Presidents of the Society

Martyn Goff

Martyn Goff was Chair of this Society and then President from 1998 until his death in 2015 and was the personification of the now outmoded term ‘bookman’. He was best known as Director of the National Book League (later Book Trust and later still Booktrust and now BookTrust) and, above all, as the Administrator of the Booker Prize (later the Man Booker Prize) for over three decades. Thanks to his long and canny stewardship the Booker is still the pre-eminent literary award in the English-speaking world.

Goff was born in 1923 and educated at Clifton College. On the outbreak of WW2 he deferred his place at Oxford University and joined the RAF, spending a large part of the War in the Middle East and North Africa.

After being demobbed, he turned down his Oxford place and decided to become a bookseller, opening his first bookshop in St Leonard’s in 1946. He became a vocal industry figure, while also reviewing and writing novels (10 in all, plus 9 non-fiction titles).

He became Director of the National Book League in 1970 and the following year staged the legendary and innovative Bedford Square Book Bang, which became the inspiration for future UK book festivals.

It was, however, his 34-year administration of the Booker Prize for which he will be principally remembered. He masterminded the development of the prize into a glittering global event with masterful PR skill and careful, clever management and innovation.

Goff was also Chair of the Wingate Scholarships, the Poetry Book Society, the National Life Story Collection and the antiquarian bookseller Henry Southeran. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and of the Royal Society. He was appointed OBE in 1977 and CBE in 2005.

Richard Charkin

Richard Charkin was Chairman of this Society and became President in 2016, following Martyn Goff’s death. He has been Executive Director of Bloomsbury Publishing since 2007, having previously been Chief Executive of Reed International (which at that time included Heinemann, Secker & Warburg, Mitchell Beazley, Methuen, and Conran Octopus) and then, for ten years, Chief Executive of Macmillan Publishers (including the Nature Publishing Group, Pan Macmillan, Macmillan India, and Macmillan Australia).

Richard was born in 1949 and has an MA in Natural Sciences from Trinity College, Cambridge; while he was at Reed International he also completed the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School. His first job was as Science Editor at George Harrap & Co, followed by Senior Publishing manager, Life Sciences, at Pergamon Press and then thirteen years at Oxford University Press, where he rose from Medical Editor to Managing Director of the Academic and General Division.

His other current roles include: Visiting Professor to the University of the Arts, London; Honorary Research Associate in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at University College London; member of the Advisory Board of the Frankfurt Book Fair; and Committee Member of UK Literary Heritage.

His myriad previous appointments have included: President of the Publishers Association; President of the International Publishers Association, Geneva; Director of the Federation of European Publishers, Brussels; Chairman of the Whitechapel Art Gallery; and Advisory Council Member to the British Library.