New American Library

The New American Library (NAL) is an American publisher based in New York, founded in 1948. Its initial focus was affordable paperback reprints of classics and scholarly works as well as popular and pulp fiction, but it now publishes trade and hardcover titles. It is currently an imprint of Penguin Random House; it was announced in 2015 that the imprint would publish only nonfiction titles.

New American Library
Parent companyBerkley Books (Penguin Random House)
FounderVictor Weybright and Kurt Enoch
Country of originUnited States
Headquarters locationNew York City, New York
ImprintsNAL Accent, Obsidian, Plume, Roc, Signet, Signet Eclipse, Signet Select


20th century

New American Library (NAL) began life as Penguin U.S.A. and as part of Penguin Books of England. Because of complexities of exchange control and import and export regulations—Penguin made the decision to terminate the association and the New American Library of World Literature was founded in 1948[1] by Victor Weybright and Kurt Enoch (formally head of Albatross Books).

Enoch served as president of New American Library from 1947-1965.[2][3] He later served as head of Book Publishing at Times Mirror and then stepped down to Vice-President when John P. R. Budlong became president of New American Library in 1965.[3]

NAL's productions were not limited to softbound reprints. Original works of mystery, romance, and adventure proved to be profitable and popular. In 1963 the company began publishing original publications in hardback format,[4] such as the immensely popular James Bond "007" series written by Ian Fleming. NAL also published new "quality" paperback editions of classic works — for example, a Shakespeare series — which featured renowned scholars, editors, and translators. Many of those editions were oriented toward a high school and college readership. Those paperbound books included subjects in the humanities, the arts, and the sciences.

NAL also published at least two notable "magazines in book form": New World Writing in the 1950s and early 1960s, and New American Review in the latter 1960s and early 1970s (which then moved on to other publishers as American Review).

NAL enjoyed great success: by 1965, its Mentor and Signet books annually sold over 50 million volumes. In 1956 NAL reported that "over 3 million copies" of the Signet Books edition of From Here to Eternity had been sold.[5]

The McCarthy era of the 1950s 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 that 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.[6]

New York University Library received the NAL archive as a gift from the NAL in the spring of 1965.[7]

Acquisitions and mergers

NAL witnessed several changes in ownership beginning in the 1960s. In 1960 Times Mirror of Los Angeles bought NAL;[8] however, NAL continued to operate autonomously within the Mirror Company and management remained unchanged. In 1983 Odyssey Partners and Ira J. Hechler bought NAL[9] from the Times Mirror Company for over $50 million. At the time of the sale New American Library had over 1 billion paperback books in print.[10]

In 1985 New American Library acquired E.P. Dutton, an independent hardcover and trade publisher.[9] During this period there was pressure for paperback publishers to add hardcover divisions. NAL had started publishing hardcovers in 1980 with mixed success and determined that Dutton would give them an edge in that space.[9]

In 1987, the NAL was reintegrated into the Penguin Publishing Company.[11] Penguin had been purchased by Pearson PLC in 1970.

21st century

In 2013, Pearson PLC merged Penguin with Bertelsmann owned Random House to form Penguin Random House.[12] New American Library is currently part of the Penguin Publishing Group, where it is a sister imprint to the Berkley Publishing Group. In June 2015 it was announced by Penguin that starting in fall of 2016, Berkley would publish fiction titles while New American library would publish only non-fiction titles. According to Berkley/NAL Publishing Group president Leslie Gelbman this "will delineate the two publishing lines and sharpen their publishing identities."[13][14]


Series past and present have included:[9]

  • Meridian
  • Mentor Books, (mostly) non-fiction (with the slogan, "Good reading for the millions")[15][16]
  • Mentor-Omega, featuring Catholic philosophers
  • Mentor Executive Library, for businesspeople
  • NAL Trade
  • Plume
  • Signet Books[17][18][19]
  • Signet Classics, paperback reprints of classics from Giovanni Boccaccio to Sinclair Lewis, accompanied by introductions and in newer editions, afterwords.[20][21][22]
  • Signet Fiction
  • Signet Science
  • Signet Key, for young readers ages 10 to 14.[23]

At the time that they broke away from Penguin Books, Signet and Mentor correlated to Penguin's original series of Penguin and Pelican.[1]

Notable authors

Notable cover illustrators

Notes and references

  1. "People Who Read and Write". Retrieved 2016-04-10.
  2. Mitgang, Herbert (1982-02-17). "KURT ENOCH, 86; PIONEER IN PAPERBACK PUBLISHING". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-04-10.
  3. "John Budlong Heads Library of Literature". Retrieved 2016-04-10.
  4. "Publisher Adds Hardcover Line". Retrieved 2016-04-10.
  5. Signet Books T1075 - James Jones - From Here to Eternity, Retrieved 30 September 2017.
  6. Victor Weybright, The Making of a Publisher (New York, Reynal and Company, 1967), p.207
  7. The Fales Library of NYU's Guide to the New American Library Archive
  8. "OTHER SALES, MERGERS; Times-Mirror Co. COMPANIES PLAN SALES, MERGERS". Retrieved 2016-04-10.
  9. Mcdowell, Edwin (1985-02-07). "E.P. DUTTON TO BE PURCHASED BY NEW AMERICAN LIBRARY". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-04-10.
  10. Mcdowell, Edwin (1983-11-08). "TIMES MIRROR IS SELLING NEW AMERICAN LIBRARY". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-04-16.
  11. Mcdowell, Edwin (1986-10-01). "PENGUIN AGREES TO BUY NEW AMERICAN LIBRARY". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-04-12.
  12. "Penguin, Random House Announce Merger". Retrieved 2016-04-10.
  13. "NAL Is Merged Into Realigned Berkley Publishing Group - Publishers Lunch". Publishers Lunch. Retrieved 2016-04-10. at Publishers Weekly
  14. "Penguin Merges Berkley, NAL". Retrieved 2016-04-10.
  15. Mentor Books (New American Library, Inc.) - Book Series List, Retrieved 29 September 2017.
  16. Mentor Books, Retrieved 29 September 2017.
  17. Signet Books (New American Library) - Book Series List, Retrieved 29 September 2017.
  18. Signet, Retrieved 29 September 2017.
  19. Signet Books, Retrieved 29 September 2017.
  20. Signet Classics (New American Library, Inc.) - Book Series List, Retrieved 29 September 2017.
  21. Signet Classics 1 - 199, Retrieved 29 September 2017.
  22. Signet Classics, Retrieved 29 September 2017.
  23. Signet Key, Retrieved 29 September 2017.
  24. Ed Schilders, James Avati - Cover Story, This page includes five Avati-designed covers of Signet Books. Retrieved on 29 September 2017.
  25. Dare to Judge This Book: Some Great Pulp & Paperback Cover Artists, Retrieved 29 September 2017.
  26. Artist List for Penguin and Signet Books, Retrieved 29 September 2017.
  27. Piet Schreuders, "The Paperback Art of James Avati", in: Illustration, Vol. 1, No.1, October 2001. Retrieved 29 September 2017.
  28. Designed by Milton Glaser, Retrieved 30 September 2017.
  29. Victor Kalin Covers, Retrieved 29 September 2017.
  30. Gary Lovisi, "The Magic of Robert Maguire", in: Illustration, Vol. 1, No. 3, April 2002. Retrieved 29 September 2017.
  31. Gary Lovisi, "Rudy Nappi: Celebrating the Artist and his Work", in: Illustration, Issue 28, Winter 2009-10. Retrieved 29 September 2017.

Further reading

  • Thomas L. Bonn, Heavy Traffic & High Culture: New American Library as Literary Gatekeeper in the Paperback Revolution, Southern Illinois University Press, 1989.
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