Author, publisher and Pepys enthusiast dies after 50 years in Hampstead Garden Suburb

Robin Hyman, who has died at the age of 85 Picture: Peter Hyman

Robin Hyman, who has died at the age of 85 Picture: Peter Hyman - Credit: Archant

An influential publisher and Samuel Pepys enthusiast who lived in Hampstead Garden Suburb for 50 years has died.

Robin Hyman, 85, died peacefully on January 12 after a life spent loving books.

The grandfather of eight and father of three was involved in publishing companies Bell and Hyman, Unwin Hyman, Evans Brothers and Laurence King as well as serving as the president of the Publishers Association.

He authored many books in his lifetime, including a dictionary of quotations and a children’s dictionary that sold more than three million copies and became the standard in schools across Africa.

Discussing The Modern Dictionary of Quotations (1962), Mr Hyman’s son Peter said: “It was a mammoth task putting together the 25,000 entries and [Mr Hyman] used to get up at four or five in the morning and work on the dictionary before beginning his day job in the usual way.”

Mr Hyman, who studied English at the University of Birmingham, was also an active member of the Hampstead Parliament in the 1950s.

He learned the book trade during 22 years at Evans Brothers – after inheriting his love of books from bookseller father Leonard – where he had responsibilities in design, production, publicity and editorial.

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During his time in the trade, he published an 11-volume unabridge diary of Samuel Pepys and the work of Lord of the Rings author JRR Tolkien.

His love of Pepys led him to enter a Ham&High limerick competition, with his submission winning a prize.

He won with the following poem:

Piled up in bookshops in Hepys,

Most diaries give me the crepys.

But there is one that is shrewd,

And lively and lewd,

Who wrote this great work? Samuel Pepys.

His time at Unwin Hyman included the acquisition of Pandora Press, Mills and Boon (non-fiction) and University Tutorial Press.

After the firm was sold to Harper Collins in 1988, Mr Hyman became president of the Publishers Association (PA). His time included battles over freedom of speech after Salman Rushdie was threatened with death for writing The Satanic Verses.

Commenting on his death, PA council member Richard Charkin said: “Robin was a publisher through and through.

“He loved books. He loved gossip. He understood the importance of commerce as well as culture. And he was always generous, not least with the time and effort he put into the Publishers Association where he served as Vice President and President.

“We shall miss him deeply.”

Mr Hyman was a keen football fan – supporting Arsenal and Reading – and a member of the Pepys Society as well as a patron of the National Theatre and the Royal Academy.

His Judaism was also important to him, which was reflected in his contribution to the creation of Jewish Book Week.

Mr Hyman was married to clinical psychologist Inge Neufeld from 1966.