Rowman & Littlefield continues to add niche publishers to its ranks with the acquisition of the U.S. assets of the Catholic book publisher Sheed & Ward. Originally founded in 1926 by Frank Sheed and Maisie Ward in London, the company moved the center of its operation to New York in 1933. The R&L purchase does not include Sheed & Ward's U.K. unit, which is owned by Continuum International, although R&L does own the U.S. Sheed & Ward trademark.

Sheed & Ward has had a number of owners over the years, and had been owned since 1998 by the Priests of the Sacred Heart in Milwaukee, Wis. Priests of the Sacred Heart spokesperson Father Paul J. McGuire said the organization decided to sell the company because it believed R&L would "maintain the character and integrity" of the imprint, while providing greater growth potential. Sheed & Ward will become R&L's Catholic book imprint, under the direction of its current editorial director, Jeremy Langford. Langford will work out of the offices of R&L's Chicago subsidiary, Ivan R. Dee, and will report to Jon Sisk, R&L publisher. The company's Milwaukee headquarters will be closed, although some if its 10 employees will be asked to work on a freelance basis. All back-office and sales functions will be handled by R&L.

Jed Lyons, R&L president, said Sheed & Ward will be a good addition to R&L's existing religion publishing program, which is headed by Langford's father, Jim. The company has a 500-title backlist and had published 25 new books annually, a number Lyons wants to increase by at least 10% over the next several years. Among the authors on the Sheed & Ward backlist are G.K. Chesterton, Hans Kung and Clare Boothe Luce, as well as such newer authors as Daniel Berrigan, Andrew Greeley and Daniel Harrington. Books will be marketed to both the academic market and the general trade.