Alfred A. Knopf

Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. (/knɒpf/) is an American publishing house that was founded by Alfred A. Knopf Sr. and Blanche Knopf in 1915.[1] Blanche and Alfred traveled abroad regularly and were known for publishing European, Asian, and Latin American writers in addition to leading American literary trends. It was acquired by Random House in 1960, and is now part of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group division of Penguin Random House which is owned by the German conglomerate Bertelsmann.[2][3] The Knopf publishing house is associated with its borzoi colophon, which was designed by co-founder Blanche Knopf in 1925.[4]

Alfred A. Knopf
Parent companyPenguin Random House
Founded1915 (1915)
FounderAlfred A. Knopf Sr.
Country of originUnited States
Headquarters locationNew York City, U.S.


Portrait of Alfred Knopf and Blanche Knopf LCCN2004663143


Knopf was founded in 1915 by Alfred A. Knopf Sr. along with Blanche Knopf, on a $5,000 advance from his father, Samuel Knopf.[4] The first office was located in New York's Candler Building.[5] The publishing house was officially incorporated in 1918, with Alfred Knopf as president, Blanche Knopf as vice president, and Samuel Knopf as treasurer.[6]

From the start, Knopf focused on European translations and high-brow works of literature. Among their initial publications were French author Émile Augier's Four Plays, Ukrainian writer Nikolai Gogol's Taras Bulba, Polish novelist Stanisław Przybyszewski's novel Homo Sapiens, and French writer Guy de Maupassant's Yvette, a Novelette, and Ten Other Stories.[5] During World War I these books were cheap to obtain and helped establish Knopf as an American firm publishing European works.[7] Their first bestseller was a new edition of Green Mansions, a novel by W. H. Hudson which went through nine printings by 1919 and sold over 20,000 copies.[5] Their first original American novel, The Three Black Pennys by Joseph Hergesheimer, was published in 1917.[5]


With the start of the 1920s Knopf began using innovative advertising techniques to draw attention to their books and authors. Beginning in 1920, Knopf produced a chapbook, for the purpose of promoting new books. The Borzoi was published periodically over the years, the first being a hardback called the Borzoi and sometimes quarterly as the Borzoi Quarterly.[8] For Floyd Dell's coming-of-age novel, Moon-Calf, they paid men to walk the streets of the financial and theatre districts dressed in artist costumes with sandwich boards. The placards had a copy of the book for browsing and directed interested buyers to local book shops.[9]

Advertisement by Knopf

The unique look of their books along with their expertise in advertising their authors drew Willa Cather to leave her previous publisher Houghton Mifflin to join Alfred A. Knopf.[10] As she was still under contract for her novels, the Knopfs suggested publishing a collection of her short stories, Youth and the Bright Medusa in 1920.[10] Cather was pleased with the results and the advertisement of the book in The New Republic and would go on to publish sixteen books with Knopf including their first Pulitzer prize winner, One of Ours.[10]

Before they had married, Alfred had promised Blanche that they would be equal partners in the publishing company, but it was clear by the company's fifth anniversary that this was not to be the case. Knopf published a celebratory 5th anniversary book in which Alfred was the focus of anecdotes by authors and Blanche's name was only mentioned once to note that "Mrs. Knopf" had found a manuscript. This despite ample evidence from authors and others that Blanche was in fact the soul of the company. This was covered extensively in The Lady with the Borzoi by Laura Claridge.[1]

In 1923 Knopf also started publishing periodicals, beginning with The American Mercury, founded by H. L. Mencken and George Jean Nathan, which it published through 1934.[11]

1923 also marked the year that Knopf published Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet. Knopf had published Gibran's earlier works which had disappointing sales. In its first year, The Prophet only sold 1,159 copies. It would double sales the next year and keep doubling becoming one of the firm's most successful books. In 1965 the book sold 240,000 copies.[12] Approaching it's 100 year anniversary in 2023 The Prophet has been translated into over 100 Languages and to date has never gone out of print for Knopf.

In the 1920s, Knopf sometimes withdrew or censored their books when threatened by John Sumner, such as Floyd Dell's Janet March or George Egerton's 1899 translation of Hunger.[13][14][15]


Samuel Knopf died in 1932. William A. Koshland joined the company in 1934, and worked with the firm for more than fifty years, rising to take the positions of president and chairman of the board. Blanche became president in 1957 when Alfred became chairman of the board, and worked steadily for the firm until her death in 1966. Alfred Knopf retired in 1972, becoming chairman emeritus of the firm until his death in 1984. Alfred Knopf also had a summer home in Purchase, New York.


Following the Good Neighbor policy, Blanche Knopf visited South America in 1942, so the firm could start producing texts from there. She was one of the first publishers to visit Europe after World War II. Her trips, and those of other editors, brought in new writers from Europe, South America, and Asia. Alfred traveled to Brazil in 1961, which spurred a corresponding interest on his part in South America. Penn Publishing Company was acquired in 1943. The Knopfs' son, Alfred "Pat" Jr., was hired on as secretary and trade books manager after the war.


In 1952, editor Judith Jones joined Knopf as an editor. Jones, who had discovered Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl while working at Doubleday, acquired Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking for Knopf.[16] Jones would remain with Knopf, retiring in 2011 as a senior editor and vice-president after a career that included working with John Updike and Anne Tyler.[16]

Pat Knopf left his parents' publishing company in 1959 to launch his own, Atheneum Publishers, with two other partners.[17] The story made the front page of The New York Times.[17][18]

In a 1957 advertisement in The Atlantic Monthly, Alfred A. Knopf published the Borzoi Credo. The credo includes a list of what Knopf's beliefs for publishing including the statement that he never published an unworthy book. Among a list of beliefs listed is the final one—"I believe that magazines, movies, television, and radio will never replace good books."[19]

Acquisition by Random House

In 1960 Random House acquired Alfred A. Knopf.[4] It is believed that the decision to sell was prompted by Alfred A. Knopf Jr., leaving Knopf to found his own book company, Atheneum Books, in 1959.[20]

Since its founding, Knopf has paid close attention to design and typography,[21] employing notable designers and typographers including William Addison Dwiggins, Harry Ford, Steven Heller, Chip Kidd, Lorraine Louie, Peter Mendelsund, Bruce Rogers, Rudolf Ruzicka, and Beatrice Warde. Knopf books conclude with an unnumbered page titled "A Note on the Type", which describes the history of the typeface used for the book. In addition, Knopf books date the year of the book's current printing on the title page.

Knopf published textbooks until 1988, when Random House's schools and colleges division was sold to McGraw Hill.[22]

In 1991, Knopf revived the "Everyman's Library" series, originally published in England in the early 20th century. This series consists of classics of world literature in affordable hardcover editions. The series has grown over the years to include lines of Children's Classics and Pocket Poets.

Random House was acquired by Bertelsmann AG in 1998.[4] In late 2008 and early 2009, the Knopf Publishing Group merged with Doubleday to form the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.[23] Random House has been owned since its 2013 merger of Penguin Group by Penguin Random House, a joint venture between Bertelsmann (53%) and Pearson PLC (47%).

Many of Knopf's hardcover books are published later as Vintage paperbacks. Vintage Books is a sister imprint of Random House.[24]

In October 2012, Bertelsmann entered into talks with rival conglomerate Pearson plc, over the possibility of combining their respective publishing companies, Random House and Penguin Group. The merger was completed on 1 July 2013 and the new company is Penguin Random House.[25] Bertelsmann owns 53% of the joint venture while Pearson owns 47%.[26] At the time of the acquisition the combined companies controlled 25% of the book business, with more than 10,000 employees and 250 independent publishing imprints and with about $3.9 billion in annual revenues.[26] The move to consolidate was to provide leverage against and battle the shrinking state of bookstores.[26]

In 2015, Knopf celebrated its 100th anniversary by publishing a commemorative book, Alfred A. Knopf, 1915–2015: A Century of Publishing.[4]

Notable people

Notable editors and publishers

While there have been many notable editors at Knopf there have only been four editors-in-chief: Alfred A. Knopf, Sr., Robert Gottlieb, Sonny Mehta (who died in 2019) and Reagan Arthur.[4][27] Other influential editors at Knopf included Harold Strauss (Japanese literature), Herbert Weinstock (biography of musical composers), Judith Jones (culinary texts), Peter Mendelsund (art director and book cover designer)[28] as well as Angus Cameron, Charles Elliott, Gary Fisketjon, Lee Goerner, Ashbel Green, Carol Brown Janeway, Michael Magzis, Anne McCormick, Nancy Nicholas, Daniel Okrent, Regina Ryan, Sophie Wilkins, and Victoria Wilson. Knopf also employed literary scouts to good advantage.[29]

Notable authors

Alfred A. Knopf has published thousands of books from thousands of authors, including Albert Camus, John Banville, Carl Bernstein, Elizabeth Bowen, Frederick Buechner, Robert Caro, Willa Cather, Julia Child, Bill Clinton, Miguel Covarrubias, Joan Didion, Bret Easton Ellis, James Ellroy, Martin Gardner, Kahlil Gibran, Lee H. Hamilton, Kazuo Ishiguro, John Keegan, Anne Rice, Nella Larsen, Jack London, Gabriel García Márquez, Cormac McCarthy, Toni Morrison, Haruki Murakami, Christopher Paolini, Edgar Allan Poe, Ezra Pound, Dorothy Richardson, Stephen M. Silverman, Oswald Spengler, Susan Swan, Anne Tyler, Andrew Vachss, James D. Watson, and Elinor Wylie.


2013Pulitzer Prize[30]PoetryStag's LeapSharon Olds
2011Pulitzer PrizeFictionA Visit from the Goon SquadJennifer Egan
2010Pulitzer PrizeBiography or AutobiographyThe First TycoonT.J. Stiles
2007Pulitzer PrizeFictionThe RoadCormac McCarthy
2005 MHA Best Book Award[31] History Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling Richard Bushman
2005Pulitzer PrizeBiography or Autobiographyde Kooning: An American MasterMark Stevens and Annalyn Swan
2004Pulitzer PrizePoetryWalking to Martha's VineyardFranz Wright
2003 Newbery Honor[32] Fiction Hoot Carl Hiaasen
2003Pulitzer PrizeBiography or AutobiographyMaster of the SenateRobert A. Caro
2002Pulitzer PrizeFictionEmpire FallsRichard Russo
2001Pulitzer PrizeHistoryFounding BrothersJoseph J. Ellis
1999Pulitzer PrizePoetryBlizzard of OneMark Strand
1998Pulitzer PrizeBiography or AutobiographyPersonal History'' Katharine Graham
1997Pulitzer PrizeHistoryOriginal MeaningsJack N. Rakove
1996Pulitzer PrizeFictionIndependence DayRichard Ford
1996Pulitzer PrizeBiography or AutobiographyGod: A BiographyJack Miles
1996Pulitzer PrizeHistoryWilliam Cooper's TownAlan Taylor
1995Pulitzer PrizePoetryThe Simple TruthPhilip Levine
1995Pulitzer PrizeGeneral NonfictionThe Beak of the FinchJonathan Weiner
1993Pulitzer PrizeHistoryThe Radicalism of the American RevolutionGordon S. Wood
1992Pulitzer PrizeFictionA Thousand AcresJane Smiley
1991Pulitzer PrizeHistoryA Midwife's TaleLaurel Thatcher Ulrich
1991Pulitzer PrizeFictionRabbit at RestJohn Updike
1991Pulitzer PrizePoetryNear Changes Mona Van Duyn
1989Pulitzer PrizeBiography or AutobiographyOscar WildeRichard Ellmann
1989Pulitzer PrizeFictionBreathing Lessons Anne Tyler
1988Pulitzer PrizeHistoryThe Launching of Modern American Science, 1846-1876Robert V. Bruce
1988Pulitzer PrizeHistoryPartial AccountsWilliam Meredith
1988Pulitzer PrizeFictionBelovedToni Morrison
1987Pulitzer PrizeHistoryVoyagers to the WestBernard Bailyn
1987Pulitzer PrizeFictionA Summons to MemphisPeter Taylor
1986Pulitzer PrizeBiography or AutobiographyLouise BoganElizabeth Frank
1986Pulitzer PrizeGeneral NonfictionCommon GroundJ. Anthony Lukas
1982Pulitzer PrizeFictionRabbit Is RichJohn Updike
1981Pulitzer PrizeBiography or AutobiographyPeter the GreatRobert K. Massie
1981Pulitzer PrizeGeneral NonfictionFin-de-Siècle ViennaCarl E. Schorske
1980Pulitzer PrizeHistoryBeen In the Storm So LongLeon F. Litwack
1979Pulitzer PrizeFictionThe Stories of John CheeverJohn Cheever
1975Pulitzer PrizeBiography or AutobiographyThe Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New YorkRobert A. Caro
1973Pulitzer PrizeHistoryPeople of ParadoxMichael Kammen
1970Pulitzer PrizeBiography or AutobiographyHuey LongT. Harry Williams
1967Pulitzer PrizeHistoryExploration and EmpireWilliam H. Goetzmann
1965Pulitzer PrizeFictionThe Keepers of the HouseShirley Ann Grau
1964Pulitzer PrizeGeneral NonfictionAnti-Intellectualism in American LifeRichard Hofstadter
1962Pulitzer PrizeHistoryThe Triumphant Empire: Thunder-Clouds Gather in the West Lawrence H. Gipson
1961Pulitzer PrizeBiography or AutobiographyCharles Sumner and the Coming of the Civil War David Herbert
1960Pulitzer PrizePoetryHeart's NeedleW. D. Snodgrass
1956Pulitzer PrizeHistoryThe Age of ReformRichard Hofstadter
1955Pulitzer PrizeHistoryCollected Poems: Wallace StevensWallace Stevens
1951Pulitzer PrizeFictionThe TownConrad Richter
1950Pulitzer PrizeBiography or AutobiographyJohn Quincy Adams and the Foundations of American Foreign PolicySamuel Flagg Bemis
1946Pulitzer PrizeBiography or AutobiographySon of the WildernessLinnie Marsh Wolfe
1945Pulitzer PrizeNovelA Bell for AdanoJohn Hersey
1945Pulitzer PrizeBiography or AutobiographyGeorge Bancroft: Brahmin RebelRussel Blaine Nye
1944Pulitzer PrizeBiography or AutobiographyThe American Leonardo: A Life of Samuel F. B. MorseCarleton Mabee
1934Pulitzer PrizePoetryCollected VerseRobert Hillyer
1927Pulitzer PrizePoetryFiddler's FarewellLeonora Speyer
1923Pulitzer PrizeNovelOne of OursWilla Cather
2009National Book Award[33]NonfictionThe First TycoonT.J. Stiles
2005National Book AwardNonfictionThe Year of Magical ThinkingJoan Didion
2002National Book AwardNonfictionMaster of the SenateRobert A. Caro
1997National Book AwardNonfictionAmerican Sphinx The Character of Thomas JeffersonJoseph J. Ellis
1991National Book AwardNonfictionHow We DieSherwin B. Nuland
1992National Book AwardFictionAll the Pretty HorsesCormac McCarthy
1991National Book AwardPoetryWhat Work IsPhilip Levine
1989National Book AwardFictionSpartinaJohn Casey
1985National Book AwardNonfictionCommon GroundJ. Anthony Lukas
1983National Book AwardHistoryVoices of ProtestAlan Brinkley
1982National Book AwardFictionRabbit is RichJohn Updike
1981National Book AwardFirst NovelSister WolfAnn Arensberg
1981National Book AwardFiction PaperbackThe Stories of John CheeverJohn Cheever
1981National Book AwardGeneral NonfictionChina MenMaxine Hong Kingston
1981National Book AwardHistory PaperbackBeen in the Storm So LongLeon F. Litwack
1980National Book AwardAutobiography (Hardcover)By MyselfLauren Bacall
1980National Book AwardCurrent Interest (Hardcover)Julia Child and More CompanyJulia Child
1980National Book AwardHistory (Paperback)A Distant MirrorBarbara W. Tuchman
1980National Book AwardFirst NovelBirdyWilliam Wharton
1977National Book AwardContemporary ThoughtThe Uses of EnchantmentBruno Bettelheim
1976National Book AwardFictionJ RWilliam Gaddis
1975National Book AwardContemporary AffairsAll God's DangersTheodore Rosengarten
1974National Book AwardBiographyMacaulayJohn Clive
1972National Book AwardPoetryThe Collected Works of Frank O'HaraFrank O'Hara
1970National Book AwardHistory and BiographyHuey LongT. Harry Williams
1967National Book AwardHistory and BiographyThe Enlightenment, Vol. 1Peter Gay
1964National Book AwardFictionThe CentaurJohn Updike
1962National Book AwardFictionThe MoviegoerWalker Percy
1961National Book AwardFictionThe Waters of KronosConrad Richter
1955National Book AwardPoetryThe Collected Poems of Wallace StevensWallace Stevens
1951National Book AwardPoetryThe Auroras of AutumnWallace Stevens
2017Nobel PrizeLiteratureNobel Prize in LiteratureKazuo Ishiguro
2013Nobel PrizeLiteratureNobel Prize in LiteratureAlice Munro
2007Nobel PrizeLiteratureNobel Prize in LiteratureDoris Lessing
2006Nobel PrizeLiteratureNobel Prize in LiteratureOrhan Pamuk
2002Nobel PrizeLiteratureNobel Prize in LiteratureImre Kertész
2001Nobel PrizeLiteratureNobel Prize in LiteratureV.S. Naipaul
1999Nobel PrizeLiteratureNobel Prize in LiteratureGünter Grass
1993Nobel PrizeLiteratureNobel Prize in LiteratureToni Morrison
1991Nobel PrizeLiteratureNobel Prize in LiteratureNadine Gordimer
1982Nobel PrizeLiteratureNobel Prize in LiteratureGabriel Garcia Marquez
1980Nobel PrizeLiteratureNobel Prize in LiteratureCzeslaw Milosz
1972Nobel PrizeLiteratureNobel Prize in LiteratureHeinrich Boll
1968Nobel PrizeLiteratureNobel Prize in LiteratureYasunari Kawabata
1965Nobel PrizeLiteratureNobel Prize in LiteratureMikhail Sholokhov
1964Nobel PrizeLiteratureNobel Prize in LiteratureJean-Paul Sartre (declined)
1961Nobel PrizeLiteratureNobel Prize in LiteratureIvo Andric
1957Nobel PrizeLiteratureNobel Prize in LiteratureAlbert Camus
1955Nobel PrizeLiteratureNobel Prize in LiteratureHalldor K. Laxness
1947Nobel PrizeLiteratureNobel Prize in LiteratureAndré Gide
1944Nobel PrizeLiteratureNobel Prize in LiteratureJohannes V. Jensen
1939Nobel PrizeLiteratureNobel Prize in LiteratureFrans E. Sillanpaa
1929Nobel PrizeLiteratureNobel Prize in LiteratureThomas Mann
1928Nobel PrizeLiteratureNobel Prize in LiteratureSigrid Undset
1924Nobel PrizeLiteratureNobel Prize in LiteratureWladyslaw S. Reymont
1920Nobel PrizeLiteratureNobel Prize in LiteratureKnut Hamsun
1916Nobel PrizeLiteratureNobel Prize in LiteratureVerner von Heidenstam

The logo for Knopf is a Russian wolfhound or Borzoi.[1] Blanche Knopf suggested the Borzoi for the logo to imply motion and the logo was used on both the spine and the title page of their books.[1]


  1. Claridge (2016).
  2. "Penguin Random House". Bertelsmann SE & Co. Retrieved 27 May 2020.
  3. "Alfred A. Knopf Inc.: Organizational History". Harry Ransom Center. The University of Texas at Austin. Retrieved 4 July 2009.
  4. Swanson, Clare (15 May 2015). "A Century of Alfred A. Knopf". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 24 September 2015.
  5. Claridge (2016), pp. 29–47.
  6. Claridge (2016), pp. 54–57.
  7. Claridge (2016), p. 5.
  8. "About the Borzoi Reader Online". Retrieved 6 April 2016.
  9. Claridge (2016), pp. 65–78.
  10. Claridge (2016), pp. 61–63.
  11. "Alfred A. Knopf — First Edition Identification". Retrieved 1 June 2017.
  12. Claridge (2016), pp. 81–83.
  13. Semonche, John E. (2007). Censoring Sex: A Historical Journey Through American Media. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-0-7425-5132-9.
  14. Boyer, Paul S. (1 August 2002). Purity in Print: Book Censorship in America from the Gilded Age to the Computer Age. Univ of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 978-0-299-17583-2.
  15. Cahill, Edgar H. (17 August 1921). "Purity in the Sixth Printing". The Nation. 113: 181–182.
  16. Claridge (2016), pp. 297–298.
  17. Claridge (2016), pp. 302–303.
  18. Robert Conley (15 March 1959). "3 Book Executives Forming Own Firm". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 May 2018.
  19. Knopf, Alfred A. "The Borzoi Credo". Borzoi Reader. Retrieved 24 September 2015.
  20. Korda, Michael (1999). Another life : a memoir of other people (1st ed.). New York: Random House. ISBN 0679456597.
  21. "Knopf: Then and Now". AIGA/NY. 21 October 2009. Archived from the original on 16 June 2010. Retrieved 6 April 2010.
  22. Edwin McDowell (29 September 1988). "McGraw-Hill Is Buying 2 Random House Units". The New York Times.
  23. Flamm, Matthew (3 December 2008). "Shakeups hit Random House, other publishers". Crain's New York Business. Retrieved 6 April 2010.
  24. "Knopf". Retrieved 21 May 2020.
  25. Edgecliffe-Johnson, Andrew; Wiesmann, Gerrit (26 October 2012). "Penguin and Random House in deal talks". Media. Financial Times. Archived from the original on 11 December 2022. Retrieved 12 August 2013.(registration required)
  26. Bosman, Julie (1 July 2013). "Penguin and Random House Merge, Saying Change Will Come Slowly". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 4 April 2016.
  27. Carras, Christi (23 January 2020). "Reagan Arthur named publisher at Knopf after Sonny Mehta's death". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 12 November 2020.
  28. Mendelsund, Peter (7 August 2014). "What's the Purpose of Book Jackets in a Digital World?". Slate Magazine. Retrieved 12 June 2022.
  29. Knopf, Alfred A.: Portrait of a Publisher, 1915-1965. 2 vols. New York: Typophiles, 1965.
  30. "2013 Winners and Finalists". The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
  31. "MHA Awards" (PDF). Mormon History Association. Archived from the original on 13 February 2012. Retrieved 12 May 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  32. "2003 Newbery Medal and Honor Books". Association for Library Service to Children. 2003. Archived from the original on 5 November 2011. Retrieved 12 May 2021.
  33. "National Book Awards - 2009". National Book Award. Retrieved 28 October 2015.

Sources cited

  • Claridge, Laura (2016). The lady with the Borzoi : Blanche Knopf, literary tastemaker extraordinaire (First ed.). New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 9780374114251. OCLC 908176194.

This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.