Faber & Faber is* celebrating its ninetieth anniversary with the publication of a book by Toby Faber, grandson of the founder, entitled Faber & Faber: The Untold Story. The book is reviewed in The New Yorker by Jonathan Galassi of Farrar, Straus & Giroux (who owned Faber’s US operations from 1998 to 2015).

It all started with a magazine, The Nursing Mirror which was originally published by The Scientific Press owned by the Gwyer family. In 1925 the company recruited Geoffrey Faber who had been working at Oxford University Press, and had like Maurice Gwyer become a Fellow of All Souls. The company was renamed Faber & Gwyer but in 1929 the The Nursing Mirror was sold and the Gwyers moved on, leaving Geoffrey Faber on his own. He chose to call the company Faber & Faber although he was the only Faber involved — maybe he was hoping his 2-year-old son Tom would come in too — but he became a don at Cambridge University. Tom’s major gift to the company’s success may have been as the intended first audience for Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats whose author was his godfather and had been a director of the company since its 1925 inception. A share of the sub-rights and royalty income generated by Cats was to say the least helpful to the company in staying independent while no longer small.

See the Faber blog for links to a decade by decade history of the company. These eight pieces are all extracts from the essay “A History of Faber” by John Mullan.

Robert McCrum remembers his time at Faber in this piece at The Guardian. His article is stimulated by publication of some of the correspondence conducted at the company. Samples may be found here. (Link via Book Business Magazine.) Pete Townshend, another Faber celeb editor, recalls his time there.

That Faber & Faber has published many iconic books is beyond doubt. Their poetry list is especially strong, not perhaps too surprising in a company whose editorial director was for so long T. S. Eliot. On their blog they offer a selection of influential books selected by staff.

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* Or should one write “Faber & Faber are celebrating their . . .”? I believe this is another of these British English/American English differences. I’m a bit confused about which way is which, though I think the UK goes for plural, US for singular. This UK tendency may be reinforced by the tendency to add an “s” to the end of a company name. Thus “Headspeaths are selling mince at £1 a lb this week”. To keep my confusion going though, you can find answers to a Google search on this singular/plural question which assert exactly the opposite. I think the long and the short of it all is that whether you are British or American you can write whichever you prefer, or better suits the rhythm of your sentence. Or even what is in your head: if you visualize Headspeaths as a bunch of members of the Headspeath family retailing meat in Galashiels then you’ll think of their business as plural. If you think of Faber & Faber as a place good books come from, then maybe you’ll be more inclined to refer to it in the singular.