Thomas Nelson (publisher)

Thomas Nelson
Parent company HarperCollins
Founded 1798
1854 (US)
Founder Thomas Nelson
Country of origin Scotland, UK
Headquarters location Nashville, Tennessee
Key people Mark Schoenwald, President & CEO

Tom Knight, Senior Vice President, Sales
Publication types Bibles, books, curriculum, digital content
Revenue $237.8 million (2005)
Owner(s) HarperCollins (News Corp)
No. of employees Approximately 450
Official website

Thomas Nelson is a publishing firm that began in West Bow, Edinburgh, Scotland in 1798 as the namesake of its founder. It is a subsidiary of HarperCollins, the publishing unit of News Corp.

Its most successful title to date is the Bible, which became its first title to sell more than 1 million ebooks.[1] In Canada, the Nelson imprint is used for educational publishing. In the United Kingdom, it was a mainstream publisher until the late 20th century, and later became part of the educational imprint Nelson Thornes.

British history

Thomas Nelson, Sr. founded the shop that bears his name in Edinburgh in 1798, originally as a second-hand bookshop at 2 West Bow, just off the city's Grassmarket,[2] recognizing a ready market for inexpensive, standard editions of non-copyright works which he attempted to satisfy by publishing reprints of classics. By 1822 the shop had moved to 9 West Bow plus a second shop had opened at 230 High Street, on the Royal Mile.[3]

In 1835 the shop became a company, first as Thomas Nelson & Son when William joined, and in 1839 became Thomas Nelson & Sons when Thomas Jr. entered the business. Thomas Sr. died in 1861 and is buried in the extreme NW corner of Grange Cemetery in Edinburgh. William concentrated his talents on the marketing side, and Thomas Jr. devoted his to editing and production.

The firm became a publisher of new books and, as the 19th century progressed, it produced an increasingly wide range of non-religious materials; by 1881, religion accounted for less than 6% of the firm's output. Its Hope Park Works in Edinburgh burned down in 1878, and the city council allowed temporary accommodation on the Meadows. In appreciation, the company funded the stone pillars at the east end of Melville Drive.

William Nelson died in 1887, and Thomas Jr. died in 1892. They were succeeded by George Brown, Thomas’s nephew, who directed the company until Thomas III and Ian, Thomas Jr.'s sons, joined him and John Buchan as partners. Buchan, employed by the firm until 1929, dedicated his novel The Thirty Nine Steps to Thomas III (Thomas Arthur Nelson) in 1914.[4]

Ian Nelson took over as head of the family firm after Thomas Nelson III's death in action in 1917 during World War I.

By the early 20th century, Thomas Nelson had become a secular concern in the United Kingdom. The First World War led to the temporary rundown of Nelson through the denial of foreign markets, the loss of manpower (including the death of Thomas III), and the general exigencies of wartime, and initiated its long-term decline. Much of the effort expended during the inter-war period represented merely an attempt to reverse that decline, particularly in expanding the education list and reducing the dependence on reprints.

Ian Nelson remained head of the firm until his death in 1958. Ian Nelson’s successor, his son Ronnie Nelson, seemed less interested in the successful management of the family firm than previous generations. In 1962, Thomas Nelson and Sons was absorbed into the Thomson Organisation in an effort to sustain its academic and educational publishing interests on a global scale. The presidency of the company then passed to Hubert Peter Morrison FRSE (who had been chairman since 1958).[5] The printing division of Nelsons was sold to the Edinburgh company Morrison and Gibb in 1968.

Until 1968, according to the curators of a Senate House Library exhibition, the company "specialised in producing popular literature, children's books, bibles, religious works and educational texts."[6] It was the first publisher for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Thomson owned the company from 1960 until 2000. That year, it was acquired by Wolters Kluwer, who merged Nelson with its existing publishing arm, Stanley Thornes, to form Nelson Thornes.

Original American history

The American branch of Thomas Nelson was established in 1854 in New York, and by the 1870s, it was one of the city's more important firms. It held the copyright for the American Standard Version of the bible from 1901 until 1928 when it transferred the copyright to the International Council of Religious Education. In the 1930s, the company made a deal with this council (which later became part of the National Council of Churches) to publish the Revised Standard Version. The firm was sold to The Thomson Organization in 1960, and in 1962, the company failed to meet demand for this bible translation. This, in turn, led the National Council of Churches to grant other publishers licenses for the work, leading to a dramatic fall in revenue for Nelson.

Current United States company

In 1950, 19-year-old Sam Moore came to Columbia, South Carolina with an intent to pursue medical training. Moore began to sell bibles door-to-door in order to pay his way through college at the University of South Carolina and later Columbia Bible College. The Lebanese immigrant had a strong sense of American patriotism and free enterprise and used it to establish the National Book Company in 1958. In 1961, he established Royal Publishers, selling stock in the firm one year later, with notable shareholders including Morrow Coffey Graham, mother of noted evangelist Billy Graham.

Moore led Royal Publishers to success for the next five years, more than doubling sales every year, and resulting in the Thomson Organization asking if he would take control of Nelson's North American operations. Instead, Moore surprised Thomson by offering to purchase Nelson. Moore took over on March 7, 1969, preferring to keep the company's name and logo. In Canada, the brand continues as Thomson Nelson, an educational imprint. In the 1960s, Thomas Nelson moved its headquarters from New York to Camden, New Jersey. It moved again to Nashville, Tennessee in the 1970s. From 1979 to 1982, Nelson developed the New King James Bible (also known as the Revised Authorized Version) and under Moore began diversifying the company with a gift division.

In 1992, Thomas Nelson Inc. began its modern advancement. Nelson purchased the Word music and books brand from Capital Cities/ABC. In 1997, the company split the two, spinning off the record label and printed music division, one of the largest church music companies, to Gaylord Entertainment. This led to a lawsuit by Gaylord in 2001 over the Word name, and it was settled when Nelson renamed its book division the W Publishing Group. That year also led to a corporate expansion by the purchase of the Cool Springs and Rutledge Hill Press labels.

In 2003, World Bible Publishers was acquired by Nelson, and the fiction label WestBow Press made its debut (all books were later consolidated under the Nelson brand and WestBow Press was resurrected in 2009 to offer self-publishing services). Also, an imprint for Internet news source WorldNetDaily made its debut that year. The agreement dissolved, however, after 2004, and the former WND brand is now under the Nelson Current brand, including its authors.

Thomas Nelson, now based in Nashville, publishes leading Christian authors, including Billy Graham, Max Lucado, John Eldredge, John Maxwell, Charles Stanley, Michael A. O'Donnell, Ted Dekker, John Townsend, and Dave Stone. Thomas Nelson Inc. in 2000 began marketing the Women of Faith conference, a concept devised by author Stephen Arterburn in 1995, after attending a church conference in Atlanta. As of 2013, the Women of Faith conference is among the better known women's events around North America, annually attracting more than 400,000 women. In 2005, Thomas Nelson launched the Revolve teen conferences, built on the Women of Faith model. Michael S. Hyatt, a 25-year veteran of the publishing industry, became president and CEO of the company on August 18, 2005, succeeding Sam Moore who served as the company's CEO for nearly 47 years.

In February 2006, it was announced that private equity firm InterMedia Partners, in conjunction with some other investors, had agreed to buy Thomas Nelson for $473 million. The transaction closed on June 12, 2006. The company operated as a private company. In 2010, a group led by Kohlberg & Company bought a majority share of the company. In 2011, News Corporation[7] subsidiary HarperCollins[8] announced it had acquired Thomas Nelson. The acquisition closed in July 2012.[9]

In 2015, Thomas Nelson published The War of Art by Nashville-based writer Jeff Goins.[10]

Canadian history

When Thomson sold Thomas Nelson UK, it kept the Canadian operations of the publisher as part of the company's education division. Thomson Education was spun off as Cengage Learning in the United States and Canada in 2007. The Nelson name lives on through the Canadian company Nelson Education Ltd., an educational publisher. In 2015, Nelson Education was handed over to debtholders, which included Ares Management, Citigroup, Mudrick Capital Management and Sound Point Capital Management.[11]

See also


  1. "'Heaven Is for Real' Best Seller Reaches One Million eBooks Sold". (Press release). Thomas Nelson, Inc. April 2, 2012. Retrieved August 11, 2012.
  2. "Edinburgh Post Office annual directory, 1832-1833". National Library of Scotland. p. 142. Retrieved 2018-02-18.
  3. Edinburgh Post Office Directory 1822
  4. John Buchan and His World. pp. 51–52.
  5. Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 0 902 198 84 X.
  6. Exhibitions, Thomas Nelson and Sons, Spreading the Word, 10 July – 6 September 2002, Senate House Library, University of London
  7. Geert De Lombaerde, 'Thomas Nelson's price tag', on, November 7, 2011
  8. "HarperCollins to Acquire Thomas Nelson". Publishers Weekly. October 31, 2011. Retrieved August 11, 2012.
  9. "News Briefs: Week of July 16, 2012". Retrieved August 11, 2012.
  10. Apple iBooks Category Bestsellers, January 1, 2017 Publishers Weekly May 4, 2017.
  11. "Canada » Lenders to soon take control of PE-backed Nelson Education". Retrieved 2016-01-25.


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