Secker and Warburg

Fredric Warburg (1898 – 1981)

Harvill Secker is a British publishing company formed as Secker and Warburg in 1936 from a takeover of Martin Secker, which was in receivership, by Fredric Warburg and Roger Senhouse.

The firm became renowned for its political stance, being both anti-fascist and anti-communist, a position that put them at loggerheads with the ethos of many intellectuals of the time.

When George Orwell parted company with Communist Party sympathizer Victor Gollancz over The Road to Wigan Pier, it was to Secker and Warburg that he took his next book Homage to Catalonia. Thereafter they were to publish all of Orwell’s work, including, after 18 months of rejections and setbacks, Animal Farm. Orwell and Warburg later became close friends.

Secker and Warburg published other books by key figures of the anti-Stalinist left, such as C. L. R. James, Rudolf Rocker and Boris Souvarine, as well as works by Lewis Mumford.
In February 1941 they launched a series of “long pamphlets” or “short books” called Searchlight Books, edited by George Orwell and T. R. Fyvel. The series was originally planned to include 17 books, but was discontinued after the publication of ten when bombing destroyed paper stocks.

With its financial position devastated by paper shortages during and after the war, Secker and Warburg were forced to join the Heinemann group of publishers in 1951. During the 1950s and 1960s Secker and Warburg were to publish the works of, amongst others, Simone de Beauvoir, Collette, J.M. Coetzee, Alberto Moravia, Günter Grass, Angus Wilson, Melvyn Bragg and Julian Gloag, as well as the British Buddhist Lobsang Rampa.
Secker and Warburg eventually merged with the Harvill Press to become Harvill Secker. It is now a division of Random House. Tom Rosenthal, chairman of the Institute of Contemporary Arts, was head of Secker and Warburg from 1971 to 1984.