One reason for the strong publishing presence in the Bay Area is the long history of leadership and vision provided by men and women who rose to become prominent publishing figures across the nation.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Lawrence Ferlinghetti, cofounder of City Lights Books, turned 96 this year. A poet, publisher, artist, and activist, Ferlinghetti is also known as an advocate for free speech. City Lights published Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, which became the center of an obscenity trial in the 1950s. Ferlinghetti’s support of Ginsberg cemented his legacy as a free speech champion.

Malcolm Margolin

Malcolm Margolin is publisher and founder of Heyday Books, an independent press that celebrates California’s unique culture and landscape. Margolin is an icon in the world of alternative publishing; the National Endowment for the Humanities called him “a national treasure.” He is known not only for his vision and commitment to publishing great work, but also for his vibrant, amiable, life-loving personality.

Felice Newman and Frédérique Delacoste

Felice Newman (l.) and Frédérique Delacoste cofounded Cleis Press in Berkeley in 1980. Both Newman and Delacoste retired in October 2014, months shy of Cleis’s 35th anniversary, but the award-winning press continues its work publishing books on human sexuality and LGBTQ topics. When word came that Cleis’s new owner is moving its offices to Jersey City, Newman offered “best wishes to all as Cleis goes brightly into the next chapter of its story.”

Ron Turner

In 1970, Ron Turner founded Last Gasp, an underground comics publisher and distributor. Headquartered in San Francisco, Last Gasp focuses on fostering the counterculture, publishing art and pop culture books, graphic novels, fiction, poetry, and such notable artists as R. Crumb and Ron English. Turner is equally known for throwing some of the most memorable parties in town. Turner told PW that he would rather die in harness than retire.

Charlie Winton

Charlie Winton is currently CEO and chairman of Counterpoint Press. But Winton is known for more: in 1976, he founded Publishers Group West (PGW), which became the largest distributor of independent publishers in North America. In 1994, he created Avalon Publishing Group and served concurrently as its CEO. While PGW and Avalon have been sold, Winton continues to run Counterpoint LLC, which has merged the publishers Counterpoint Press, Shoemaker & Hoard, and Soft Skull Press.

Bay Area Spotlight 2015: All Our Coverage