The Blagger's Guide To...Twenty Years of Orion

Call the midwife: how a publishing house was born

*The Orion publishing group celebrates its 20th anniversary tomorrow evening at a swish ceremony at the Natural History Museum.

The group was founded in 1991 and, soon after, acquired the venerable publisher Weidenfeld & Nicolson, founded in 1949 by the Viennese journalist and philanthropist George Weidenfeld and Nigel Nicolson, the son of Sir Harold Nicolson and Vita Sackville-West. Since 2003, Orion has been owned by the French publishing group Hachette Livre.

*BBC1's surprise smash hit Call the Midwife, which airs its last episode tonight, is based on the Orion book of the same name by Jennifer Worth. It is now published in a TV tie-in paperback edition at £7.99.

*Orion's SF and fantasy imprint Gollancz announced this month that it has just signed a book by The Now Show's Mitch Benn (right) after an impromptu Twitter exchange between Benn and Gollancz deputy publishing director Simon Spanton. Benn had tweeted that he had time to kill in London; Spanton suggested that he drop into his office to discuss the novel "that you're going to write for Gollancz"; they met that afternoon; Benn sent the opening pages of a novel he just happened to be writing; Spanton loved it, and bought world rights for "a good five-figure sum". The result, Terra, tells the tale of a girl who spends her childhood on an alien planet and discovers that destructive humans are not trusted anywhere else in the universe. It will be published next year.

*Weidenfeld & Nicolson has published more world leaders than any other publisher, including Charles de Gaulle, Henry Kissinger, Golda Meir, Harold Wilson and Boris Yeltsin. In 2005, Lord Weidenfeld was instrumental in securing W&N the rights to publish Memory and Identity by Pope John Paul II. W&N has also published the diaries of Noël Coward, Alan Clark, Kenneth Tynan, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, and John Gielgud. A more recent bestseller was Belle de Jour's The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl.

*The independent publisher Quercus was founded in 2004 by former Orion employees Mark Smith and Wayne Davies. Quercus is now experiencing unprecedented success as the publisher of Stieg Larsson's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and other novels.

*In 2008, Orion was criticised by some literary agents and authors for dropping serious biographies from its list in favour of celebrity memoirs. The suggestion that the esteemed publisher had gone from nurturing authors such as Harold Wilson and Lyndon Johnson to concentrating on the likes of Charlotte Church and Leslie Ash, was received coldly in some quarters. But that was nothing compared with the scandal in 2007 when Orion published a series of compact editions, in which classics such as Anna Karenina, David Copperfield and Vanity Fair had been "sympathetically edited to reduce each novel's overall length to under 400 pages".

*Orion's best-selling author of all time is Maeve Binchy, who has published 10 books with the company to date. Her novel The Copper Beach is on a list of 20 Orion books that define the company, and which are being reissued this month. The other titles include Horrid Henry by Francesca Simon, Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder, Black and Blue by Ian Rankin, The Reader by Bernhard Schlink, Himalaya by Michael Palin, Labyrinth by Kate Mosse, The Tiger's Wife by Téa Obreht and Life by Keith Richards.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
    How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

    How to make your own Easter egg

    Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

    Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

    Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

    Cricket World Cup 2015

    Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
    The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing