William Swan Sonnenschein
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William Swan Sonnenschein

William Swan Sonnenschein
William Swan Sonnenschein.png
Illustrated London News, 6 November 1909 "Heads of Famous Publishing Houses, No. XXVI. Mr. William Swan Sonnenschein"   "Senior managing director of Messrs. George Routledge and Sons --[Photo: Hurst]"
Born(1855-05-05)5 May 1855
United Kingdom
Died31 January 1931(1931-01-31) (aged 75)
United Kingdom
Other namesWilliam Swan Stallybrass, W.S.W. Anson
Scientific career
FieldsPublishing, editing, bibliography

William Swan Sonnenschein (5 May 1855 - 31 January 1931), known from 1917 as William Swan Stallybrass, was a British publisher, editor and bibliographer.[1][2][3] His publishing firm, Swan Sonnenschein, published scholarly works in the fields of philosophy and the social sciences.[1] as well as general literature and periodicals. In 1902 he became the senior managing director of the British publishing firm George Routledge & Sons.[4][5]


Logo of W. Swan Sonnenschein & Co. (inspired by Thielman Kerver's publisher's mark).

In his youth Sonnenschein was apprenticed to the London publishers and book importers Williams and Norgate. In 1878 he founded the publishing firm, W. Swan Sonnenschein & Allen,[4] with the first of several partners, J. Archibald Allen. In 1882 the firm's name was restyled to W. Swan Sonnenschein & Co.[6] In 1895 the firm became a limited liability company.

Under him the firm published several renowned book series, including the Library of Philosophy (1890-1911)[7] and the Social Science Series.[8] The firm also acquired a reputation for publishing radical works, including those of George Bernard Shaw,[9]Karl Marx, and Edward Carpenter. Other major authors published were J. M. Barrie, Henry James, George Meredith and George Moore.

He was a member of the Ethical Society and published its literature.[10]

In 1902 he left Swan Sonnenschein to work as senior managing director at the publishing house George Routledge & Sons.[4] Later he took up a position at Kegan Paul.[11]

In 1911 the firm Swan Sonnenschein became amalgamated with George Allen & Co.

Sonnenschein wrote The Best Books, a multivolume general bibliography that became a standard reference book in larger libraries for many years. Its third edition (1910) was described by The New York Times as a "valuable work".[12]


He was one of six children of Adolphus (Adolf) Sonnenschein, a teacher and writer originally from Moravia (now the Czech Republic) and his first wife, Sarah Robinson Stallybrass.[4] One of his brothers was the English classical scholar Edward Adolf Sonnenschein.

He married Helena Teulon in 1882. William and Helena had two children: the jurist and university administrator William Teulon Swan Sonnenschein and Frances Helena Swan Sonnenschein.

In 1917, responding to increasing anti-German hostility in Britain during World War I, he dropped his Germanic-sounding surname "Sonnenschein" and adopted his mother's maiden name, being thereafter known as "William Swan Stallybrass". Similarly, his wife and children changed their names to Helena Stallybrass, William Teulon Swan Stallybrass and Frances Helena Swan Stallybrass respectively.[13]

Books written

  • The best books : a reader's guide to the choice of the best available books (about 25,000) in every department of science, art, and literature, with the dates of the first and last editions, and the prize, size and publisher's name of each book. A contribution towards classified bibliography. London: Swan Sonnenschein, Lowrey & Co., 1887.
  • The best books : a reader's guide to the choice of the best available books (about 100,000) in every department of science, art, and literature, with the dates of the first and last editions, and the prize, size and publisher's name (both English and American) of each book. A contribution towards systematic bibliography. 3rd ed. London: George Routledge and Sons, 1910-35.[12][clarification needed]

Books edited

  • Esquemeling, John. The Buccaneers of America. A true account of the most remarkable assaults committed of late years upon the Coast of the West Indies by the Buccaneers of Jamaica and Tortuga, both English and French. London: George Routledge, n.d. [1923]. A translation of the 1684-85 revision and edited by W. S. Stalleybrass. With an introduction by Andrew Lang. XX, 480, 8pp. With frontispiece, 10 full-page plates, and text figures.
  • The Epic of the Beast, Consisting of English Translations of The History of Reynard the Fox and Physiologus. London: George Routledge & Sons Ltd., 1924. Text of "Reynard" as translated and printed by William Caxton in 1481 and modernised here by William Swan Stallybrass. Introduction by William Rose. Glossarial index and notes to Caxton's words and phrases. "Physiologus" translated, with an introduction, by James Carlill. Illustrated throughout with Kaulbach plates. xxxviii + 277 pp.


  1. ^ a b "Sonnenschein, William Swan". The Oxford Companion to the Book.
  2. ^ Richard Aldington, Richard Aldington: An Autobiography in Letters. Norman T. Gates, ed. Pennsylvania State University Press, 1992. p. 391.
  3. ^ Reading University: Special Collections Services, Reference Number(s) GB 6 RUL MSS 3280, 3282, 4058.
  4. ^ a b c d "Stallybrass, William Swan", in: Who Was Who 1929-1940: A Companion to Who's Who, Containing the Biographies of Those Who Died During the Period 1929-1940. London: Adam & Charles Black, 1967. 2nd edition. (Who Was Who, Vol. III.). p. 1277.
  5. ^ Ann Parry, "Swan Sonnenschein Limited; Swan Sonnenschein and Allen; Swan Sonnenschein, Lowrey and Company; Swan Sonnenschein and Company", in: Patricia Anderson and Jonathan Rose, ed. British Literary Publishing Houses, 1820-1880. Vol. 106 of: Dictionary of Literary Biography, Detroit: Gale, 1991.
  6. ^ FOB: Firms Out of Business, Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin.
  7. ^ Mumby and Stallybrass, p. 37.
  8. ^ Social Science Series (Swan Sonnenschein & Co.) - Book Series List, publishinghistory.com. Retrieved 21 January 2019.
  9. ^ Michel W. Pharand, Bernard Shaw and His Publishers. University of Toronto Press, 2009. pp. 10, 14-17 and 223.
  10. ^ Mumby and Stallybrass, p. 36.
  11. ^ "Swan Sonnenschein & Co.", Social Networks and Archival Contexts.
  12. ^ a b Review of William Swan Sonnenschein's The Best Books, 3rd Edition, in: "Literary Notes from Paris", The New York Times, 27 August 1910.
  13. ^ Michael P. Stallybrass. "The Stallybrass Family and Their Medieval Ancestors". Self-published (people.math.gatech.edu/~stallybr). 6 February 2012.

Further reading

  • Frank Arthur Mumby and Frances Helena Swan Stallybrass, From Swan Sonnenschein to George Allen & Unwin Ltd. London: Allen & Unwin, 1955. With an introduction by Dr. John Murray.

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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