Obituary: Sir Peter Spicer Bt

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The Independent Online
Peter James Spicer, publisher: born 20 May 1921; staff, Oxford University Press 1947-81; member, Education Committee of Oxfordshire County Council 1959-74; Congregational Representative, British Council of Churches 1963-72; succeeded 1968 as fourth Bt; Chairman, Educational Publishers' Council 1976-78; married 1949 Margaret Wilson (one son, three daughters, and one daughter deceased); died Chichester 30 September 1993.

PETER SPICER spent his working life as a publisher in the service of Oxford University Press. He joined OUP in 1947 from Christ Church, Oxford, following service in the Army and Navy during the Second World War, and he retired to Chichester in 1981 to enjoy gardening, walking, sailing, and his family.

Spicer began and ended his career with OUP in the Clarendon Press, publishing at different times classics, theology, and economics. In between, he headed the Schools and Further Education Department which, then as now, is responsible for publishing school textbooks and school reference titles.

In the early days, that department seemed more comfortable publishing for the independent schools, rather than the state comprehensives, and seemed content to publish good books that filled a need and made a contribution, rather than ones that challenged the competition in the search of a greater share of the market.

Under Spicer's stewardship new policies began to evolve and the publishing became more competitive, and the books designed with more consideration for the changing needs of the school population. This reflected Spicer's own beliefs about the role the educational publisher should play.

Spicer was himself an accomplished educational editor and successfully published courses in modern languages, religious education, and history, which sold well and profitably for many years. When he was hiring others to help him expand his list and market it more successfully, he showed no temptation to hire 'yes' men or women. He did not hesitate to recruit colleagues with their own firm ideas about educational publishing and marketing. It is a tribute to Spicer as a man and a manager that he kept this team under control and pulling in the same direction. To do so, he drew upon deep reserves of those qualities for which he was always liked and respected: tolerance, patience, good humour, and an overarching integrity that implicitly set a high standard for his colleagues.

As the Education Department grew in size and became more successful, Spicer, in a typically selfless move, decided to resign and return to the Clarendon Press as the Senior Religious Books Editor. He handed the department over to the next generation which he had recruited and encouraged.

Spicer's interests spread well beyond publishing, although education was a continuing concern in his life. He served as a member of the Oxfordshire Education Committee from 1959 to 1974 and as Chairman of the Educational Publishers Council from 1976 to 1978.

Peter Spicer was a robust man, always exuding energy, good health and good humour. He was utterly unaffected and free of pretence or pomposity. He was a gentleman - kind, generous, and tolerant - and he will be remembered, by those who had the good fortune to know him, with affection and respect.

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