A Brief History of PAN Books Ltd. 

Postcard inserted in early books


Flier from Book Society from the late 1950's

PAN Books was registered as a limited company on the 1st of September 1944, jointly owned by Alan Bott and The Book Society, which he founded  in 1929.

To begin with the PAN Books was based at the headquarters of the Book Society at 20, Headfort Place but soon moved to 8, Headfort Place.

In 1945 they published a collection called Tales of the Supernatural followed in July 1946 by Laurence Stern's A Sentimental Journey and Robert Louis Stevenson's The Suicide Club.

PAN also published four hardbacks.
Charles Dicken's A Christmas Carol in December 1945 followed by George and Weedon Grossmith's Diary of a Nobody and Scenes of London Life in December 1946. In 1949 they published The Fountain of Life by A G Prys-Jones

Initial print runs were for 25,000 copies but later increased to 40,000 but with the proviso that at least half had to be sent to be sold abroad,  hence the large number of books without a price on the cover.

ML225 leaving Seinne at Honfleur

In 1947 PAN solved the problem of paper shortages from the war by reaching an agreement with the Board of Trade which allowed them to print the books in Europe. In 1950 they reverted to printing in the UK.

They solved the problem of transport by shipping the books from the printers to the warehouses using an ex-Royal Navy Motor Launch ML225. This was renamed 'Lalun' after a prostitute in  'On the City Wall' in Ten Stories by Rudyard Kipling.

Every week 250,000 copies of the latest titles would be shipped down the Seine from Paris via to Le Havre and up the Thames to Kingston.

The three main printers in France were Imprimerie Crete at Corbeil, Imprimarie Paul Dupont and Imprimarie Chaix although some were also printed in Austria.

They became a serious rival to Penguin Books because of their attractive and eye catching covers.

Alan Bott was succeeded by A. D. Forshaw after his death in 1952.

In 1956 The Dam Busters became the first volume to sell 1,000,000 copies

Between 1956 and 1964 PAN set up two despatch centres, the first at West Molesey, Surrey and then moving to Edenbridge, Kent.

In 1966 PAN moved from 20 Headfort Place to 33, Tothill Street,  London SW1.

A consortium consisting of Collins, Macmillan, Hodder & Stoughton and Heinemann purchased a share in PAN and in 1962, when New American Library attempted to take over, Collins and Macmillan bought PAN outright. In 1969 Heinemann rejoined by buying a third share.