A World of Letters

Yale University Press, 1908-2008

Nicholas A. Basbanes

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The author of A Gentle Madness recounts the lively stories behind a century of publishing at a leading university press

For Yale University Press, which celebrates its hundredth birthday in 2008, the century has been an eventful one, punctuated with no few surprises. The Press has published more than 8,000 volumes through the years, scores of bestsellers and award-winners among them, and these books have come to fruition through the efforts of a host of colorful authors, editors, directors, board members, and others of intellectual and literary renown.

With an ear always cocked for an interesting tale, one of today’s best storytellers presents an anecdote-rich chronicle of the Press’s first 100 years. Nicholas Basbanes, whom David McCullough has called “the leading authority of books about books,” quickly convinces us that the Press’s history, while bookish, is also lively and fascinating. Basbanes explores the saga behind the acquisition of Eugene O’Neill’s blockbuster play, the all-time Yale bestseller Long Day’s Journey into Night; the controversy sparked in 1965 by publication of The Vinland Map; the origins of the groundbreaking Annals of Communism series, initiated in the wake of the Soviet Union’s demise; and many more highlights from Press annals. Basbanes looks at the reasons behind the publisher’s remarkable financial success, and he completes A World of Letters with a glimpse at the new initiatives that will propel the Press into a second exciting century.

Nicholas Basbanes’s first book, A Gentle Madness, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in nonfiction and was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. His subsequent books include Patience and Fortitude, Among the Gently Mad, A Splendor of Letters, and Every Book Its Reader. He lives in North Grafton, MA.


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"Bibliophile Basbanes offers a glowing tribute, reviewing the press's history from its first book in 1909 to its recent establishment of a digital edition of Stalin's personal archive."—Publishers Weekly

"I found [A World of Letters] filled with splendid anecdotes and portraits of outsized personalities." —Robert Leiter, Jewish Exponent
ISBN: 9780300115987
Publication Date: October 21, 2008
240 pages, 5 3/8 x 7 3/4
25 b/w in two 8-page inserts