Gnome Press

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Gnome Press
first logo for Gnome Press designed by David A. Kyle
Status Defunct 1962
Founded 1948
Founder Martin Greenberg and David A. Kyle
Country of origin United States
Headquarters location New York City
Publication types Books
Fiction genres science fiction

Gnome Press was an American small-press publishing company primarily known for publishing many science fiction classics.[1]

The company was founded in 1948 by Martin Greenberg and David A. Kyle. Many of Gnome's titles were reprinted in England by Boardman Books. Martin Greenberg of Gnome Press was a New York science fiction fan and member of the Hydra Club, not to be confused with the later Martin H. Greenberg the SF anthologist. David A. Kyle was another New York based science fiction fan, a Futurian as well as a member of the Hydra Club. The address was Gnome Press, Inc., 80 E. 11th St. New York 3, N.Y.[2]

Gnome was the first to publish Isaac Asimov's I, Robot and Foundation Trilogy, brought Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian stories back from pulp obscurity, first published Arthur C Clarke, and introduced science fictions first themed anthology Men Against the Stars.[3] Controversy surrounds the Gnome Press editions of Robert E. Howard's "Conan" stories. The Gnome Press editions placed the material in print for the first time since its original appearance in Weird Tales, but also included one volume not written by Howard (The Return of Conan) and one volume of non-Conan Howard stories extensively rewritten as Conan by SF writer L. Sprague de Camp (Tales of Conan). It also published many of Robert A. Heinlein's classics, and Children of the Atom by Wilmar Shiras. Andre Norton worked as a reader for Gnome Press in the 1950s.[4]

Gnome featured the work of many noted science fiction artists as well as authors. Those who contributed illustrative material for Gnome editions, including cover art, illustrations, maps and designs, included Ric Binkley, Hannes Bok, Chesley Bonestell, Edd Cartier, Lionel Dillon, Frances E. Dunn, Ed Emshwiller, Frank Kelly Freas, James Gibson, Harry Harrison, Mel Hunter, David Kyle, Stan Mack, Murray Tinkelman, L. Robert Tschirky, Walter I. Van der Poel, Jr., and Wallace Wood.

Gnome Press did not have much capital or access to distribution facilities. The company was notorious for not paying their writers royalties due, which is ultimately what lead to its failure. Asimov claimed he was never paid for the publication of the Foundation books, and called Greenberg "an outright crook".[5] Asimov and other authors were able eventually to repossess the rights to their publications, and the company failed during 1962. Martin Greenberg was forced to close due to financial troubles. According to Filmfax, Greenberg couldn't keep top science fiction and fantasy writers, who wanted more money and went over to bigger publishers like Doubleday. PressUS specialist Small Press founded in 1948 by Martin Greenberg and David A Kyle. It was the most eminent of the fan publishers of sf, and produced more than 50 books, surviving into the early 1960s. It published many of the major sf authors, and in some cases, as with Robert E Howard's Conan series (published in 6 books 1950-1955) and Isaac Asimov's Foundation series (published in 3 books 1951-1953), was responsible for the manner in which their stories were collected into book form. Other authors included Arthur C Clarke, Robert A Heinlein and C L Moore. An associated imprint was Greenberg: Publisher, and in 1958 Gnome Press bought out the stock of Fantasy Press. Most of Gnome Press's books were hardcover, but some saw simultaneous softcover editions. Gnome Press was important in the transitional period between Genre SF as a magazine phenomenon and its arrival in mass-market book Publishing.

Gnome Press publications are collected, and many of the books in well used condition can be inexpensively obtained (as of 2009 Amazon was offering several in the $3–$20 range). Other items are expensive. The calendars are particularly scarce. Among the books I, Robot, either in the Armed Forces paperback edition, or in the hardcover set from its plates, is in particular demand.[6]

The first Robert E. Howard novel, “Conan the Conqueror” appeared in 1950 and was followed by several others, including “The Sword of Conan” (1952), “The Coming of Conan” (1953), “King Conan” (1953), “Conan the Barbarian” (1954), “Tales of Conan” (1955), and “The Return of Conan” (1957).

As Gnome Press started to publish new books, Greenberg and Kyle set up the Fantasy Book Club, a subscription service designed to sell Gnome publications and books from other publishers at a discount.They also produced calendars featuring the black and white fantasy art of Hannes Bok & Edd Cartier. Below are examples of Edd Cartier’s art featuring gnomes and other fantasy characters.Gnome Press existed for just over a decade until they ultimately failed because of their inability to compete with major publishers who also started to publish science fiction. The larger publishers had more money, marketing and distribution outlets (the ability to sell wholesale to bookstores) while Gnome press relied on selling their books directly to fans by mail.

“But if you look at one of Gnome Press’s old catalogs, you find you are staring at a million dollars. The authors they had! Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein. Arthur C. Clarke. They had them all. They had the rights to books that have collectively sold tens of millions, perhaps hundreds of millions, of copies since, and they had acquired them at prices that would make a cat weep.” – Frederik Pohl

Financial mismanagement also cut into there ability to keep authors who jumped ship to the larger publishers. Author Isaac Asimov reported Gnome Press never paid him for his “Foundation” novels, but Asimov and other authors managed to get back the rights to their books to they could go to other more lucrative deals. In his biography, “I, Asimov: A Memoir,” by Isaac Asimov, the author provides a short chapter on his own frustrating interactions with Gnome Press, as well as some good detail on its publisher, Martin Greenberg.Had Gnome Press succeeded as a publisher and kept their stable of authors they would have been a powerhouse in the science fiction genre. When Gnome Press went out of business, it was $100,000 in debt. Martin Greenberg died in the fall of 2013.

Works published by Gnome Press[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Company description
  2. ^ Gnome Press Newsletter Image Accessed 2011-12-30
  3. ^ Charlie Jane Anders (2014-03-27). "The Failed Publisher That Gave Us I, Robot And Arthur C. Clarke". 
  4. ^ A conversation with Andre Norton
  5. ^ Chalker, Jack L.; Mark Owings (1998). The Science-Fantasy Publishers: A Bibliographic History, 1923-1998. Westminster, Maryland and Baltimore: Mirage Press, Ltd. pp. 294–311. 
  6. ^ [1]

References[edit]