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New American Library Archive

Call Number



1943-1962, inclusive


New American Library


108.5 Linear Feet in 139 boxes

Language of Materials

Materials are in English.


The New American Library Editorial Department Files (1943-1962) comprise 125 boxes or 108.5 linear feet of processed materials and 25 boxes of paperback texts. Victor Weybright and Kurt Enoch founded the New American Library of World Literature, Inc. (NAL), in 1948. NAL was established as an autonomous American publishing house after branching off from its British-based parent company, Penguin Books. Based in New York, NAL began in 1948 to produce affordable paperback reprints of classics and scholarly works, as well as popular, pulp, and "hard-boiled" fiction. Non-fiction, original, and hardcopy issues were also later produced. NAL imprints included Signet fiction, Mentor non-fiction, Signet science, Signet Classics, Signet Key, Mentor-Omega and Mentor Executive Library. Highlights of the collection include extensive anecdotal and personal correspondence of writers, namely: Erskine Caldwell (totaling 46 folders), James T. Farrell, and Mickey Spillane.

Historical Note

NAL, based in New York and beginning in 1948, produced affordable paperback reprints of classics and scholarly works, as well as popular, pulp, and "hard-boiled" fiction. Non-fiction, original, and hardcopy issues were also produced.

Victor Weybright and Kurt Enoch founded the New American Library of World Literature, Inc. (NAL), in 1948. NAL was established as an autonomous American publishing house after branching off from its British-based parent company, Penguin Books. Victor Weybright led the company as Chairman and Editor-in-Chief (1945-1947) while Kurt Enoch acted as President and Chief Executive Officer (1945-1947). (For further biographical information on Victor Weybright, see Who's Who in America, vol. 37, 1972-73, p.3378, Chicago: Marquis Who's Who; on Kurt Enoch, see obituary "Kurt Enoch, 86; Pioneer in Paperback Publishing," New York Times, Feb 17, 1982.)

NAL represents a significant element in American postwar publishing. The company produced paperback books at affordable prices and distributed these publications in accessible outlets such as supermarkets, pharmacies, and schools. The mass production of these reasonably priced classics, scholarly works, reprints, mysteries/thrillers, and romances allowed readers to readily obtain high quality and popular reading materials. The NALslogan of "Rich Reading at Low Prices" certainly summed up its sales and marketing philosophy and reflects the democratization of literature. Although U.S. distribution represented the major segment of sales, the international market also had an impact on NAL's success. In addition, the Peace Corps ordered 52 NAL titles totaling 150,000 books which were distributed to its volunteers and constituents overseas.

NAL imprints included Signet fiction, Mentor non-fiction, Signet science, Signet Classics, Signet Key(for young readers ages 10 to 14), Mentor-Omega (featuring Catholic philosophers) and Mentor Executive Library (for businesspeople). NAL published such notable and diverse authors as James Joyce, William Faulkner, Mickey Spillane, Arthur Koestler, Jim Thompson, Erskine Caldwell, and Flannery O'Connor. It is important to note that NAL's productions were not limited to softbound reprints. Original works of mystery, romance, and adventure proved to be profitable and popular. The company later initiated hard-copy original publications, such as the immensely popular James Bond "007" series written by Ian Fleming. NAL also published new editions of classic works -- for example, a Shakespeare series -- which featured renowned scholars, editors, and translators; many of these editions were oriented toward high school and college readership. These paperbound books included subjects in the humanities, the arts, and the sciences. NAL enjoyed great success; by 1965, its Mentor and Signet books annually sold over 50 million volumes.

The McCarthy era of the 1950's 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 which 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 [from Victor Weybright, The Making of a Publisher (New York, Reynal and Company, 1967), p.207]."

NAL witnessed a change in ownership three times over a period of 27 years. In 1960 the Times Mirror Company of Los Angeles bought NAL; however, NAL continued to operate autonomously within the Mirror Company. Similarly, NAL's management remained unchanged. In 1983 Odyssey Partners and Ira J. Hechler bought NAL from the Times Mirror Company for over $50 million dollars. In 1987, the NAL was reintegrated by purchase into the Penguin Publishing Company, its original parent company.


Folders are arranged alphabetically by subject/author heading.

The files are grouped into 6 series. The author correspondence series are divided into periods (series I and II overlap) and series III covers only the latter half of 1961. Other series involving agent-publisher correspondence are divided in a similar fashion. The remaining series contain manuscripts, miscellanea, and paperbacks.

  1. Series I: New American Library, Editorial/Author Files
  2. Series II: New American Library, Editorial/Author Files
  3. Series III: New American Library, Editorial/Author Files
  4. Series IV A: New American Library, Agent - Publisher Correspondence, 1948-1961
  5. Series IV B: New American Library, Agent - Publisher Correspondence, Addendum
  6. Series V: New American Library - Manuscripts
  7. ITEMS LEFT OUT: Misc.
  8. Series VI: New American Library - Paperbacks

Scope and Contents

The New American Library (NAL)'s Editorial Department Files (1943 to 1962) comprise 125 boxes or 108.5 linear feet of processed materials and 25 boxes of paperback texts. The total collection of the series of Editorial Department Files includes earlier material (circa 1943 to 1947) dating from the parent publishing company, British-based Penguin Books. The Editorial Department Files - over 3300 folders -- represent six series. The alphabetical portion of the collection, Series 1 through 4B, spans the years from circa 1948 to 1962 with the bulk of the material dating from 1952 to 1960.

The collection of NAL's Editorial Department files, 1943 to 1962, and at present, the collection consists of 6 series and one additional box of miscellany. The collection was originally stored in 56 standard filing drawers which contained 3606 folders occupying over a hundred linear feet of materials. To date, the complete Fales NAL holdings have been processed and are stored in archival (acid-free) boxes.

Although a portion of the material dates to the antecedent Penguin period (1943 to 1947), this predates the founding of NAL in 1948; therefore, the bulk dates of the collection comprise the period from 1948 to 1962, which corresponds to the NAL period.

Within each archival box, all folders are numbered "#x to #y"; the entire collection is composed of folders marked from 1 through 3377. Within each individual folder, all materials are arranged in chronological order with undated material located at the back of each file. The original alphabetical arrangement of the files has been maintained through the processing of the collection. Where applicable (Series II through V), authors' surnames and book titles or subjects are written on each folder to facilitate use. In cases where more than one author and/or book title is included in one folder, materials are not merged but maintained as discrete within the folder and separated by one sheet of acid-free paper.

The materials which comprise the NAL Editorial Department Files chiefly concern the production, publication, and editorial assessment of the literature at issue. Materials include: correspondence to and from authors, telegrams, inter-office memoranda, editorial dopesheets, contracts (copies), newspaper and magazine articles, production schedules, sales reports, corrected galleys, typescripts, photographs, and dust jacket book covers (note: the bulk of the NAL collection consists of general correspondence between editor/author and editor/agent or publisher). All newspaper articles have been photocopied onto acid-free paper with the original remaining in the file. Most photographs, excluding Library of Congress copies, have been placed in Mylar sleeves and all Thermofax have been placed in a sub-folder located at the back of each folder.

This collection is composed of documents, most of which are epistolary, which impart information concerning the nature of publishing in the postwar era. The material in the NAL collection represents a rich source of textual documents reflecting the mores, values, politics, and social climate of the period. Topics include: anti-Semitism (Series I, Box 6, Folders 36-37), politics (Ortega y Gasset: Series I, Box 6, Folder 35), the Suez Canal Crisis of 1956 (Calder: Series II, Box 16, Folders 270-275). The issues of censorship and sexuality are a recurring theme, particularly with respect to Leonard Bishop's Days of My Love and Down All Your Streets (Bishop: Series II, Box 13, Folders 174-175) and the Carter Brown mystery series (written by British-born author Alan Yates) (Brown: Series II, Box 15, Folders 213-232). In a letter dated 12/14/58 a reader condemns the Carter Brown books for containing "smut" and vows never again to read any books in the series.

NAL employed noted scholars to write prefaces and afterwards, and to edit or translate works. Sir Isaiah Berlin edited The Age of Enlightenment (Series II, Box 13, Folders 157-165), and Francis Brown undertook a major editorial revision of Highlights of Modern Literature (Series II, Box 15, Folders 233-235). NAL requested that Geoffrey Moore compose the afterword to Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights (Series II, Box 14, Folder 211). Historian Arnold Toynbee's correspondence shows him as an editorial academic authority (Series II, Box 71, Folders 1820-1822). NAL's policy of employing renowned scholars augmented the quality and enhanced the literary value of the text.

NAL is often associated with the publication of works destined for the classroom. Among such texts are: Jacob Burkhardt's (ed.) The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy (Series II, Box 14, Folder 244) and Margaret Just Butcher's The Negro in American Culture (Series II, Box 16, Folder 259). The Butcher files are of particular interest as they contain correspondence concerning Ms. Butcher's political activity and articles which document the author's career achievements. Ms. Butcher's experiences and achievements as a black woman in the postwar, pre-Civil Rights era are of notable sociohistorical interest. She was a literary collaborator of Alain Locke's; hence it may be necessary to cross-reference Ms. Butcher with the Locke files, which are relatively substantial (Series II, Box 56, Folders 1186-1187).

The epistolary component of the NAL collection is typically confined to routine matters of business: deadlines, author's requests for reprints, sales reports, and memoranda comprise some of the more mundane correspondence. However, there is substantial anecdotal and biographical content commingled with the more pedestrian business dealings, which makes for some amusing and revealing diversion.

The relationship between the movie and television industries and the NAL is illustrated by reworkings of popular narratives for the screen. The Carter Brown mysteries were particularly attractive to television and film producers; another example is the Eleazar Lipsky novel Kiss of Death (Series II, Box 56, Folder 1184), which served as the basis for a movie starring Victor Mature.

Editorial dopesheets contain extensive data on publication fundamentals. These documents may include the following information: date of dopesheet, editor's name, title of the book, original publisher (if reprint), author, NAL publication date, summary of the book, and biographical sketch of the author. Almost all files contain several dopesheet copies (maximum 5) for each book.

Visual documents also comprise a small but colorful portion of the collection. Dust jackets illustrate the genre, content, or tone of the book and also convey information about the era in which the book was published. Other visual documents include photographs; however, very few are found in the collection.

In sum, these files contain information which clarifies the mechanisms of the publishing industry in postwar America. Anecdotal and biographical material about the authors intermingles with editorial exchanges. Although editor Victor Weybright's materials dominate the collection, the correspondence of other editors including Truman M. Talley, Marc Jaffe, Arabel Porter, and J. Bradley Cummings is abundant.


Highlights of the collection include 4 boxes of Erskine Caldwell's extensive correspondence - totaling 46 folders - which incorporates much that is anecdotal and personalized (Series II, Boxes 17-20, Folders 278.1 - 301).

There are numerous pristine copies of book jacket covers interspersed among the correspondence; however, one folder housing nothing but Carter Brown dust jackets (23 copies) is a particular gem (Series II, Box 15, Folder 213). The Carter Brown (Alan Yates) correspondence is itself extensive (Series II, Box 15, Folders 213 - 232).

James T. Farrell's correspondence is another substantial portion of the collection (Series II, Box 37, Folders 579 - 626).

Mickey Spillane's correspondence is significant and extends over 2 boxes (Series II, Boxes 68.2 - 68.3, Folders 1700-1711).

NOTE: Special care and attention MUST be administered when handling the numerous fragile and deteriorating documents, especially carbon copies, newsprint, and foolscap paper.


The collection comprises 6 series and one box of miscellany:

Series I: Boxes 1-9, Folders 1-73, Editor/Author Correspondence 1943-61

Series I is a relatively small but rather haphazard portion of the total collection. Boxes and folders are loosely ordered alphabetically by author; however, most of the folders are labeled with dates only (surnames appear on some but not all of the folders). Most of the correspondence addresses editors Victor Weybridge or Arabel Porter. Series II: Boxes 10-77, Folders 1-2046, Editor/Author Correspondence 1948-61

Series II comprises the bulk of the collectionand is both comprehensive and well-ordered alphabetically by author (by editor in some cases). This series boasts the richest and most extensive source materials.

Series III: Boxes 78-85, Folders 2047-2791, Editor/Author Correspondence Jun-Dec 1961

Series III is a small adjunct series to Series 2 and essentially extends the material which comprises Series 2. It is ordered alphabetically by author.

Series IV A: Boxes 86-102, Folders 2792-3135, Agent/Publisher Correspondence, 1948-61

Series IV A is ordered alphabetically by publisher or agent. This relatively small sub-series comprises editorial correspondence between NAL and various agents and publishers, most of which dates from circa 1959-61.

Series IV B: Boxes 103-105, Folders 3136-3331, Agent/Publisher Correspondence Addendum

Series IV B, consisting of only 3 boxes, comprises additional correspondence between agent or publisher and NAL, most of which is miscellaneous correspondence and submissions.

Series V: Boxes 106-113, Folders 3332-3377, Manuscripts

Series V houses several NAL manuscripts ordered alphabetically by title.

Addendum: Box 114

Box 114 is a catch-all containing 16 miscellaneous folders labeled according to content (see Box List for holdings). This material is miscellaneous documentation and/or documents left out of the collection.

Series VI: Boxes 1-25, New American Library Paperbacks

Series VI is a representative sampling (though by no means an exhaustive one) of the paperbacks which the NAL produced and marketed. For the most part, the paperbacks in the NAL archive are in excellent, near-pristine condition; however, many of the bindings and pages have suffered from dry-rot and are noticeably brittle and fragile. The series is ordered alphabetically by author surname, labeled according to the first three letters of surname.

Conditions Governing Access

Materials are open to researchers. Please contact the Fales Library and Special Collections,, 212-998-2596.

Conditions Governing Use

Although New York University has title to the files, the Senior Vice President and General Counsel of Penguin USA (as of spring 1996, Mr. Alan J. Kaufman) must give permission to publish materials in the collection. For more information, contact:

Penguin USA
375 Hudson Street
New York, NY, 10014-3657
Phone: (212) 366-2699
Fax: (212) 366-2867

Fales Library and Special Collections
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012Phone: (212) 998-2596
Fax: (212) 995-3835


Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:

Identification of item, date (if known); New American Library Archive; MSS 070; box number; folder number; Fales Library and Special Collections , New York University Libraries.


New York University Library received the collection as a gift from the NAL in the spring of 1965. Initially the material was stored at 13-19 University Place and later (1973) became permanently housed in The Fales Collection, Bobst Library, New York University. Robert F. Metzdorf's report, dated May 27, 1965, offers a detailed description and appraisal of the collection. This report is available in the curator's accession file.

Related Material at the Fales Library and Special Collections

Levy Dime Novel Collection (MSS.028)

Collection processed by

Jenny Hillyer, from September-October 2000. Updated by Nicholas Martin, 2009.

About this Guide

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2023-08-20 17:07:31 -0400.
Language: Description is written in: English, Latin script.

Edition of this Guide

This version was derived from NAL finding aid.doc


Fales Library and Special Collections
Fales Library and Special Collections
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
2nd Floor
New York, NY 10012