The late Diana Steel.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

Diana, along with her husband John Steel, founded the club in 1966. From humble beginnings, literally printing pamphlets on the kitchen table, the company grew quickly and established itself as the leader for books on antiques and decorative arts.

It is hard to overstate the importance of the contribution that Diana made to publishing for more than five decades. It is fair to say that every dealer, every auctioneer and indeed anyone passionate about antiques will have her books on their bookshelves. Her ambition was always to produce the best book, what she called ’the standard work of reference’.

Authors included specialists and experts in the art world and TV personalities from the Antiques Roadshow. Bestselling titles included Jackson’s Hallmarks, British Antique Furniture and Understanding Jewellery. Authors included Christopher Payne, John and Henry Sandon, Ian Pickford, Geoffrey Munn, Christoper Wood, Victor Chinnery and many more.

Alongside her book publishing Diana also ran Antique Collecting Magazine. It is still in print today, a subscriber-only magazine for those passionate about antiques. Indeed, it was passion that really defined Diana’s attitude to antiques; she simply loved old furniture, ceramics, glass and much else beside. She published on antiques, she collected and she made dear friends among many leading figures in the industry.

Entrepreneurial spirit

Diana had a true entrepreneurial spirit and was not easily overawed by any opportunity. It was these qualities that led her to purchase her own printing presses, which were housed at the publisher’s HQ in Woodbridge in Suffolk. Diana continued to print her own books on-site well into the 1990s.

Those same qualities led her to the US where she would regularly travel the major cities selling her books to the key booksellers, before setting up a subsidiary of The Antique Collectors Club over there.

Diana sold the company in 2016. She had run it for five decades, an incredible and inspirational achievement.

Today the company is called ACC Art Books, publishing around 50 new titles a year and many true to her founding principles.

From James Smith, CEO and publisher, ACC Art Books & Images Publishing Group