London based, the Bodley Head was founded in 1887 by John Lane and Elkin Mathews to trade in antiquarian books. This meant dealing with an upper-class literary clientele, during the age of aestheticism. By 1894, the Bodley Head began publishing works of 'stylish decadence' that likely catered to the same readers, who bought their antiquarian books.
Some of the titles Lane, Mathews and the Bodley Head are responsible for bringing us represent the tone of the era, like the Yellow Book, while others were ground breaking in their genre, like The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen. Machen's audience denounced The Great God Pan for its sexual and horrific content and it subsequently sold well, going into a second edition.
In 1894, the Bodley Head published The Sphinx by Oscar Wilde and the first edition of A Woman of No Importance, printing 500 copies. Lane and Mathews would go on to work with writers, like H.G. Wells. The firm was still important throughout the 1970s and was sold in 1987 to Random House.
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