cover image Scribners: Five Generations in Publishing

Scribners: Five Generations in Publishing

Charles Scribner III. Lyons, $27.99 (224p) ISBN 978-1-493079-97-1

Scribner (Sacred Muse) takes an entertaining look at the history of his family’s influential publishing company. The firm, originally called Baker & Scribner, was founded in 1846 as a partnership between 25-year-old Charles Scribner (the author’s great-great-grandfather), whose poor health led him to abandon a career in law, and merchant Isaac Baker. Their initial focus was theological treatises, but by the time the elder Scribner died at 50, the house had blossomed into a “premier publisher of American literature,” and went on to discover such notable talents as Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and Kurt Vonnegut. Though Scribner writes of his own family and workplace (he served as an editor from 1975 to 2004), he avoids hagiography, freely admitting, for example, that when his great-grandfather headed the American Publishers Association, his main goal was to regulate the prices of copyrighted books, a practice that was eventually deemed unconstitutional price fixing under the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. Such candor suffuses the volume: the author acknowledges that he lacks the patience to read the “towering” novels of Henry James, and dedicates chapters to warts-and-all portraits of Scribner authors F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. The result is a lively and refreshing must-read for those interested in the history of book publishing. (Nov.)