Archive Collection BXB - Bloodaxe Books Archive

Identity area

Reference code



Bloodaxe Books Archive


  • 1978 - [ongoing] (Creation)

Level of description

Archive Collection

Extent and medium

592 boxes, 179 oversized items, 103 linear metres

Context area

Name of creator


Administrative history

Bloodaxe Books is one of Britain's leading poetry publishers, named after Erik Bloodaxe, the last Viking king of independent Northumbria. Based at Hexham, Northumberland, its finance and administration is handled by sister company Pandon Press from Bala in North Wales. The company is internationally renowned for its quality in literature and excellence in book design. Their authors and books have won virtually every major literary award given to poetry, from the T.S. Eliot Prize and Pulitzer to the Nobel Prize. Bloodaxe Books has also broken new ground by opening up contemporary poetry to many thousands of new readers through publishing books such as the Staying Alive trilogy.

Bloodaxe Books was founded by Neil Astley in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1978. Initially working from his own flat, Neil used the Tyneside Free Press Workshop for typesetting whilst also working as the sole sales rep for Bloodaxe. As a poetry reader, Neil understood the lack of diversity in poetry publishing during the 1970’s. In response to this, Bloodaxe was set up to publish a wide variety of authors and bring poetry into context to make it accessible to a wider readership. As well as diversifying the authors published, Neil Astley was inspired to develop the visual representation of publications by using full colour paintings and images, individualising each book. This not only appealed to a wider audience, but developed a specific, recognisable Bloodaxe Books publishing style. Throughout the company history, Bloodaxe has developed their output to keep up-to-date with changing technologies; producing poetry via all kinds of media, including live performance, audio, video, internet, radio, television and e-books. Working with many people and organisations (radio producers, literary editors on newspapers, festivals and events organisers), Bloodaxe Books has aimed to allow poets to be heard as much as possible as well as read on the page.

In 1982 Bloodaxe became a non-profit company limited by guarantee and Simon Thirsk joined as the company’s co-director. The offices were originally based on Newcastle’s Quayside for many years and later behind Newcastle Central station. During the 1980’s a sister company, Bloodaxe (Projects) Limited was set up to publish local interest books. Towards the end of the 1980’s Bloodaxe Books experienced some financial difficulty when three distributors they used ceased trading. To prevent future financial difficulties of this sort, Bloodaxe (Project) Limited was rebranded Pandon Press (1991) and was and still is used to control Bloodaxe Books finances.

In 1997 the operation was split three ways. Distribution was taken over by Littlehampton Book Services and sales and finance was managed by sister company Pandon Press at Bala in North Wales, with editorial, publicity and rights management moving to Northumberland, initially to offices at Elrington, Otterburn and Falstone, and from 2000 to 2014 at Highgreen Manor in the Tarset valley.

Bloodaxe’s editorial, publicity and rights office is now at South Park, Hexham, Northumberland. Sales are still handled in Bala, but distribution is now with Grantham Book Services Ltd (GBS), while book trade marketing is done by PGUK in London.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Consists of letters and proofs relating to published works by Bloodaxe Books. Also contains documents relating to the marketing, finance and management of the company.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


Further accruals to this collection are expected.

System of arrangement

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Open with some restrictions (researcher interview may be required)

Conditions governing reproduction

Indicated on the item. For Bloodaxe Books please contact the companies rights manager for information:

Language of material

  • Bengali
  • Czech
  • Danish
  • English
  • Finnish
  • French
  • German
  • Hungarian
  • Italian
  • Korean
  • Polish
  • Russian
  • Spanish
  • Swedish
  • Welsh

Script of material

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Finding aids

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

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Notes area

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Description control area

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Dates of creation revision deletion




Archivist's note

This catalogue was created by Rebecca Bradley, Project Archivist at Newcastle University Special Collections in 2014 - 2015.

Accession area

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