Leo Cooper (publisher)

Leonard (Leo) Cooper (25 March 1934 – 29 November 2013) worked for numerous distinguished publishing houses before setting up his own independent publishing house, Leo Cooper Ltd, in 1968.[1][2]

Leo was educated at Radley where he took charge of the military band and distinguished himself on the rugby and cricket fields. He was capped at cricket for the Yorkshire schoolboys; in later life he smashed Denis Compton for six with such vigour that he toppled a spectator sitting in a wheelchair into a nearby pond.[3]

His publishing business was based upon monumental works such as Lord Anglesey's eight-volume History of the British Cavalry (1973-95) and the Famous Regiments series, he was always on the look out for what George Orwell called "unofficial history", such as Antonia Hunt's Little Resistance (1982), the extraordinary story of an English schoolgirl's experiences in German-occupied France.[2]

In 1970 the Leo Cooper Ltd merged with the long-established firm of Seeley, Service, which was in turn bought by Frederick Warne in 1979 after the company went into receivership and then in 1982 he moved under the happier umbrella of Secker & Warburg, then part of the Heinemann Group. In 1990 the firm was sold to the Barnsley Chronicle and renamed Pen & Sword Books.[4]

Personal life

Leo married the author Jilly Cooper[5] in 1961 following the break-up of his first marriage to Diana his former housemaster's daughter.[2] The couple had known each other since 1945 (when Jilly Sallitt was about eight), although they did not marry until she was 24 and he was 27. In the 1980s, the couple left Putney, London for The Chantry, an old manor house in Gloucestershire. The couple were unable to have children naturally so adopted two children.[6] They also had five grandchildren.[7] Cooper had an affair for several years with publisher Sarah Johnson, greatly disrupting the Coopers' marriage when this was revealed in 1990, though they got back together later.[2][8]

He was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2001.[3][2]

His memoir, All My Friends Will Buy It (Spellmount Publishers), was published in 2005.[9][2]


  1. "Titles by Leo Cooper". Pen and Sword Books. Retrieved 2019-03-29.
  2. Barber, Michael (3 December 2013). "Leo Cooper obituary: Publisher of military history books and husband of Jilly Cooper". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 May 2020.
  3. "Leo Cooper - obituary". Daily Telegraph. 2013-12-02. Retrieved 2019-03-29.
  4. "Pen and Sword: highlights from the Leo Cooper archive". University of Reading. Retrieved 29 March 2019.
  5. "Case Study". Caroline Phillips. Retrieved 2019-03-29.
  6. Elizabeth Grice (17 September 2010). "Jilly Cooper interview". Telegraph.co.uk.
  7. Interview by Richard Barber. "Jilly Cooper: 'My books are my babies' | Life and style". The Guardian. Retrieved 2019-03-29.
  8. "Fiction into fact - UPI Archives". Upi.com. 1990-09-02. Retrieved 2020-04-15.
  9. Riordan, Rick (2013-12-03). "Leo Cooper dies". The Bookseller. Retrieved 2019-03-29.