New American Library.

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NAL, based in New York and beginning in 1948, produced affordable paperback reprints of classics and scholarly works, as well as popular, pulp, and "hard-boiled" fiction. Non-fiction, original, and hardcopy issues were also produced.

Victor Weybright and Kurt Enoch 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). (For further biographical information on Victor Weybright, see Who's Who in America, vol. 37, 1972-73, p.3378, Chicago: Marquis Who's Who; on Kurt Enoch, see obituary "Kurt Enoch, 86; Pioneer in Paperback Publishing," New York Times, Feb 17, 1982.)

NAL represents a significant element in American postwar publishing. The company produced paperback books at affordable prices and distributed these publications in accessible outlets such as supermarkets, pharmacies, and schools. The mass production of these reasonably priced classics, scholarly works, reprints, mysteries/thrillers, and romances allowed readers to readily obtain high quality and popular reading materials. The NALslogan of "Rich Reading at Low Prices" certainly summed up its sales and marketing philosophy and reflects the democratization of literature. 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 which were distributed to its volunteers and constituents overseas.

NAL imprints included Signet fiction, Mentor non-fiction, Signet science, Signet Classics, Signet Key(for young readers ages 10 to 14), Mentor-Omega (featuring Catholic philosophers) and Mentor Executive Library (for businesspeople). NAL published such notable and diverse authors as James Joyce, William Faulkner, Mickey Spillane, Arthur Koestler, Jim Thompson, Erskine Caldwell, and Flannery O'Connor. It is important to note that 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. NAL enjoyed great success; by 1965, its Mentor and Signet books annually sold over 50 million volumes.

The McCarthy era of the 1950's 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 which 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 [from Victor Weybright, The Making of a Publisher (New York, Reynal and Company, 1967), p.207]."

NAL witnessed a change in ownership three times over a period of 27 years. In 1960 the Times Mirror Company 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 dollars. In 1987, the NAL was reintegrated by purchase into the Penguin Publishing Company, its original parent company.

From the guide to the New American Library Archive, 1943-1962, (© 2009 Fales Library and Special Collections)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Kurt Enoch papers, 1960-1978 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
creatorOf New American Library Archive, 1943-1962 Fales Library & Special Collections
creatorOf McGinley, Phyllis, 1905-1978. Lillian Hellman Papers, 1904-1984 (bulk 1934-1984). Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
referencedIn Harry Altshuler papers, 1944-1994 University of Kansas Kenneth Spencer Research Library Department of Special Collections
creatorOf Lehman, Ernest, 1915-2005. Papers, 1931-1990, (bulk 1954-1967). Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
referencedIn Reyher, Rebecca Hourwich, 1897-1987. Papers, 1877-1988 (bulk: 1915-1970) Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Jones, James, 1921-1977. James Jones Papers, 1890-1981 (bulk 1941-1978). Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
referencedIn Gay Wilson Allen Papers, 1801-1988 David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
referencedIn Levin, Harry. Harry Levin Papers. 1920-1995. Houghton Library
referencedIn Gore Vidal papers, 1850-2020 (inclusive), 1936-2008 (bulk) Houghton Library
referencedIn Lillian Hellman Papers TXRC05-A10005., 1904-1984 (bulk 1934-1984) Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
creatorOf New American Library. Correspondence with Johan Thorsten Sellin, 1954. University of Pennsylvania Library
creatorOf New American Library. Correspondence to Van Wyck Brooks, 1959. University of Pennsylvania Library
creatorOf Enoch, Kurt, 1894-1982. Kurt Enoch papers, 1960-1978. Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
referencedIn Weybright, Victor. Papers, 1945-1974. University of Wyoming, American Heritage Center
referencedIn William Empson papers, 1811-1996 (inclusive), 1911-1984 (bulk). Houghton Library
referencedIn New Directions Publishing Corp. records, 1932-2005 Houghton Library
referencedIn Poets' Theatre (Cambridge, Mass.) records, 1936-1989 (inclusive), 1950-1960 (bulk). Houghton Library
referencedIn Paul Ramsey Papers, 1934-1984 and undated David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
correspondedWith Allen, Gay Wilson, 1903- person
associatedWith Altshuler, Harry, c. 1913-1990 person
associatedWith Berlin, Isaiah, Sir person
associatedWith Brown, Carter, 1923- person
associatedWith Butcher, Margaret Just, 1913- person
associatedWith Caldwell, Erskine, 1903-1987 person
correspondedWith Empson, William, 1906-1984 person
associatedWith Enoch, Kurt, 1894-1982. person
associatedWith Farrell, James T., (James Thomas), 1904-1979 person
associatedWith Hellman, Lillian, 1905-1984 person
associatedWith Jones, James, 1921-1977. person
associatedWith Lasswell, Harold D. 1902-1978. person
associatedWith Lehman, Ernest, 1915-2005. person
correspondedWith Levin, Harry, 1912-1994 person
associatedWith McGinley, Phyllis, 1905-1978. person
correspondedWith New Directions Publishing Corp. corporateBody
associatedWith Penguin (Firm) corporateBody
correspondedWith Poets' Theatre (Cambridge, Mass.). corporateBody
associatedWith Porter, Arabel J. person
correspondedWith Ramsey, Paul person
correspondedWith Rebecca Hourwich Reyher person
associatedWith Signet (Firm) corporateBody
associatedWith Spillane, Mickey, 1918- person
associatedWith Toynbee, Arnold Joseph, 1889-1975 person
correspondedWith Vidal, Gore, 1925- person
associatedWith Waller, Theodore. person
associatedWith Weybright, Victor. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
New York (N.Y.)
Pulp literature
Pulp Literature--United States
Literary editors
Paperbacks--Publishing--United States--History--20th century
Literature publishing--United States--History--20th century
Authors and publishers--New York (State)--New York--20th century
Authors, American--20th century--Correspondence
Authors and publishers
Publishers and publishing--United States--Correspondence
Internal security--United States--History--20th century
Popular literature--Publishing--United States--History--20th
Publishers and publishing--New York (N.Y.)--20th century

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Ark ID: w6k41fnr

SNAC ID: 39707937