|Parent company||Penguin Random House|
|Founder||Alfred A. Knopf Sr.|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Headquarters location||New York City, New York, U.S.|
Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. (//) is an American publishing house that was founded by Alfred A. Knopf Sr. and Blanche Knopf in 1915. Blanche and Alfred traveled abroad regularly and were known for publishing European, Asian, and Latin American writers in addition to leading American literary trends. It was acquired by Random House in 1960, and is now part of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group division of Penguin Random House which is owned by the German conglomerate Bertelsmann. The Knopf publishing house is associated with its borzoi colophon, which was designed by co-founder Blanche Knopf in 1925.
Knopf was founded in 1915 by Alfred A. Knopf Sr. along with Blanche Knopf, on a $5,000 advance from his father, Samuel Knopf. The first office was located in New York's Candler Building. The publishing house was officially incorporated in 1918, with Alfred Knopf as president, Blanche Knopf as vice president, and Samuel Knopf as treasurer.
From the start, Knopf focused on European translations and high-brow works of literature. Among their initial publications were French author Émile Augier's Four Plays, Ukrainian writer Nikolai Gogol's Taras Bulba, Polish novelist Stanisław Przybyszewski's novel Homo Sapiens, and French writer Guy de Maupassant's Yvette, a Novelette, and Ten Other Stories. During World War I these books were cheap to obtain and helped establish Knopf as an American firm publishing European works. Their first bestseller was a new edition of Green Mansions, a novel by W. H. Hudson which went through nine printings by 1919 and sold over 20,000 copies. Their first original American novel, The Three Black Pennys by Joseph Hergesheimer, was published in 1917.
With the start of the 1920s Knopf began using innovative advertising techniques to draw attention to their books and authors. Beginning in 1920, Knopf produced a chapbook, for the purpose of promoting new books. The Borzoi was published periodically over the years, the first being a hardback called the Borzoi and sometimes quarterly as the Borzoi Quarterly. For Floyd Dell's coming-of-age novel, Moon-Calf, they paid men to walk the streets of the financial and theatre districts dressed in artist costumes with sandwich boards. The placards had a copy of the book for browsing and directed interested buyers to local book shops.
The unique look of their books along with their expertise in advertising their authors drew Willa Cather to leave her previous publisher Houghton Mifflin to join Alfred A. Knopf. As she was still under contract for her novels, the Knopfs suggested publishing a collection of her short stories, Youth and the Bright Medusa in 1920. Cather was pleased with the results and the advertisement of the book in The New Republic and would go on to publish sixteen books with Knopf including their first Pulitzer prize winner, One of Ours.
Before they had married, Alfred had promised Blanche that they would be equal partners in the publishing company, but it was clear by the company's fifth anniversary that this was not to be the case. Knopf published a celebratory 5th anniversary book in which Alfred was the focus of anecdotes by authors and Blanche's name was only mentioned once to note that "Mrs. Knopf" had found a manuscript. This despite ample evidence from authors and others that Blanche was in fact the soul of the company. This was covered extensively in The Lady with the Borzoi by Laura Claridge.
In 1923 Knopf also started publishing periodicals, beginning with The American Mercury, founded by H. L. Mencken and George Jean Nathan, which it published through 1934.
1923 also marked the year that Knopf published Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet. Knopf had published Gibran's earlier works which had disappointing sales. In its first year, The Prophet only sold 1,159 copies. It would double sales the next year and keep doubling becoming one of the firm's most successful books. In 1965 the book sold 240,000 copies.
In the 1920s, Knopf sometimes withdrew or censored their books when threatened by John Sumner, such as Floyd Dell's Janet March or George Egerton's 1899 translation of Hunger.
Samuel Knopf died in 1932. William A. Koshland joined the company in 1934, and worked with the firm for more than fifty years, rising to take the positions of president and chairman of the board. Blanche became president in 1957 when Alfred became chairman of the board, and worked steadily for the firm until her death in 1966. Alfred Knopf retired in 1972, becoming chairman emeritus of the firm until his death in 1984. Alfred Knopf also had a summer home in Purchase, New York.
Following the Good Neighbor policy, Blanche Knopf visited South America in 1942, so the firm could start producing texts from there. She was one of the first publishers to visit Europe after World War II. Her trips, and those of other editors, brought in new writers from Europe, South America, and Asia. Alfred traveled to Brazil in 1961, which spurred a corresponding interest on his part in South America. Penn Publishing Company was acquired in 1943. The Knopfs' son, Alfred "Pat" Jr., was hired on as secretary and trade books manager after the war.
In 1952, editor Judith Jones joined Knopf as an editor. Jones, who had discovered Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl while working at Doubleday, acquired Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking for Knopf. Jones would remain with Knopf, retiring in 2011 as a senior editor and vice-president after a career that included working with John Updike and Anne Tyler.
Pat Knopf left his parents' publishing company in 1959 to launch his own, Atheneum Publishers, with two other partners. The story made the front page of The New York Times.
In a 1957 advertisement in The Atlantic Monthly, Alfred A. Knopf published the Borzoi Credo. The credo includes a list of what Knopf's beliefs for publishing including the statement that he never published an unworthy book. Among a list of beliefs listed is the final one—"I believe that magazines, movies, television, and radio will never replace good books."
In 1960 Random House acquired Alfred A. Knopf. It is believed that the decision to sell was prompted by Alfred A. Knopf Jr., leaving Knopf to found his own book company, Atheneum Books, in 1959.
Since its founding, Knopf has paid close attention to design and typography, employing notable designers and typographers including William Addison Dwiggins, Harry Ford, Steven Heller, Chip Kidd, Lorraine Louie, Peter Mendelsund, Bruce Rogers, Rudolf Ruzicka, and Beatrice Warde. Knopf books conclude with an unnumbered page titled "A Note on the Type", which describes the history of the typeface used for the book. In addition, Knopf books date the year of the book's current printing on the title page.
Knopf published textbooks until 1988, when Random House's schools and colleges division was sold to McGraw Hill.
In 1991, Knopf revived the "Everyman's Library" series, originally published in England in the early 20th century. This series consists of classics of world literature in affordable hardcover editions. The series has grown over the years to include lines of Children's Classics and Pocket Poets.
Random House was acquired by Bertelsmann AG in 1998. In late 2008 and early 2009, the Knopf Publishing Group merged with Doubleday to form the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Random House has been owned since its 2013 merger of Penguin Group by Penguin Random House, a joint venture between Bertelsmann (53%) and Pearson PLC (47%).
Many of Knopf's hardcover books are published later as Vintage paperbacks. Vintage Books is a sister imprint of Random House.
In October 2012, Bertelsmann entered into talks with rival conglomerate Pearson plc, over the possibility of combining their respective publishing companies, Random House and Penguin Group. The merger was completed on 1 July 2013 and the new company is Penguin Random House. Bertelsmann owns 53% of the joint venture while Pearson owns 47%. At the time of the acquisition the combined companies controlled 25% of the book business, with more than 10,000 employees and 250 independent publishing imprints and with about $3.9 billion in annual revenues. The move to consolidate was to provide leverage against Amazon.com and battle the shrinking state of bookstores.
In 2015, Knopf celebrated its 100th anniversary by publishing a commemorative book, Alfred A. Knopf, 1915–2015: A Century of Publishing.
While there have been many notable editors at Knopf there have only been four editors-in-chief: Alfred A. Knopf, Sr., Robert Gottlieb, Sonny Mehta (who died in 2020) and Reagan Arthur. Other influential editors at Knopf included Harold Strauss (Japanese literature), Herbert Weinstock (biography of musical composers), Judith Jones (culinary texts), Peter Mendelsund (art director and book cover designer) as well as Angus Cameron, Charles Elliott, Gary Fisketjon, Lee Goerner, Ashbel Green, Carol Brown Janeway, Michael Magzis, Anne McCormick, Nancy Nicholas, Daniel Okrent, Regina Ryan, Sophie Wilkins, and Victoria Wilson. Knopf also employed literary scouts to good advantage.
Further information: List of Alfred A. Knopf authors
Alfred A. Knopf has published thousands of books from thousands of authors, including Albert Camus, John Banville, Carl Bernstein, Elizabeth Bowen, Frederick Buechner, Robert Caro, Willa Cather, Julia Child, Bill Clinton, Miguel Covarrubias, Joan Didion, Bret Easton Ellis, James Ellroy, Martin Gardner, Kahlil Gibran, Lee H. Hamilton, Kazuo Ishiguro, John Keegan, Anne Rice, Nella Larsen, Jack London, Gabriel García Márquez, Cormac McCarthy, Toni Morrison, Haruki Murakami, Christopher Paolini, Edgar Allan Poe, Ezra Pound, Dorothy Richardson, Stephen M. Silverman, Oswald Spengler, Susan Swan, Anne Tyler, Andrew Vachss, James D. Watson, and Elinor Wylie.
|2013||Pulitzer Prize||Poetry||Stag's Leap||Sharon Olds|
|2011||Pulitzer Prize||Fiction||A Visit from the Goon Squad||Jennifer Egan|
|2010||Pulitzer Prize||Biography or Autobiography||The First Tycoon||T.J. Stiles|
|2007||Pulitzer Prize||Fiction||The Road||Cormac McCarthy|
|2005||MHA Best Book Award||History||Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling||Richard Bushman|
|2005||Pulitzer Prize||Biography or Autobiography||de Kooning: An American Master||Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan|
|2004||Pulitzer Prize||Poetry||Walking to Martha's Vineyard||Franz Wright|
|2003||Newbery Honor||Fiction||Hoot||Carl Hiaasen|
|2003||Pulitzer Prize||Biography or Autobiography||Master of the Senate||Robert A. Caro|
|2002||Pulitzer Prize||Fiction||Empire Falls||Richard Russo|
|2001||Pulitzer Prize||History||Founding Brothers||Joseph J. Ellis|
|1999||Pulitzer Prize||Poetry||Blizzard of One||Mark Strand|
|1998||Pulitzer Prize||Biography or Autobiography||Personal History''||Katharine Graham|
|1997||Pulitzer Prize||History||Original Meanings||Jack N. Rakove|
|1996||Pulitzer Prize||Fiction||Independence Day||Richard Ford|
|1996||Pulitzer Prize||Biography or Autobiography||God: A Biography||Jack Miles|
|1996||Pulitzer Prize||History||William Cooper's Town||Alan Taylor|
|1995||Pulitzer Prize||Poetry||The Simple Truth||Philip Levine|
|1995||Pulitzer Prize||General Nonfiction||The Beak of the Finch||Jonathan Weiner|
|1993||Pulitzer Prize||History||The Radicalism of the American Revolution||Gordon S. Wood|
|1992||Pulitzer Prize||Fiction||A Thousand Acres||Jane Smiley|
|1991||Pulitzer Prize||History||A Midwife's Tale||Laurel Thatcher Ulrich|
|1991||Pulitzer Prize||Fiction||Rabbit at Rest||John Updike|
|1991||Pulitzer Prize||Poetry||Near Changes||Mona Van Duyn|
|1989||Pulitzer Prize||Biography or Autobiography||Oscar Wilde||Richard Ellmann|
|1989||Pulitzer Prize||Fiction||Breathing Lessons||Anne Tyler|
|1988||Pulitzer Prize||History||The Launching of Modern American Science, 1846-1876||Robert V. Bruce|
|1988||Pulitzer Prize||History||Partial Accounts||William Meredith|
|1988||Pulitzer Prize||Fiction||Beloved||Toni Morrison|
|1987||Pulitzer Prize||History||Voyagers to the West||Bernard Bailyn|
|1987||Pulitzer Prize||Fiction||A Summons to Memphis||Peter Taylor|
|1986||Pulitzer Prize||Biography or Autobiography||Louise Bogan||Elizabeth Frank|
|1986||Pulitzer Prize||General Nonfiction||Common Ground||J. Anthony Lukas|
|1982||Pulitzer Prize||Fiction||Rabbit Is Rich||John Updike|
|1981||Pulitzer Prize||Biography or Autobiography||Peter the Great||Robert K. Massie|
|1981||Pulitzer Prize||General Nonfiction||Fin-de-Siècle Vienna||Carl E. Schorske|
|1980||Pulitzer Prize||History||Been In the Storm So Long||Leon F. Litwack|
|1979||Pulitzer Prize||Fiction||The Stories of John Cheever||John Cheever|
|1975||Pulitzer Prize||Biography or Autobiography||The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York||Robert A. Caro|
|1973||Pulitzer Prize||History||People of Paradox||Michael Kammen|
|1970||Pulitzer Prize||Biography or Autobiography||Huey Long||T. Harry Williams|
|1967||Pulitzer Prize||History||Exploration and Empire||William H. Goetzmann|
|1965||Pulitzer Prize||Fiction||The Keepers of the House||Shirley Ann Grau|
|1964||Pulitzer Prize||General Nonfiction||Anti-Intellectualism in American Life||Richard Hofstadter|
|1962||Pulitzer Prize||History||The Triumphant Empire: Thunder-Clouds Gather in the West||Lawrence H. Gipson|
|1961||Pulitzer Prize||Biography or Autobiography||Charles Sumner and the Coming of the Civil War||David Herbert|
|1960||Pulitzer Prize||Poetry||Heart's Needle||W. D. Snodgrass|
|1956||Pulitzer Prize||History||The Age of Reform||Richard Hofstadter|
|1955||Pulitzer Prize||History||Collected Poems: Wallace Stevens||Wallace Stevens|
|1951||Pulitzer Prize||Fiction||The Town||Conrad Richter|
|1950||Pulitzer Prize||Biography or Autobiography||John Quincy Adams and the Foundations of American Foreign Policy||Samuel Flagg Bemis|
|1946||Pulitzer Prize||Biography or Autobiography||Son of the Wilderness||Linnie Marsh Wolfe|
|1945||Pulitzer Prize||Novel||A Bell for Adano||John Hersey|
|1945||Pulitzer Prize||Biography or Autobiography||George Bancroft: Brahmin Rebel||Russel Blaine Nye|
|1944||Pulitzer Prize||Biography or Autobiography||The American Leonardo: A Life of Samuel F. B. Morse||Carleton Mabee|
|1934||Pulitzer Prize||Poetry||Collected Verse||Robert Hillyer|
|1927||Pulitzer Prize||Poetry||Fiddler's Farewell||Leonora Speyer|
|1923||Pulitzer Prize||Novel||One of Ours||Willa Cather|
|2009||National Book Award||Nonfiction||The First Tycoon||T.J. Stiles|
|2005||National Book Award||Nonfiction||The Year of Magical Thinking||Joan Didion|
|2002||National Book Award||Nonfiction||Master of the Senate||Robert A. Caro|
|1997||National Book Award||Nonfiction||American Sphinx The Character of Thomas Jefferson||Joseph J. Ellis|
|1991||National Book Award||Nonfiction||How We Die||Sherwin B. Nuland|
|1992||National Book Award||Fiction||All the Pretty Horses||Cormac McCarthy|
|1991||National Book Award||Poetry||What Work Is||Philip Levine|
|1989||National Book Award||Fiction||Spartina||John Casey|
|1985||National Book Award||Nonfiction||Common Ground||J. Anthony Lukas|
|1983||National Book Award||History||Voices of Protest||Alan Brinkley|
|1982||National Book Award||Fiction||Rabbit is Rich||John Updike|
|1981||National Book Award||First Novel||Sister Wolf||Ann Arensberg|
|1981||National Book Award||Fiction Paperback||The Stories of John Cheever||John Cheever|
|1981||National Book Award||General Nonfiction||China Men||Maxine Hong Kingston|
|1981||National Book Award||History Paperback||Been in the Storm So Long||Leon F. Litwack|
|1980||National Book Award||Autobiography (Hardcover)||By Myself||Lauren Bacall|
|1980||National Book Award||Current Interest (Hardcover)||Julia Child and More Company||Julia Child|
|1980||National Book Award||History (Paperback)||A Distant Mirror||Barbara W. Tuchman|
|1980||National Book Award||First Novel||Birdy||William Wharton|
|1977||National Book Award||Contemporary Thought||The Uses of Enchantment||Bruno Bettelheim|
|1976||National Book Award||Fiction||J R||William Gaddis|
|1975||National Book Award||Contemporary Affairs||All God's Dangers||Theodore Rosengarten|
|1974||National Book Award||Biography||Macaulay||John Clive|
|1972||National Book Award||Poetry||The Collected Works of Frank O'Hara||Frank O'Hara|
|1970||National Book Award||History and Biography||Huey Long||T. Harry Williams|
|1967||National Book Award||History and Biography||The Enlightenment, Vol. 1||Peter Gay|
|1964||National Book Award||Fiction||The Centaur||John Updike|
|1962||National Book Award||Fiction||The Moviegoer||Walker Percy|
|1961||National Book Award||Fiction||The Waters of Kronos||Conrad Richter|
|1955||National Book Award||Poetry||The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens||Wallace Stevens|
|1951||National Book Award||Poetry||The Auroras of Autumn||Wallace Stevens|
|2017||Nobel Prize||Literature||Nobel Prize in Literature||Kazuo Ishiguro|
|2013||Nobel Prize||Literature||Nobel Prize in Literature||Alice Munro|
|2007||Nobel Prize||Literature||Nobel Prize in Literature||Doris Lessing|
|2006||Nobel Prize||Literature||Nobel Prize in Literature||Orhan Pamuk|
|2002||Nobel Prize||Literature||Nobel Prize in Literature||Imre Kertész|
|2001||Nobel Prize||Literature||Nobel Prize in Literature||V.S. Naipaul|
|1999||Nobel Prize||Literature||Nobel Prize in Literature||Günter Grass|
|1993||Nobel Prize||Literature||Nobel Prize in Literature||Toni Morrison|
|1991||Nobel Prize||Literature||Nobel Prize in Literature||Nadine Gordimer|
|1982||Nobel Prize||Literature||Nobel Prize in Literature||Gabriel Garcia Marquez|
|1980||Nobel Prize||Literature||Nobel Prize in Literature||Czeslaw Milosz|
|1972||Nobel Prize||Literature||Nobel Prize in Literature||Heinrich Boll|
|1968||Nobel Prize||Literature||Nobel Prize in Literature||Yasunari Kawabata|
|1965||Nobel Prize||Literature||Nobel Prize in Literature||Mikhail Sholokhov|
|1964||Nobel Prize||Literature||Nobel Prize in Literature||Jean-Paul Sartre (declined)|
|1961||Nobel Prize||Literature||Nobel Prize in Literature||Ivo Andric|
|1957||Nobel Prize||Literature||Nobel Prize in Literature||Albert Camus|
|1955||Nobel Prize||Literature||Nobel Prize in Literature||Halldor K. Laxness|
|1947||Nobel Prize||Literature||Nobel Prize in Literature||André Gide|
|1944||Nobel Prize||Literature||Nobel Prize in Literature||Johannes V. Jensen|
|1939||Nobel Prize||Literature||Nobel Prize in Literature||Frans E. Sillanpaa|
|1929||Nobel Prize||Literature||Nobel Prize in Literature||Thomas Mann|
|1928||Nobel Prize||Literature||Nobel Prize in Literature||Sigrid Undset|
|1924||Nobel Prize||Literature||Nobel Prize in Literature||Wladyslaw S. Reymont|
|1920||Nobel Prize||Literature||Nobel Prize in Literature||Knut Hamsun|
|1916||Nobel Prize||Literature||Nobel Prize in Literature||Verner von Heidenstam|
The logo for Knopf is a Russian wolfhound or Borzoi. Blanche Knopf suggested the Borzoi for the logo to imply motion and the logo was used on both the spine and the title page of their books.
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