Document Type



American book publishing during the Second World War had to cope with a huge increase in demand for books coupled with scarcity of resources, especially paper rationing imposed by the War Produc- tion Board. Based on research in the Random House archives and focusing on the Modern Library series, this article examines how publishers coped with wartime challenges and opportunities. Ran- dom House grew rapidly during the war. Sales reached the million dollar mark in 1941 and exceeded three million dollars by 1946. Many new titles were published in smaller printings than demand would have justified and were out of stock for extended periods before they could be reprinted. The psychological uncertainties and dislocations of wartime affected the kinds of books that were in demand. Sales of philosophy and poetry increased at a dispropor- tionate rate. The Oracles of Nostradamus, published two months after Pearl Harbor, became one of the Modern Library’s best-selling titles. Shortly after the war ended the Modern Library became embroiled in a censorship controversy involving the removal of poems by Ezra Pound from a Modern Library poetry anthology. The end of the war was accompanied by rapid inflation in all areas of the economy, and paper remained in short supply despite the end of rationing. It was not until September 1948 that all Modern Library titles were back in stock for the first time since the war.


Library and Information Science


This article is the publisher's version, previously appearing published as:

Neavill, G. (2007). Publishing in wartime: The Modern Library Series during the Second World War. Library Trends, 55(3), pp. 583-596.