New American Library
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|Parent company||Penguin Group|
|Founder||Victor Weybright and Kurt Enoch|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Headquarters location||New York City|
|Imprints||NAL Accent, Obsidian, Plume, Roc, Signet, Signet Eclipse, Signet Select|
The New American Library (NAL) is an American publisher based in New York, founded in 1948. Its focus is affordable paperback reprints of classics and scholarly works, as well as popular and pulp fiction. Non-fiction, original and hardcopy issues are also produced.
Although U.S. distribution represented the major segment of sales, the international market also had an impact on NAL's success. In addition, the Peace Corps ordered 52 NAL titles totaling 150,000 books that were distributed to its volunteers and constituents overseas.
Victor Weybright and Kurt Enoch (formerly head of Albatross Books) founded the New American Library of World Literature, Inc. (NAL), in 1948. NAL was established as an autonomous American publishing house after branching off from its British-based parent company, Penguin Books. Victor Weybright led the company as Chairman and Editor-in-Chief (1945—1947) while Kurt Enoch acted as President and Chief Executive Officer (1945—1947).
NAL imprints included:
- Signet fiction
- Mentor (mostly) non-fiction (with the slogan, "Good reading for the millions")
- Signet science
- Signet Classics
- Signet Key (for young readers ages 10 to 14)
- Mentor-Omega (featuring Catholic philosophers)
- Mentor Executive Library (for businesspeople).
NAL's productions were not limited to softbound reprints. Original works of mystery, romance, and adventure proved to be profitable and popular. The company later initiated hard-copy original publications, such as the immensely popular James Bond "007" series written by Ian Fleming. NAL also published new editions of classic works — for example, a Shakespeare series — which featured renowned scholars, editors, and translators; many of these editions were oriented toward high school and college readership. These paperbound books included subjects in the humanities, the arts, and the sciences. It also published at least two notable "magazines in book form": New World Writing in the 1950s and early '60s, and New American Review in the latter '60s and early '70s (which then moved on to other publishers as American Review).
NAL enjoyed great success; by 1965, its Mentor and Signet books annually sold over 50 million volumes.
The McCarthy era of the 1950s is notorious for its attacks upon communism and communistic influences in American life, and the object of federal investigations and trials was to eliminate this perceived "threat" and extinguish any and all communistic elements. NAL became involved with the censorship trials when certain books were deemed inflammatory and subsequently banned. Victor Weybright was asked to testify before a 1952 House Committee that examined pornography. Rather than accept government restrictions, Weybright endorsed a self-regulated censorship policy on the part of publishing companies. Weybright commented thus:
I pointed out with some justification, but certainly not as my basic argument, that the Mentor list was essential as part of the character and prestige of our company and an indispensable exhibit when our more daring fiction — by Faulkner, Farrell, and Caldwell — was attacked by the censors.
NAL witnessed a change in ownership three times over a period of 27 years. In 1960 Times Mirror of Los Angeles bought NAL; however, NAL continued to operate autonomously within the Mirror Company. Similarly, NAL's management remained unchanged. In 1983 Odyssey Partners and Ira J. Hechler bought NAL from the Times Mirror Company for over $50 million. In 1987, the NAL was reintegrated by purchase into the Penguin Publishing Company, its original parent company. New York University Library received the NAL archive as a gift from the NAL in the spring of 1965.
Notes and references
- Victor Weybright, The Making of a Publisher (New York, Reynal and Company, 1967), p.207
- The Fales Library of NYU's Guide to the New American Library Archive