Alfred A. Knopf
Alfred A. Knopf

  • "Publishing Then and Now: 1912-1964."

  • "Some Random Recollections: An Informal Talk Made at the Grolier Club, New York, October 21, 1948."

  • "Dwig and the Borzoi."

  • "The Borzoi Credo"














    From the very beginning we have frequently been asked the meaning of the word "Borzoi" and what it has to do with books. When I started in business the publisher I admired most was London's William Heinemann, and the sign of a Heinemann book was a windmill, drawn for him, I think, by William Nicholson. Since a windmill obviously had nothing to do with books, I saw no reason why we could not adopt the Borzoi as our mark. We had an alliterative trademark that was calculated to provoke curiosity. Knopf is a difficult name for many people to pronounce, and I felt there might be an advantage in having two strings, so to speak, to the bow of our imprint. Now everyone in the trade knows how few people ever remember the name of the publisher of any book. I think we have been more successful than any of our contemporaries in breaking down this ignorance. The letters I have received over the years from unknown correspondents on this point have been many and flattering, frequently to the point of exaggeration, as when the correspondent says that he is always safe in buying a Borzoi book, that all Borzoi books are good books, and such nonsense. Of course we know better. Nevertheless, I think a letter like this, which I received not too long ago from a complete stranger in one of the smaller cities of Texas, tends to justify our position:

    ...I recall that when I was in my late teens (and that's quite some time ago) and was just beginning to be particular about what I read, and certainly what I bought to read, my criterion was whether it was published by Knopf. Friends thought I was a bit odd in this--whoever heard of selecting a book either by its appearance or its publisher! But, until I had cut my reading teeth so to speak, I did just that. A book published by Knopf was the one I selected at the library. Now that I "know you" I want to thank you for your help then--and still today.

    You will notice that this correspondent speaks of being attracted to our books by their appearance. Over the years hundreds and hundreds of readers have taken time to write me about how much they liked the way our books were designed. Well, I didn't design them after the first three or four years and I deserve credit only for hiring good men, giving them a free hand, and supporting them if, as often happened, the author wasn't as keen about their work as I was. With a single notable exception, I always felt able to tell the author that the designer had not interfered with his writing of the book, and would he please not try to interfere with, say, Mr. Dwiggins's plans for its production. That exception was Life with Father. Clarence Day didn't like what Dwiggins proposed for it, and I thought it was the part of wisdom not to try to press Clarence to accept something he didn't like. The result, I must confess, is that Life with Father was one of the most undistinguished-looking books we ever published. But Clarence liked it.

    Knopf, Alfred A., "Publishing Then and Now: 1912-1964."
    Portrait of a Publisher, 1915-1965: Reminiscences and Reflections by Alfred A. Knopf, 1965.