Here’s the story, in snippets from a few articles with interviews of Everyman’s Library Publisher David Campbell:
From an article in The Guardian in 2006:
In the late 1990s, Campbell was astonished to discover that none of the projects supported by the Millennium Commission had anything to do with books, schools or celebrating the English language ("our greatest invention"). He is proud of the fact that he put together an idea to supply every state secondary school in the British Isles with a library of 300 Everyman titles; his persuasive charm secured him the funds, which came from the Millennium Commission and private donors.³
And stated in an article with the Scottish Review of Books in 2011:
“One of the things I’m proudest of, apart from reviving Everyman, was to have made the gift of 300 books to every state secondary school in the UK and to 1700 schools in 77 countries in the developing world at no cost to them whatsoever other that a second-class stamp to say that they would accept a gift. There were 4,300 state secondary schools.”
“We gave away 1.7 million books. We did it in batches of 50 books. So every six months every school would get three or four boxes of books.”
“If one child from a bookless background in every school – and these books will last at least 50 years if not 100 years – every year has his or her life enhanced, enlarged or changed by coming across books outside the school’s syllabus this project was worth it. We got letters, very moving letters, thousands of them, from teachers, librarians and school kids. I remember a letter from Golspie in the north of Sutherland from a teacher, saying he could hardly believe that a 14-year-old had devoured Anna Karenina and was now devouring War and Peace. Marvellous. This is what I wanted to do. You’ve got to learn to be a reader in your youth.”¹
1.7 Million Free Books to Schools.
Everyman’s Library & Campbell are to be commended for this enormous act of generosity.