History of the Octopus Imprints

The original Octopus Books was formed early in 1971 as a subsidiary of News International by Paul Hamlyn (who had moved on from Hamlyn Publishing Group after the purchase of his company by I.P.C., making him a millionaire at the age of 39. Reed subsequently purchased the Hamlyn Group from IPC in 1970). Publication began in September 1972 with 33 titles. Paul believed the book buying market was larger than publishers thought and sought to supply attractively produced books for exceptional value.  Derek Freeman joined the company in 1974 as Production Manager and stayed within the company throughout its future changes. In 1987, the company was purchased by Reed International and moved into the Michelin Building in April 1988. The company  merged with Dutch media company Elsevier in January 1993 to become Reed Elsevier. Reed Elsevier declared Reed Consumer books up for sale in July 1995 and disposal of the different divisions resulted during 1997 and 1998. The Illustrated division was subject to a management buy-out in 1998 by Derek Freeman and renamed Octopus Publishing Group. The group was acquired by Hachette in 2001.


Hamlyn Publishing Group Limited started in 1959 by Paul Hamlyn and originally called Paul Hamlyn Ltd. It became well known as a publisher of cookery and gardening books at reasonable prices.

They first published Marguerite Patten in 1962 with 500 Recipes From Around the World. They produced a successful series of All Colour Cookbooks, the first being The Hamlyn All Colour Cookbook published in 1970.


George Philip started  in 1834 and is now known as Philip’s.

The first traceable atlas is the Philip’s Atlas of Australia in 1864 and the first street map is Philip’s Finger-Post Strip Maps London to Exeter and Back published in 1908. The first traceable road atlas is the Philip’s Finger-Post Guide to Road Junctions Part 1 :Twelve Main Routes from London, also published in 1908.

Their most popular street atlas series which is still published today started with  the County Street Atlas of Surrey in 1980.

George Philip was acquired by Reed International in April 1988.


Miller’s, an imprint originally called M.J.M. Publications Ltd., was owned by Judith Miller and her then husband Martin Miller. They specialised in the antiques field and published their first Miller’s Antiques Price Guide in 1980.

The first Miller’s Collectables was published in 1989.


Mitchell Beazley was set up by James Mitchell and John Beazley and financed by George Philip. They started publishing in 1969.

First titles published in 1970 : The Mitchell Beazley Atlas of the Universe and Golden Sovereigns by Nicholas Bentley

 A huge joint venture project was undertaken with International Visual Resource, a Dutch company which resulted in the publication of The Joy of Knowledge encyclopaedia set in 1976.  Other major titles are The Joy of Sex by Alex Comfort and The World Atlas of Wine from the well-known wine expert, Hugh Johnson.  Hugh’s pocket wine guide first appeared in 1977 and has been published annually ever since. Mitchell Beazley was purchased by Octopus in May 1987.


Conran Octopus was a joint venture announced in October 1983 with 50% owned by Habitat Mothercare under the direction of Sir Terence Conran, the chairman of the Habitat Group.

The first titles published in 1984 with Mothercare as Octopus Conran included New Life, First Foods, First Home, First Aches and Pains & First Fun.

The first book authored by Terence Conran was The New House Book  published in1985.


Cassell  joined the Octopus fold on the purchase of Octopus Publishing Group by Hachette. Cassell started on 1st July 1848 with journals moving into books in 1849 with the History of British Fossil Reptiles by Sir Richard Owen 4 vols. 1849 – 1884.


Gaia started in 1988

The first book was The Gaia Peace Atlas published by Pan in 1988.

Octopus Publishing Group acquired this imprint in March 2004.


Godsfield Press started in 1995

First books published in 1995 : The Celtic Book of Days,

In the Beginning : There was Joy, In Times of Grief, Mystic Cats

& The Mystic Vision : Daily Encounters with the Divine.

Octopus Publishing Group acquired this imprint in November 2003.


Bounty Books

Bounty Books, as an imprint, only started in April 2002.

Prior to the current Octopus incarnation, the division was known as New Editions (in Reed days) but this name was never used as an imprint. The original imprints were :

Peerage Books started 1972

Treasure Press started 1975

Chancellor Press started 1981.


Brimax Books

Brimax was a children’s imprint run by George Rogers and his family and based in Newmarket. It was brought into the Reed fold via the original Octopus in November 1983. The publishing passed to Octopus and was managed under the Bounty Books division on the sale of the Reed assets. It was sold on to Autumn Books, a part of Swedish publisher, Bonnier, by Octopus in February 2003.