Contents and Arrangement Expanded View

Collection Overview

Weidenfeld and Nicolson (Firm)
Weidenfeld & Nicolson Records
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
1917-2012 (mostly 1960-2005)
403 boxes
Storage Note:
  • ReCAP (scarcpxm): Boxes 1-47; 50-405


Consists of the publishing and administrative records of Weidenfeld & Nicolson, a British publishing company founded by George Weidenfeld (1919-2016) and Nigel Nicolson (1917-2004), which specialized in literary fiction and nonfiction, with an emphasis on history, biographies and memoirs, books by world leaders and political figures, glossy illustrated books, travel guides, and reference books. The collection documents the operations of the firm from its establishment in 1948 through its sale in 1991, and also includes some later records from as recent as 2012 related to its continued operation as an imprint of the Orion Publishing Group.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of publishing and administrative records of the British publisher Weidenfeld & Nicolson that document its operations as a publishing company from 1948 to 1991 and as an imprint of the Orion Publishing Group from 1992 to 2012. The earliest records date from Weidenfeld & Nicolson's foundation in the late 1940s, though the bulk of the material is from the 1960s on. Publication files comprise the vast majority of the collection and include editorial correspondence, legal and financial documents, and production files related to specific authors and publications. These files are largely organized and titled by author name and/or book title. The remainder of the records are administrative files that primarily consist of general correspondence, including with editors, translators, proofreaders, and other publishing companies; internal meeting minutes and communications within and between departments; legal and financial documents; and records related to sales, distribution, publicity, and the day-to-day operations of the firm.

Notable publication files include materials related to James D. Watson's The Double Helix (1968), as well as files on works by Norman Mailer, Margaret Drabble, Joan Didion, A.J. Ayer, Edna O'Brien, Harold Wilson, Eric Ambler, John Berger, Saul Bellow, and others. While the records contain material about the publication of several other works by Vladimir Nabokov, the files related to Weidenfeld & Nicolson's 1959 publication of Lolita are limited to post-publication correspondence regarding permissions.

Most of the description was provided by the dealer and generally reflects the original folder titles when titles were present.


Much, though not all, of the original order of the records had been disrupted before the collection arrived at the library. Processing archivists intellectually organized the collection into two series: Publication Files and Administrative Files, though materials physically remain in the order in which they were received.

Collection Creator Biography:

Weidenfeld and Nicolson (Firm)

Weidenfeld & Nicolson was a British publishing company that was co-founded in 1948 by George Weidenfeld (1919-2016), an Austrian Jewish refugee from Vienna who became a British citizen in 1947 and was knighted in 1969; and Nigel Nicolson (1917-2004), a British writer and politician who was the son of Sir Harold Nicolson and Vita Sackville-West. While Nicolson resigned in 1964 and remained an outside director until the company's sale, Weidenfeld actively oversaw the firm's operations for over 40 years. Weidenfeld & Nicolson's early successes included publication of Sir Isaiah Berlin's The Hedgehog and the Fox (1953), the British edition of Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita (1959), and James D. Watson's The Double Helix (1968). The firm's business expanded significantly in the decades after the controversial publication of Lolita. Building from their early focus on literary fiction and history, Weidenfeld & Nicolson grew their contemporary fiction and nonfiction offerings over the next several decades to include memoirs and books by world leaders and political figures, diaries and collected letters, biographies, popular science, philosophy, glossy illustrated books, travel guides, and reference books.

In 1985, with financial backing from Ann Getty, George Weidenfeld acquired the American literary publisher Grove Press with the goal of creating a New York-based imprint, though the project soon faced financial difficulties. J. M. Dent & Sons was also acquired by Weidenfeld & Nicolson in 1988, which brought with it the Everyman's Library series of reprints of classic literature, as well as Welsh poets Dylan Thomas and Ronald Stuart Thomas. In 1991, Weidenfeld sold his company to the Orion Publishing Group, which was absorbed by the French company Hachette Livre in 1998. Weidenfeld remained active as a non-executive chairman and continued to solicit publications for the imprint into the 2000s.

Collection History


Purchased from Kenny's Bookshop and Art Galleries in 2018 (AM 2019-39).


Roughly 8 linear feet of newspaper clippings and personnel files were removed during 2019-2020 processing.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Kelly Bolding and Faith Charlton in 2019-2020, with assistance from Vicki Principi, Alice Griffin, Matthew Oakland '20, Julia English '19, Carlos Giron '21, Zora Arum '21, Benjamin Roberts '22, Rose Gilbert '20, and Alia Wood '20. Finding aid written by Kelly Bolding and Faith Charlton in February 2020.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

Open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. No further photoduplication of copies of material in the collection can be made when Princeton University Library does not own the original. Inquiries regarding publishing material from the collection should be directed to RBSC Public Services staff through the Ask Us! form. The library has no information on the status of literary rights in the collection and researchers are responsible for determining any questions of copyright.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

Weidenfeld & Nicolson Records; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
(609) 258-3184
Storage Note:
  • ReCAP (scarcpxm): Boxes 1-47; 50-405