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Founded in 1898 by Gerald Duckworth, Duckworth is an independent British publisher. It was important in the development of English literature in the first half of the twentieth century, being the publisher of figures such as Virginia Woolf (Gerald Duckworth's half-sister), Anthony Powell, John Galsworthy and D. H. Lawrence.

For many years the company operated out of its headquarters in Camden, north London, from a quaint building called 'The Old Piano Factory'. This had, as its name suggests, been a piano factory originally and was an almost perfectly circular edifice. Inside, along with a representative sample of the piano-maker's art, its meandering, dusty corridors and rooms all added to the charm and attracted some of the best, and most notable 'characters' of the writing community of the day. The main stock-in-trade of the company was the production and publication of large factual books for universities but it was a forward-looking company and kept its eye very much on market trends and opportunities.

In the mid-1980s the company dabbled in computer books designed to help home enthusiasts learn programming on such machines as the Atari 48, Sinclair Spectrum 48, Commodore 64 and the Amstrad CPC 64 and CPC 6128. Authors of these books included Kevin Bergin, and the brothers Mike and Pete Gerrard. Under the guiding hand of Duckworth manager Ray Davies, the company achieved a reasonable success with the books and moved on to produce a number of text-only adventure games. These roughly followed the style of the original 'Adventure' game by Crowther and Woods and put the player in a variety of fantasy settings where magic and wicked axe-throwing dwarves abounded. The dwarves of course were there to prevent player progress in the games but often the 'Printer's Devil', a publishing term for 'Murphy's Law, threw up other obstacles. One that was well remembered by the authors being that 'The Guffroms Won't Let You!', which is still being pondered to this day.

One fan of Pete Gerrard's book 'Exploring Adventures on the Commodore 64' managed to produce a couple of games himself after reading the book and these were also published by Duckworth. Although rather simple in design, easy to solve and hardly 'State-of-the-Art' even in those days, it did show people that they could learn enough from Gerrard's books to produce workable and playable games for themselves. Pete Gerrard now follows a rewarding career in the north of England designing gaming machines whilst brother Mike has been a successful author and travel writer for many years currently living in Arizona.

In 2003, the company suffered a financial collapse and was put into receivership. Its assets and goodwill were bought by Peter Mayer, a former chief executive of Penguin Books, who already owned the The Overlook Press of New York. The May 2007 edition of Publishing Trends reports that Duckworth's trade books are now to be published under a Duckworth/Overlook imprint.

Duckworth has a number of imprints:

  • Duckworth General publishes literary and commercial fiction and non-fiction, including history, biography and memoir. As of 2007, authors whose work is available under the Duckworth General imprint include John Bayley, Beryl Bainbridge, Robert Littell, Joan Bakewell, Mary Warnock, William Vollmann and Helmut Newton, though many of these have also published with other companies. The company claims recent successes with Clive Woodall’s One for Sorrow and J J Connolly’s Layer Cake, which reached number one and two respectively on the independent publisher bestseller list.
  • Duckworth Academic publishes scholoary monographs, specialising in history and related areas, including Archaeology, Classics, Ancient History and Ancient Philosophy. It has an extensive backlist of titles published under the Duckworth and Bristol Classical Press imprints, and these include school and student texts in Latin, Greek, Russian, French, German and Spanish language and literature.
  • Ardis publishes Russian literature in translation.
  • Duckworth has republished a number of editions first issued by the Nonesuch Press.

In 2006, Duckworth published An Incomplete History of the Art of the Funerary Violin by Rohan Kriwaczek; this book was subsequently reported to be a hoax, the funerary violin never having existed. In fact, however, Kriwaczek had all along designed the work as a pastiche and Duckworth profited handsomely from the media coverage.

The 13-digit ISBN prefix for Duckworth is 97807156.

Archives of the company from 1936 are held by the University of London, and include editorial correspondence with authors[1].

References

Most information here is based on the company website, see below.

External links

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