American Century Series

Publisher: Sagamore (1957), Hill & Wang (1960-1996?)

Years: 1957, 1960-1996?

Related Series: Dramabooks, Hill & Wang Paperbacks

Titles S-1 to S-26 were published by Thomas Yoseloff and the Sagamore Press in 1957. Hill & Wang purchased these 26 titles in 1960 from Yoseloff and continued the American Century Series with numbering from AC 27 to AC 90 before dropping the AC- prefix for the rest of the series titles. Around 1968-69 Hill & Wang moved to using part of titles' Standard Book Numbers (SBNs) as the series number, although in most cases they simply continued the current series numbering (e.g., the 91st title in this series was assigned the SBN 8090-0091 (ISBN format: 0-8090-0091-1).

Six titles were collections of famous American authors' works under the American Century Writers sub-series (ACW 41-43 & ACW 46-48). Additionally a sub-series on the Making of America (edited by David Herbert Donald) was published out of series order in 1964 as AC 101-105. In later printings these titles were published with series numbers like 0101 or 0102. Finally, a one-off issued by Hill & Wang in 1960 was published as "An American Century Special" (Charles Neider, Mark Twain and the Russians: An Exchange of Views).

The series continued into the mid-1990s, at least in name. The series numbers were dropped at some point (it's hard to find photos of the spines for most titles), probably in the late 1970s or early 1980s, although they continued to be reflected in the ISBNs. Because of the difficulty in determining exactly when the series numbers stopped being used on the spines, I stopped listing them where I stopped listing them (around 1978).

More Information

Sagamore Press, New House, To Issue Paperback Series, Publishers Weekly, Jan. 28, 1957, at 250.

Ad, PW, Feb. 25, 1957, at 13-15 (announcing series and listing first 14 titles).

Announcement of the series from Sagamore with its first 14 titles in 17 Best Sellers 99-100 (June 1, 1957):

The Sagamore Press, with offices in Rockefeller Plaza, New York, has issued the first fourteen titles of a new series of paperback reprints. They have not announced an editorial policy, so far as we know, but the titles indicate that the reprints will be devoted to classic American authors . . . All in all this is a worthy series; one that will be of great value to college courses in American literature and sociology.

Titles 15-20 were announced in 17 Best Sellers 266-267 (Nov. 1, 1957).

Titles 21-26 in 17 Best Sellers 342 (Jan. 1, 1958).

New York Public Library Manuscripts and Archives Division, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Inc. Records, 1899-2003 (MssCol 979), p. vii, available at

In 1959, H & W bought the rights to twenty-six titles in the American Century series from Thomas Yoseloff. This was the beginning of extensive publishing of U.S. literature by the firm.

Arthur W. Wang, Hill and Wang, in 46 DICTIONARY OF LITERARY BIOGRAPHY 186 (1986):

Hill and Wang began an extensive publishing program in the field of American literature and history in 1959 by purchasing from Thomas Yoseloff the rights to twenty-six titles in the American Century Series. Hill and Wang added works by Langston Hughes such as The Best of Simple (1961), Something in Common (1963), The Big Sea (1963), and I Wonder as I Wander (1964). Since then, Hill and Wang has broadened the list to include some thirty interpretive works in American history, primarily intended for the college market.

Klaus Lubbers, Quality Paperback Editions of American Literary Texts, 12 JAHRBUCK FUR AMERIKASTUDIEN 312 (1967):

Two publishing houses are reprinting older scholarly editions still indispensable. Six of the nineteen volumes that appeared in the American Writers Series (abbr. AWS) between 1934 and 1950 are available in Hill & Wang's series of American Century Writers (abbr. ACW), some with substantially revised bibliographies. . . .

The borderline between so-called quality paperbacks and their cheaper fellows is difficult to draw on the basis of textual merits. . . . There are series such as . . . the American Century Series published by Sagamore Press which ostensibly reprint inferior texts even though price and format elevate them to the quality group . . .