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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Lothian, Thomas Carlyle (1880–1974)

by Cecily Close

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

Thomas Carlyle Lothian (1880-1974), publisher and publishers' representative, was born on 7 May 1880 at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England, eldest child of John Inglis Lothian, bookkeeper, and his wife Lillias Charlotte, née Smith. He arrived in Melbourne in July 1888, John having come to represent the publishing firm of Walter Scott. After attending the Brighton Road State School Thomas worked for four years at Cole's Book Arcade, learning the book trade and incidentally furthering his general education.

About 1897 Lothian entered his father's business, and by 1901 was travelling to show samples and circulars (now including those of other firms beside Walter Scott) to booksellers in the capitals, in country towns of eastern Australia, and throughout New Zealand. In 1908, already appearing as agent for educational publishers, he visited the firm's principals abroad in preparation for taking over the business. In 1911 he established the Standard Publishing Co. Pty Ltd to sell direct to the public, through advertising and canvassing, the publications of the Caxton Press.

On 16 February 1912, with Congregational forms, Lothian married Effie Marian Vines, who had worked for several years in his father's office. Also in 1912, on his father's retirement, he formed the company of Thomas C. Lothian Pty Ltd to carry on the business of representation, which was to include over the years agencies for numerous well-known British and American publishers.

Lothian had become a publisher in his own right with the production, in December 1905, of Bernard O'Dowd's The Silent Land and Other Verses. There soon followed further poetry, natural history, stories, educational works, books on health, cookery and business skills. In 1907-09 he published several magazines, including titles of literary and general interest, a tri-lingual series and another on golf and motoring. His authors included Edwin Brady, John Le Gay Brereton, Henry Lawson, Walter Murdoch and Thomas Tucker.

Following the outbreak of war, Lothian sought to expand this branch of the business by forming the Lothian Book Publishing Co. Pty Ltd (from 1924 the Lothian Publishing Co. Pty Ltd). By 1918 he had published more than half of his total of some 230 titles, including, in 1916, his two most ambitious productions, Elves and Fairies, illustrated by Ida Outhwaite, and The Art of Frederick McCubbin.

During the 1920s and 1930s Lothian continued to operate through his three major companies and, from time to time, some smaller enterprises. His publishing consisted of re-issues of successful textbooks; verse, including the collected poems of John Shaw Neilson (1934); novels, including Miles Franklin's Old Blastus of Bandicoot (1932), and items of general and sporting interest. During World War II he produced little of his own, but published in Australia titles for both Penguin Books and Robert Hale.

After the war Lothian handed over his businesses to his two younger sons. He retained his office, pursuing from there almost to the end his interest in the Melbourne Rotary Club of which he was an enthusiastic foundation member, serving as honorary secretary in 1931 and 1937, and as vice-president in 1968-69.

Thomas Lothian died, a widower, at his home at Mont Albert on 19 April 1974 and was cremated with Christian Science forms. His five children survived him. A portrait by Ernest Buckmaster is held by the family.

Select Bibliography

  • The House of Lothian is Seventy-Five (Melb, 1963)
  • Lothian papers (State Library of Victoria).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Cecily Close, 'Lothian, Thomas Carlyle (1880–1974)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 30 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

View the front pages for Volume 10

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