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The beginnings of the Gateway Editions can be traced to Regnery's involvement with the Great Books Foundation, which had formed out of the University of Chicago in 1947. Henry Regnery himself tells the story of his firm's involvement in his Memoirs of a Dissident Publisher, at 170-171:
Not long after it incorporation, while I still had my office above a drugstore in Hinsdale, I had a call from someone connected with the Great Books Foundation who asked if I would be interested in publishing the books used in the program. In those years before the "paperback revolution" it was difficult to find appropriate editions of most of the books participants in this adult-education project were expected to read, and then discuss at meetings directed by a "leader." The Foundation had itself prepared paperback editions of the eighteen works used in the first year, and had attempted to produce offset editions of some of the books used later that were particularly hard to find. But it did not have the capital, staff, or facilities to produce, store, and ship its own books; and it came to me with its problems after having first approached the University of Chicago Press, with discouraging consequences.
I myself had confidence in the idea and the people behind it, and saw an opportunity to acquire virtually overnight a solid list of books for which there would be continuing demand—the nucleus of a "backlist," which is the basis of continuing success for any publishing house. After much discussion the Henry Regnery Company entered into an agreement in June, 1949, to publish the seventy-two books used in the first four years of the Great Books program. In 1951 we arranged to add the books used in the fifth year of program. Although we lost money on the venture for the first two years, I was optimistic about it, and felt that it would become a substantial part of our business. The number of those participating in the program was growing, and we were developing a considerable sale of individual copies, particularly in the college bookstores. Our relations with the Foundation were also satisfactory. Its president during the early part of the association—Wilbur C. Munnecke, who had been a vice-president of the University of Chicago—was an excellent administrator and was always fair and open in his dealings with us. But his successor, though well meaning, was in my view incompetent and arrogant. And with the publication of [William F. Buckley's] God and Man at Yale [in 1951] we ran into serious troubles with Foundation.
Regnery explains that the president of the Great Books Foundation, attorney Charles F. Strubbe, insisted that Regnery and the Foundation break off their contract. With the dissociation essentially a fait accompli to the Foundation, Regnery had little choice but to agree. Although the firm recovered its original investment, it went uncompensated for its efforts in building the Great Books brand in print. Regnery explains, however, at 173, that the experience was not without its worth:
It was a costly experience, but besides being educational, it showed me that there was a substantial market for good paperback editions of the classics, especially in college bookstores, and for a number of other titles in steady demand. As a result, we started our own series of quality paperbacks, Gateway Editions. Ironically enough, considering our reputation at that time, one of the best sellers for years was the Communist Manifesto, which we would probably never have published at all if it had not been on the list of Great Books. In due course, Gateway Editions became a mainstay of the firm.
Before Regnery published the Gateway Editions, however, they established a College Department, issuing for that market a series of saddle-stitched editions known as College Readings. A 1952 Regnery catalog titled COLLEGE READINGS: Texts · Readings includes a notice from that department's editor, Sidney Russell Gair, that explains the division's lofty aims:
With this catalog Henry Regnery Company inaugurates its College Department. Regnery books are, we are pleased to believe, already widely and favorably known as embodying very consciously the repudiation of 19th century nihilisms and as leading the way in our present corresponding declaration of positive vales. Henry Regnery Company hopes to build a list of specifically college text books which will embody no less clearly this same declaration of positive values and thus to lead the way in the world of college text publishing also.
Examination and desk copies of any Regnery Books are available under the usual conditions.
The list of College Readings titles in this catalog is accompanied by a brief history of the origins of the series vis-à-vis Regnery's association with the Great Books Foundation:
This list is based on the editions we prepared for use in the Great Books groups, which are sponsored by the Great Books Foundation of Chicago. Since this original list was prepared, we have added many new titles, such as Franklin's Autobiography, and will soon add new translations of Goethe's Werther and Elective Affinities, and a new, much improved translation of Rousseau's Social Contract. A new translation of Goethe's Faust is in preparation, and we expect soon to announce new editions of other classics, especially prepared for college use.
This catalog is itself an illustration of the physical format of these distinguished books. The paper and cover stock used here are the same used in our College Readings. The type page is clear and attractive, and the cover stock has been carefully selected to give long wear, even under the severe use given to college texts. Sample pages from our editions will be found at the end of this listing.
The College Readings are grouped according to subject matter. An alphabetical list will be found on the inside back cover of this catalog. When ordering, please specify code number given with each title.
A notice in the Dec. 20, 1952, PW, smartly notes that:
Regnery wishes to correct the impression, current in the trade, that its editions of the "Great Books" are no longer available. The series is available, but it is now sold exclusively to college stores. The books are called Regnery College Readings.
Another note in the Sept. 19, 1953, PW, at 1181, describes a mailer from Regnery "listing the books in the firm's series of inexpensive classics, Gateway College Readings." This appellation indicates Regnery likely added the "Gateway" name to this series at some point in 1953, at least a year or two before the launch of the Gateway Editions. Case in point, there's a Weekly Record entry in the May 15, 1954, issue, at 2105, for a "Gateway ed." of Plato's Euthyphro, Apology, Crito and Symposium in paperback at $.80.
The index to volume 167 (January to June, 1955) of Publishers Weekly lists an announcement of a higher-priced line known as Gateway Editions on pages 2776 and 2880; unfortunately, the issues from June 1955, in which those pages would've appeared, are not available in the Publishers Weekly Archive. A later reference suggests the announcement came in the June 18, 1955, issue. A note in the Feb. 18, 1956, issue of PW, at 1031, suggests that Regnery will devote more promotion to the new Gateway Editions line, "introduced last fall" with 12 titles. The note indicates 16 more titles would follow, presumably in 1956.
The College Readings have numbers in the 1001-, 2001-, 3001-, 4001-, and 5001- ranges, while the actual Gateway Editions, as launched in 1955, begin with the number 6001. The publication information for the first Gateway Editions is hard to pin down, given their origins in the existing College Readings line. As a result, some of the earliest titles in my list have publication dates from before the formal Gateway launch. Gateways Editions began in a 4 1/8 x 6 3/4 trim size but were later issued in a larger 5 3/8 x 8 trim size in 1965, according to that year's catalog, "in order to expand the list to include works too lengthy to be conveniently presented in the smaller size."
From preliminary research, it seems as though the series starts at 6001 and proceeds higher, title-by-title, through the 6090s (1965). Sometime in the late 1960s/early 1970s, the numbers for Gateway Editions stop being entirely sequential, although many do follow in order through the 6100s; that said, I found that 6098-6100 are out of chronological sequence (published in 1973, 1972, and 1973, respectively). I've also come across books published in this time frame, 1966-1973, that are not in the 6000-6100s range but are still Gateway Editions.
Enough said about Gateway Editions? Hardly. There's also a possibility that some of the Gateway titles from 1967 onward were part of a wayward sect of Gateway Editions, as there evidently was a great divide: some Gateway Editions were Classic titles and some Contemporary. This information comes from a small notice in the Dec. 26, 1966, PW, at 269. Despite this notice, I've not found any evidence from other sources or the covers themselves that there was a significant division of the Gateway Editions into two streams.
The Henry Regnery Company changed its name to Contemporary Books, Inc., effective May 1, 1977. By that point, Henry Regnery himself had been absent from the company for some time, according to then-president Harvey Plotnick, and the name change reflected a departure in direction from the Regnery-less company (All this according to Regnery Changes Name, Announces New Programs, PW, Apr. 18, 1977, at 28.)
By the end of 1977, Henry Regnery had purchased the paperback backlist from his former firm, now Contemporary Books, Inc., and had formed Gateway Editions, Ltd., based in South Bend, Indiana. This newly-formed company republished many of the Gateway titles from the Regnery Company backlist (see Gateway Editions, Ltd., ad in PW, Aug. 29, 1977, at  for a full list of titles with ISBNs.) I'm not concerning myself with this Gateway 2.0, as they seem to lack any semblance of order as a series. By early 1979, Regnery had changed the Gateway Editions, Ltd., name to Regnery/Gateway, Inc. The firm continued to offer Gateway Editions well into the 1990s and beyond.
167 PW 2776, 2880 (1955) (announcing the higher-priced Gateway Editions -- n.b. the PW Archive has no articles from June 1955).
PW, Dec. 26, 1966, at 269 (announcing division of Gateway Editions into two sets: Classic and Contemporary).
Regnery Changes Name, Announces New Programs, PW, Apr. 18, 1977, at 28.
Gateway Editions, Ltd., ad in PW, Aug. 29, 1977, at .
News of New Publishers: Gateway Editions, PW, Nov. 21, 1977, at 22.
Name Changes: Gateway Editions, Ltd., PW, Mar. 5, 1979, at 29.