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section heading icon     book publishing

This page looks at publishing as an industry and a culture, highlighting general studies and profiling particular publishing houses.

It covers -

Major media groups are profiled in the separate site (around 700 pages).

section marker icon     business or culture

A useful starting point for thinking about publishing (business? culture? the business of culture?) is Books: The Culture & Commerce of Publishing (New York: Basic 1982) by Lewis Coser, Charles Kadushin & Walker Powell.

Albert Greco's The Book Publishing Industry (Boston: Allyn & Bacon 1997) is a crisp study, complemented by The Structure of International Publishing in the 1990s (New Brunswick: Transaction 1992) edited by Fred Kobrak & Beth Luey and Minders of Make-Believe: Idealists, Entrepreneurs, and the Shaping of American Children's Literature (Boston: Houghton Mifflin 2008) by Leonard Marcus. John Feather's A History of British Publishing (London: Croom Helm 1988) is more academic; for an equivalent of Greco see Giles Clark's Inside Book Publishing (London: Routledge 2000). Book Publishing in a Societal Context: Japan and the West (Buffalo: Prometheus Books 1990) by Shigeo Minowa offers a crosscultural perspective. For Canada see Roy MacSkimming's The Perilous Trade: Publishing Canada's Writers (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart 2003).

Andre Schiffrin's The Business Of Books: How The International Conglomerates Took Over Publishing & Changed The Way We Read (New York: Verso 2000) is an outstanding memoir by the publisher of Pantheon Books and The New Press. Jason Epstein's Book Business: Publishing Past Present & Future (New York: Norton 2000) is characteristically curmudgeonly.

There is a similar, although less elegant, lament in Leo Bogart's Commercial Culture: The Media System & the Public Interest (New Brunswick: Transaction 2000). In Praise of Commercial Culture (Cambridge: Harvard Uni Press 1998) by economist Tyler Cowan offers a more convincing analysis of the market.

Clarkson Potter's Who Does What & Why In Book Publishing (New York: Birch Lane 1990) is a slim guide for the perplexed. Siegfried Unseld's The Author & His Publisher (Chicago: Chicago Uni Press 1980) is less mechanistic. Jeremy Treglown edited the uneven but valuable Grub Street & the Ivory Tower: Literary Journalism and Literary Scholarship from Fielding to the Internet (New York: Oxford Uni Press 1998). For the Grub Street era see H M Geduld's Prince of Publishers: a Study of the Work & Career of Jacob Tonson (Bloomington: Uni of Indiana Press 1969) and biographies of figures such as Sam Johnson. Publishing in a later period is profiled in Valerie Holman's Print for Victory: Book Publishing in England 1939-45 (London: British Library 2008).

John Tebbel's four volume A History of Book Publishing In America (New York: Oxford Uni Press 1972-81) is heavy going but comprehensive. We enjoyed Thomas Whiteside's entertaining The Blockbuster Complex: Conglomerates, Show Business & Book Publishing (Middletown: Wesleyan Uni Press 1981). William Charvat's Literary Publishing in America, 1790-1850 (Amherst: Uni of Massachusetts Press 1993) is a modern classic.

section marker icon   Little Presses

Roderick Cave's The Private Press (London: Faber 1971) provides an introduction to the 'little presses'.

Hugh Ford's Published in Paris: American & British Writers, Printers & Publishers in Paris 1920-1939 (London: Garnstone 1975) is an outstanding sketch of the little presses run by Harry Crosby, Gertrude Stein, Nancy Cunard, Robert McAlmon and Edward Titus among others.

There is a genial although thin description of the milieu in Humphrey Carpenter's Geniuses Together: American Writers in Paris in the 1920's (London: Unwin Hyman 1987) and Noel Riley Fitch's less engaging Sylvia Beach & the Lost Generation (New York: Norton 1983).

Sylvia Beach's Shakespeare & Company (Lincoln: Uni of Nebraska Press 1991) is a modest and elegant history, by its owner, of the famous Paris bookshop. It is complemented by The Very Rich Hours of Adrienne Monnier (London: Millington 1976), Richard McDougall's translation of the memoirs and essays of Beach's rival Adrienne Monnier.

The bad, mad and decidedly dangerous to know playboy Harry Crosby is the subject of Black Sun: The Brief Transit & Violent Eclipse of Harry Crosby (London: Hamish Hamilton 1976) by Geoffrey Wolff. We're just not wild about Harry, who blew his brains out - and those of his mistress - after getting a black sun tattooed on his feet and running the modernist Black Sun press.

Barney Rosset boasted that his Grove Press was epochal

Was Grove controversial? The word is too pale for the tempests at Grove. Say rather that Grove was a valve for pressurized cultural energies, a breach in the dam of American Puritanism - a whip-lashing live cable of zeitgeist. One has to reach back to early Elizabethan Theatre to find a parallel in terms of enraptured audience, outraged authority, political daring, exploding passion, and the perennial threat of censorship.

Critics might respond that such hyperbole and enthusiasm is required in braving public indifference and sporadic government hostility.

Closer to home, Jack Lindsay's Life Rarely Tells: An Autobiography in Three Volumes (Ringwood: Penguin 1982) includes an account of his time as publisher of the Fanfrolico Press. His partner P R 'Inky' Stephenson is described in Wild Man of Letters (Melbourne: Melbourne Uni Press 1984) by Craig Munro and in two articles by Richard Fotheringham in the March and June 1972 issues of Meanjin.

Both feature in the festschrift Culture & History: Essays presented to Jack Lindsay (Sydney: Hale & Iremonger 1984) edited by Bernard Smith; it includes a checklist of Fanfrolico Press books.

We note the celebration of the work of Canberra publisher Alec Bolton in A Licence to Print: Alec Bolton & the Brindabella Press (Canberra: Friends of the National Library of Australia 1993) and the Preserving the Ephemeral: Katharine Brisbane & Currency Press (Canberra: Friends of the National Library of Australia 1995) compiled by John Golder.

Richard Kennedy's A Boy At The Hogarth Press (London: Penguin 1978) is a slight but charming memoir by Virginia & Leonard Woolf's printers devil. John Lehman's I Am My Brother (London: Longmans 1960) is weightier but more acidulous.

There's another perspective in Beauty & the Book: Fine Editions & Cultural Distinction in America (New Haven: Yale Uni Press 2000) by Megan Benton.

section marker icon   US giants

Scoundrel Horace Liveright, co-founder of the Modern Library, was described by Tom Dardis in the so-so Firebrand: The Life of Horace Liveright, the Man Who Changed American Publishing (New York: Random 1995).

Changing American publishing is an exaggeration but Liveright deserves thanks for the creation of Hollywood gothic. Importing Dracula onto the sound stage in a "censorproof way to present outrageous themes of oral sexuality, insanity and borderline necrophilia (What after all was the kiss of Dracula if not sex with a walking corpse?)" makes publisher and gameshow star Bennett Cerf - author of At Random: The Reminiscences of Bennett Cerf (New York: Random 1977) look quite tame. Ellen Ballou's The Building of the House: Houghton Mifflin's Formative Years (Boston: Houghton Mifflin 1970) is a standard history.

Charles Scribner's In the Company of Writers (New York: Scribners 1991) and In the Web of Ideas (New York: Scribners 1993) are thoughtful memoirs by the last of that publishing dynasty. Michael Winship's American Literary Publishing In the Mid-19th Century: The Business of Ticknor & Fields (Cambridge: Cambridge Uni Press 1995) is exemplary.

Wiley has an online corporate history.

section marker icon   and UK

Allen Lane, King Penguin (London: Hutchinson 1980) is the standard biography by John Morpurgo of the founder of the Penguin empire, now owned by the theme parks to merchant banking conglomerate Pearson. He was influenced by having Lane as his father-in-law and employer. Differing views on the effect and basis of the second paperback revolution - the first having occurred in Germany seventy years prior to Penguin - are given in successive issues of online journal The Culture of Publishing.

Steve Hare edited Penguin Portrait: Allen Lane & the Penguin Editors 1935-70 (London: Penguin 1995), a collection of letters and reports by the penguins. It is entertaining but perhaps too self-indulgent and anecdotal. Lane's predecessor is the subject of Elkin Matthews: Publisher to Yeats, Joyce, Pound (Madison: Uni of Wisconsin Press 1989) by James Nelson.

First With the News: The Story of WH Smith 1792-1972
(Garden City: Doubleday 1985) by Charles Wilson profiles the distributor and retailer whose founder was the model for Gilbert & Sullivan's Sir Joseph Porter KCB.

Peter McDonald's British Literary Culture & Publishing Practice 1880-1914 (Cambridge: Cambridge Uni Press 1997) is less striking than Pegasus In Harness: Victorian Publishing & W M Thackeray (Charlottesville: Uni Press of Virginia 1991) by leading US editor Peter Shillingsburg. James Nelson's The Early Nineties: The View from the Bodley Head (Cambridge: Harvard Uni Press 1971) deals with the publisher of Henry James and the Yellow Book.

Kurt Wolff founded leading publishers in both Weimar Germany and the USA - Kurt Wolff Verlag and Pantheon Books. Michael Ermarth's Kurt Wolff: A Portrait in Essays & Letters (Chicago: Uni of Chicago Press 1991) covers his relations with Hesse, Mann, Grass, Kafka, Kraus, Rilke and Pasternak among others through a selection of Wolff's writings.

section marker icon   Academic

Among studies of academic publishing we recommend MH Black's Cambridge University Press, 1584-1984 (Cambridge: Cambridge Uni Press 1984), Peter Sutcliffe's The Oxford University Press (Oxford: Oxford Uni Press 1978) and Heinz Sarkowski's Springer-Verlag: History of a Scientific Publishing House (Berlin: Springer 1997).

Wilmarth Lewis - Yale Skull-&-Bones member, Standard Oil heir, spook, editor and publisher of the 48 volume collected correspondence of Horace Walpole - features in the perceptive Cloak & Gown: Scholars in America's Secret War (London: Collins 87) by Robin Winks and in his own more reticent One Man's Education (New York: Knopf 1967).

While there is much truth in the jingle that "those who can't write, teach; those who can't teach, edit" we should be grateful for the example of Lewis and his mate Ralph Isham, memorably described in David Buchanan's The Treasure of Auchinleck: The Story of the Boswell Papers (London: Heinemann 1975), one of those tales that combines scholarship with the excitement of the treasure hunt in describing the rediscovery and publication of James Boswell's papers by more of the Skull-&-Bones crowd.

William McGuire supplies an excessively reverential account of the Bollingen Press (Gulf Oil money publishing Jung and other proto-New Agers who found flying saucers - and the occasional Nazi - at the bottom of their gardens) in Bollingen: An Adventure in Collecting the Past (Princeton: Bollingen 1982).

Australian expatriate Louise Hanson-Dyer, founder of L'Oiseau-Lyre records and the Lyrebird Press is the subject of Lyrebird Rising: Louise Hanson-Dyer of L'Oiseau-Lyre 1884-1962 (Melbourne: Melbourne Uni Press 1994) by Jim Davidson.

section marker icon   Germany, France and Scandinavia

The profiles of the Bertelsmann and Holtzbrinck point to resources on imprints of the major German groups, such as Gottfried Bermann Fischer's Bedroht - Bewahrt (Frankfurt am Main: S Fischer 1981) and Peter de Mendelssohn's outstanding S Fischer und sein Verlag (Frankfurt: Fischer 1970). For Tauchnitz see Tauchnitz International Editions in English 1841-1955, A Bibliographical History (New Castle: Oak Knoll 2005) by William Todd & Ann Bowden.

There is similar coverage of the Scandinavian and French conglomerates such as Schibsted.

section marker icon   Naughtiness

Dewey Ganzel's Fortune & Mens Eyes (London: Oxford Uni Press 86) is a dry but fascinating account of the life and misdemeanours of master forger and bibliomaniac Thomas Wise.

'Dirty Book' publisher Maurice Girodias stars in Venus Bound: The Erotic Voyage of the Olympia Press & Its Writers (New York: Random 1994) by journalist John De St Jorre. Girodias's The Frog Prince: An Autobiography (New York: Crown 1980) is less trustworthy but more entertaining. For a scholarly study we recommend Patrick Kearney's The Paris Olympia Press (London: Black Spring 1987). Neil Pearson's Obelisk: A history of Jack Kahane and the Obelisk Press (Liverpool: Liverpool Uni Press 2007) is an account of Girodias' father.

Studies of other publishers and publishing regimes are highlighted in the discussion of print censorship

section marker icon   Australia

As starting points turn to the uneven but invaluable A History of the Book in Australia: A National Culture in a Colonised Market, 1891-1945 (St Lucia: Uni of Queensland Press 2001) edited by Martyn Lyons and Paper Empires: The History of the Book In Australia 1946-2005 (St Lucia: Uni of Queensland Press 2006) edited by Craig Munro & Robyn Sheahan-Bright and Making Books: Contemporary Australian Publishing (St Lucia: Uni of Queensland Press 2007) edited by David Carter & Anne Galligan.

For Angus & Robertson see John Holroyd's George Robertson (Melbourne: Robertson & Mullens 1968), Jacqueline Kent's A Certain Style: Beatrice Davis, A Literary Life (Ringwood: Viking 2001) and AW Barker's Dear Robertson, Letters to an Australian Publisher (Sydney: Angus & Robertson 1982). Other works include Frank Eyre's Oxford in Australia, 1890-1978 (Melbourne: Oxford Uni Press 1978), Stuart Sayers' The Company of Books: A Short History of the Lothian Book Companies (Melbourne: Lothian 1988) and Michael Zifcak's My Life in Print (Melbourne: Lothian 2006).

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