OBITUARY:Peter du Sautoy

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The Independent Online
Peter du Sautoy was possibly the last of the gentleman publishers, a breed that came to an end with the growth of the publishing industry into big business as it became involved with the newspaper industry and conglomerates widening their portfolios.

Publishing was once about scholarship, interest in letters, in authors and the furthering of their talents, with commercial acumen a necessary but secondary consideration. Sir Stanley Unwin, whose books on publishing were until the last decade the rulebooks of the profession, said that a publisher who thought only of profit deserved little respect and was not a true professional. Although Peter du Sautoy was not given to public pronouncements, he would certainly have agreed, and he was a fine example of a publishing professional in the best sense.

A generous and warm- hearted man with a sense of public responsibility, he had a background in literature and the arts, possessed literary talents of his own that he held back to further those of others, was an editor of distinction and a liberally minded, unselfish contributor to the cause of publishing in general and to letters for their own sake.

Du Sautoy came from a distinguished family background; his father was a colonel in the Army who picked up the usual honours, a TD and a DL at the end of his career, as well as an OBE earlier. He was educated at Uppingham Foundation School and went on to Wadham College at Oxford, where he took his MA before entering the Department of Printed Books at the British Museum in 1935 for a year. He then spent three years back at Oxford as Assistant Educational Officer to the city and enlisted in the RAF in 1940, where he served until the end of the war.

In 1946 du Sautoy joined Faber and Faber, then at the height of its prestige, largely because he wanted to be poet, but he always kept his personal aspirations in the background out of modesty. He was nevertheless a sensitive and recondite poetry editor, following in the steps of T.S. Eliot, who at the time was gradually retiring from active editorial involvement in the affairs of the company. Du Sautoy continued to accept new poets and other writers and was kind and helpful with advice to those he felt unable to accept at the time. He was made a director in 1946, vice-chairman in 1960 and chairman in 1971, a position he held until his retirement in 1977.

During those years he kept Faber on its course as one of Britain's leading literary publishers, especially of new literature and poetry, although the list had difficulty, after the generation of Auden, Spender and MacNeice, in finding new poets of similar quality. Lawrence Durrell, William Golding and other new Faber authors became best-sellers while Eliot continued to produce much revenue for Faber, which expanded its fiction and drama list and began to publish books on music, one of du Sautoy's main interests. This attracted young musical scholars such as Donald Mitchell, who then established Faber Music as a subsidiary to publish printed scores.

Du Sautoy commented at the time that the new excitement this generated, especially the discovery and publication of new British composers, was very like the early days of Faber. He played a full part in the development of the musical list, which included biographies, books of musical theory and books on music for children (Faber was already well established in the children's market). The big coup was the capture of Benjamin Britten for Faber Music, for which Donald Mitchell was principally responsible.

Peter du Sautoy gave his time to countless committees to help the furtherance of serious British publishers, travelled widely abroad with delegations to other countries and negotiated agreements with European, East European and African countries. This was free labour on behalf of the publishing community. He had his recognition with the OBE in 1964 and the CBE in 1971 and received a number of other honours.

After his retirement he moved to Suffolk, where he characteristically involved himself in much voluntary work with the Aldeburgh Festival, becoming vice-president in 1987. This involved him in much diplomacy: after the death of Benjamin Britten there were many associated artistic directors and Peter Pears, no businessman, was in charge of the administration which, in spite of good continuing royalties from Britten performances, soon ran into financial difficulties. In addition the committee consisted of three different elements, the old guard who had been associated with the founder which wanted no change, new artistic directors, often composers themselves, who wanted the festival to introduce the best new music, and a naturally conservative public that was to move away from the familiar classics and the works of Britten, which were of course obligatory at Aldeburgh.

The committee was fortunately well led by its major officers and du Sautoy played a large role in resolving difficulties and disagreements.

One of the major challenges to his diplomatic talent was when he agreed to act as arbitrator in the division of another publishing firm, Calder and Boyars, not dissimular from Faber and Faber, which had decided to split into two halves. Although both parties had agreed to abide by his decisions - and these given his terms of reference were eminently fair - he was constantly asked to re-examine his judgments and this he found distressing and unreasonable; he did his best in the circumstances. He would have made an excellent judge, but would not have enjoyed the necessity of making difficult and unpleasant decisions.

A modest man, Peter du Sautoy was better known in his profession than outside it and much of his best work for the cause of literature and publishing generally went unrecognised in the wider world.

During his last years of retirement in Suffolk, he took great pleasure in music at the Maltings in Snape, centre of the Aldeburgh Festival, and he occasionally chaired conferences and lectures there. He also agreed to help literature on a local basis and became President of the Ipswich and Suffolk Book League.

John Calder

Peter Francis du Sautoy, publisher: born Worcestershire 19 February 1912; director, Faber and Faber 1946-60, vice-chairman 1960-71, chairman 1971-77; member, Council, Publishers Association 1957-63, 1965-77, President 1967-69; OBE 1964, CBE 1971; married 1937 Phyllis (''Mollie'') Floud (two sons); died Aldeburgh, Suffolk 16 July 1995.