Note (2018): In 1989, Angus & Robertson (Australia) amalgamated with Harper and Row (USA) and William Collins (UK) to form HarperCollins Australia, which retains the name as an imprint. See below for a more complete, though not comprehensive, history of the company.
Angus and Robertson, one of Australia's earliest and best-known publishing houses, was formed in 1884 as a partnership between David Mackenzie Angus (q.v.) and George Robertson (q.v.), when Robertson joined the bookselling business that Angus had started in Sydney in 1882. In 1888, the firm began to publish books, the impetus for this coming from Robertson. After Angus's retirement, due to ill health, Robertson went into partnership with another employee, Frederick Victor Wymark, who had bought Angus's share of the business. The partnership was converted into a public company in 1907 and Robertson directed publishing for forty-five years, until his death in 1933. Following Robertson's death, Walter Cousins took charge of publishing, until he was suceeded in 1948 by George Ferguson, George Robertson's grandson, who remained Angus & Robertson's publishing director until 1970.
Robertson's determination, ingenuity, and vision made the firm into 'the country's leading publisher'. In these early years, 25 per cent of the firm's profits came from publishing; the rest was derived from bookselling. Much of Angus & Robertson's success can be attributed to the success of its backlist authors, including Banjo Paterson, Henry Lawson, and C.J. Dennis, as well as popular authors such as Frank Clune and Ion Idriess (qq.v.). The strength of the backlist allowed Angus & Robertson to prosper during the early and mid-twentieth century. It also underpinned the publication of an emerging general (trade) list and other 'prestige items such as the Australian Encyclopedia, Ferguson's Bibliography [of Australia] and the learned academic and medical titles' (Alison, p.35).
Angus & Robertson remained Australia's leading publisher until the 1960s, at which time it experienced its first commercial intrusion in the form of a take-over bid from major shareholder Walter Burns, who was attracted to the real estate value of the firm's bookstores. Following unsuccessful takeover bids in 1960, Consolidated Press sold its 30% shareholding in A & R Ltd in 1962 to three groups of investors: 21% was acquired by British publishers William Collins, 3-6% by other British publishers, and the remaining 5-7% by a company formed by several A & R directors. During this period, the Board of Directors consisted of one director for each division (retailing, publishing and printing) and four outside directors with a solicitor, accountant, printing company executive, and the Australian Managing Director of Collins. A&R survived to enjoy another decade of culture-led publishing. In the early 1970s, however, the 'old firm' was acquired by businessman Gordon Barton (q.v.), who employed a youthful 'larrikin' publisher, Richard Walsh (q.v.), to rationalise and restructure the organisation. Then, in 1980, the firm was acquired again, this time by Rupert Murdoch's (q.v.) News Limited.
In 1989, Angus & Robertson (Australia) amalgamated with Harper and Row (USA) and William Collins (UK) to form HarperCollins Australia.
For a full administative history of the company, see the Guide to Australian Literary Manuscripts and Jennifer Alison, 'Publishers and Editors: Angus & Robertson 1888-1945' in A History of the Book in Australia 1891-1945, eds Martyn Lyons & John Arnold, UQP, St Lucia, 2001, pp.27-36.