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"














    I did not grow up in a particularly bookish atmosphere, but my father was generous in the allowance he gave me at school and college for books and he had in his library those of Theodore De Vinne, the first books on printing I ever read. He probably acquired them in connection with the one-man advertising agency he owned when I was a youngster. From early childhood I remember as the first artists I ever heard of by name Walter Appleton Clark and John Wolcott Adams, who must have done some work for him. At Columbia College I was a member of Joel Spingarn's last class in comparative literature, and Spingarn was a bibliophile. He was the first to talk to me about the virtues of different editions of classic authors, of typography and the appearance of books and the like. It amuses me nowadays to recall his statement--probably true enough in 1910--that the name Macmillan on a title page was a guarantee of scholarly excellence. How we have traveled!

    Also at college I was much impressed by the beautiful work done by Ginn and Company at their Athenaeum Press. I was told that in those days books like Robinson's histories were set by hand. I do not know whether this was the case, but they struck me as very beautiful books--bindings apart. And Holt's first edition of Hazen's Europe since 1815 was a well-made book indeed.

    In those days I frequented the second-hand book stores in Harlem--especially one run by Cox--father and son. The old man looked rather like Mark Twain in a boiled shirt with a long black bow tie, but the son, Carol, was not far from my age and sold me many bargains. Among these was a novel by John Galsworthy, in whose work I became greatly interested. John Erskine was teaching me English at Columbia, and when I asked him about John Galsworthy, he replied: "Oh--he's an Englishman who writes plays for Charles Frohman." Galsworthy became very indignant later at the idea that anyone would think he'd write plays "for Charles Frohman or anyone else." Well, I got into a correspondence with Galsworthy and later became very good friends with him.

    I had also meanwhile discovered Mitchell Kennerley's little bookshop at 2 East Twenty-ninth Street and made there the acquaintance of Laurence Gomme. As a result, when I went to London for the first time upon my graduation in February 1912, I had a letter of introduction to the bookseller Dan Rider. In his tiny shop in St. Martin's Lane off Charing Cross Road I first met--perhaps saw would be more accurate--Haldane MacFall, Frank Harris, Katherine Mansfield, Gerald Stanley Lee, J. Middleton Murry, and other writers. I began to notice the physical qualities of English books, and it seemed to me that William Heinemann and a new publisher, Martin Secker, were making the best-looking ones. I met the Galsworthys, Alfred Ollivant, author of Bob, Son of Battle, and Granville Barker, the playwright.

    I came home at the end of the summer determined to be a publisher and not a lawyer as the family had intended.

    Knopf, Alfred A., "Some Random Recollections: An Informal Talk Made at the Grolier Club, New York, October 21, 1948." Portrait of a Publisher, 1915-1965: Reminiscences and Reflections by Alfred A. Knopf, 1965.