Alfred A. Knopf, Quarter Century

Alfred A. Knopf, Quarter Century

Alfred A. Knopf, Quarter Century

Alfred A. Knopf, Quarter Century

Excerpt

ANYBODY who writes about Alfred Knopf has to remember that he, writing about himself in Who's Who in America, keeps the record to six packed lines, as curt as Tacitus. To use fewer words is impossible; to use more may seem impertinent. I knew him before most writers or publishers did: in his last year as an undergraduate at Columbia, when I was in my first year as an instructor. In some academic flurry I was his teacher for three or four days only, and barely knew him. But as a figure among the undergraduates he could not be overlooked. He was color on the campus. He stood out like the earlier Knopf books among their unimaginative, indistinguishable contemporaries.

Then I lost sight of him till he came back to the eyes of all those who already liked beautiful books or found through him how much they liked them. Alfred Knopf has written, for his latest catalogue, an account of his first year as a publisher. Here are his words:

"It was in the spring of 1915 that I started work on my first list, using a desk in my father's office in the Candler Building on West 42nd Street. By the end of summer I rented my first office, a single room from which a tiny antechamber was partitioned off, on the nineteenth floor of that building. The rent, I think, was $45 a month. Our first order came from Marshall Field & Company -- a quite good credit risk. The first Borzoi Book was Barrett Clark's translation of four plays from the French of Emile Augier. The first edition consisted of two copies printed as a good-luck offering and without charge to me by the Plimpton Press, who ever since have made the better half of the books I have published. This was immediately followed by the trade edition, which consisted, I think, of 1,500 copies. The book was composed in Cheltenham monotype -- a face I have never since had the courage to use -- and was never reprinted. It was, on all counts, a pretty tame beginning for a young fellow who really wanted to publish American novels. But in 1915 not . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.