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The UK’s Pan Books celebrated its 70th anniversary with a party at Foyles on Charing Cross Road on 5 September at which it ‘revived’ its famous Golden Pan awards for sales of a million copies. Authors and illustrators who received the new awards – a handsome gold-plated statuette of the God Pan, based on a Roman Pan in the British Museum – were Jeffrey Archer for Only Time Will Tell; health and fitness guru Joe Wicks for Lean in 15; and Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler for The Gruffalo.

Archer, who appeared at Sharjah International Book Fair in 2013, continues to be a global bestseller, and shows no sign of stopping, as his longstanding agent, Curtis Brown Chairman Jonathan Lloyd, explained. “Jeffrey has sold in 42 territories in translation. We’re just concluding a film and TV deal for The Clifton Chronicles, which has sold more than nine million copies in the English language, and we’ve just wrapped up a film deal for Paths of Glory. Jeffrey Archer is the most loyal and appreciative of authors and I am pleased to announce that we have recently concluded a new four-book deal with Pan Macmillan for a standalone novel, Heads You Win, which will be published next year.”

Lloyd also gave this tribute to the publisher: “Almost right from the start Pan were always just a bit sexier and more exciting than their paperback rivals. It still holds true today. They are outsiders but part of a big conglomerate. They are large in reach but small in numbers so that they have the ability to work together as a team and move fast. They punch well over their weight, not surprisingly, as they have some of the best people working for them here and right around the world including an enlightened worldwide leadership.”

Pan Books was founded by a decorated First World War flying ace and later led by a decorated Second World War flying ace. Its founder, Alan Bott, became a journalist after the First World War and started the Book Society, an early book club, before beginning Pan Books in 1944. The first ten mass-market paperbacks were published in 1947, which is where Gordon Young comes into the story. Wartime rationing of paper still existed in the UK at the time, so the books were printed in France, loaded onto a former Royal Navy Launch in Paris and brought up the Seine to Le Harve and across the Channel to London. This practice continued for two years.

Ralph Vernon-Hunt became Pan MD in 1969 and eventually chairman in 1980. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross in the Second World War and in the Sixties was the model for James Bond on a number of Ian Fleming’s titles.

Pan was subsequently jointly owned by four leading publishers: William Collins, Macmillan, Hodder & Stoughton and William Heinemann. In 1986 Macmillan became the sole owner of Pan Books and in 1990 it merged with the trade division of Macmillan to become Pan Macmillan.

A Golden Pan was first awarded posthumously in 1965 to the Fleming estate for sales of a million copies of Casino Royale. Golden Pans became a staple of the British book industry for the next 35 years (which demonstrates how well Pan was doing), with the list of their recipients reading like a rollcall of publishing history: Grace Metalious for Peyton Place, Arthur Haley for Hotel, Jack Higgins for The Eagle has Landed… In 1971 a Golden Pan was awarded to Otto Frank, for sales of a million copies of his daughter’s The Diary of Ann Frank, and through the Eighties and Nineties Wilbur Smith collected no less than 20 Golden Pans.

Among the last Golden Pans presented were Alice Sebold for sales of a million copies of The Lovely Bones in 2004, Clive James in 2006 for The North Face of Soho and Rod Campbell, also in 2006, for Dear Zoo. Then it seems to have gone into hibernation, with the rise of ebooks cannibalising sales of paperback editions. The ‘return’ of the Golden Pan sees a slight change in criteria: the awards are now given for million copy sales across all formats.

To mark the anniversary, Pan has also re-issued 20 classic titles from its backlist. Pan Macmillan international director Jonathan Atkins notes that of the anniversary editions it is Peter Benchley’s Jaws, (which received a Golden Pan in 1975, the year it was published), and Joy Adamson’s Born Free, originally published in 1967, that are now joint first in international sales, which demonstrates the enduring ‘classic’ status of titles on Pan’s list.