Kenneth Pinnock: Educational publisher at John Murray

Kenneth Pinnock was among the finest educational publishers of his time. Even more remarkably, he achieved success while based in one of the smaller players of the era, as Manager and then Educational Director of John Murray from 1953 to 1984.

At a time when real innovation in school-book publishing was unconstrained by a national curriculum, Pinnock's publishing often led the way for others to follow. His first job was at Christophers, where he worked under the redoubtable Bertram Christian on, among other books, Nelkon's Principles of Physics – one of the key textbooks of the 1950s and 1960s. This provided a useful apprenticeship for the sort of publishing he would oversee at John Murray.

In 1953 he joined John Murray as Educational Manager. He was told he would have a secretary, a couple of clerical assistants and two educational representatives available to visit schools. By the time he retired, Pinnock had created for the firm an Educational Division which punched far above its weight and which competed successfully in a number of areas with the titans of the industry.

Perhaps because Pinnock had to involve himself in more wide-ranging aspects of the publishing process than his immediate peers in other firms, his publishing was not only innovative in its content but also in its presentation. In the very early 1960s he was among the first to bring two-colour production to secondary-school books and in the early 1970s this was followed by the use of four-colour illustrations in the first colour edition of Don Mackean's then world-famous Introduction to Biology.

As well as being known as Mackean's publisher, Pinnock brought to Murray's a string of school-book authors in the late 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s who were often pioneers in their areas. And if Mackean's books sold millions, so too did others, including those by F.E.S. Finn and Tom Duncan, and their success opened up export opportunities for John Murray which simply weren't available to similar sized firms of the day.

Pinnock contributed greatly to the industry he loved and as chairman of the Educational Publishers Council he led a successful lobby seeking better funding for books in schools, not least by organising the first levy on individual publishers' educational turnover to support the campaign.

Much of Ken Pinnock's publishing success was attributable to his sharp yet lightly carried intellect combined with an unusual generosity towards others. He was for ever curious and kindly, and made lasting friendships with his authors and other publishers, and yet found time to devote energy and commitment to both his work and to his beloved city of Canterbury – a lifelong interest which flowered after his retirement in 1984.

Born in 1919 into a middle-class family (his father was a coal merchant and haulier), Pinnock attended the Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys, in Canterbury, from 1928 to 1938. He was a clever pupil, and won a scholarship to Oriel College, Oxford (where he read History). He delighted in recalling that this achievement, rare in its day, was recognised by the granting of a half-day holiday, not just to his own school, but also to the Girls' Langton, where his future wife, Joyce, was a pupil. His brilliant recollections of his early life during these years are recorded in A Canterbury Childhood, which will be published early next year by Robert Hale. Pinnock also served as a vice-president of the John Betjeman Society.

Ken Pinnock was extraordinarily happily married for more than 66 years to Joyce, who died a few months ago, and was wonderfully proud of the achievements of his children, Christine, distinguished head teacher, Trevor, harpsichordist and conductor, Melvin, artist blacksmith, who died aged only 36, and Anna, a film set decorator.

Kenneth Pinnock, publisher: born Canterbury 15 May 1919; married 1942 Joyce Muggleton (died 2008; one son, two daughters, and one son deceased); died Beltinge, Kent 31 October 2008.

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