the needs of historians and social scientists. With the expansion of the university sector in the 1960s his new venture proved particularly successful....

comments powered by Disqus