Archives: Random House records, 1925-1999, Columbia University, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, https://findingaids.library.columbia.edu/ead/nnc-rb/ldpd_4079581; Bennett Cerf Papers, 1898-1977, Columbia University, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, https://findingaids.library.columbia.edu/ead/nnc-rb/ldpd_4079659; Donald S. Klopfer papers, 1861-1980, Williams College, Chapin Library, https://archivesspace.williams.edu/repositories/4/resources/280.
1927 - founded by Bennett Cerf & Donald Klopfer
1959 (Oct. 2) - goes public
1960 (Jan.) - organizes Blaisdell Publishing Co. as division of Random House
1960 (Apr. 30) - acquires Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., as independent imprint
1960 (Aug. 17) - acquires Beginner Books
1960 (Oct.) - acquires L. W. Singer Company
1961 (May) - acquires Pantheon as independent imprint
1966 (May 19) - becomes wholly-owned subsidiary of RCA
Founded in 1927 by Bennett Cerf and Donald Klopfer. Although the partners entered publishing together a couple years earlier, having purchased the struggling Modern Library imprint from Boni & Liveright in 1925, the first title to bear the Random House imprint was Voltaire's Candide, with illustrations by Rockwell Kent, prepared late in 1927 but ready for delivery early in 1928 (PW, Nov. 12, 1927, at 1829).
One third of Random House's common stock was placed on public over-the-counter sale on Oct. 2, 1959, by the company's three principal shareholders, Bennett Cerf, Donald Klopfer, and Charles Wimpheimer (PW, Oct. 12, 1959, at 27).
Random House entered textbook publishing in 1960 through an agreement with the newly-created Blaisdell Publishing Company, Inc., which was organized as a division of Random House early in 1960 (PW, Jan. 18, 1960, at 125). Random House completed a purchase of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., on April 30, 1960, thereby continuing Knopf's publishing program by operating the company as an independent imprint of Random House (PW, Apr. 25, 1960, at 54). The firm continued its expansion campaign by purchasing Beginner Books, the children's publishing company started in 1958 by Phyllis Cerf, Ted "Dr. Seuss" Geisel, and Helen Geisel, approved by their stockholders at their Aug. 17, 1960, annual meeting (PW, Aug. 8, 1960, at 37-38). Closing out the year with its third purchase, Random House acquired the L. W. Singer Company, an elementary and high school textbook publisher, in October 1960 (PW, Oct. 10, 1960, at 25-26).
The next major acquisition by Random House was the purchase of Pantheon, announced in May 1961 (PW, May 22, 1961, at 27). Pantheon continued its editorial program as an independent imprint of Random House, much as Knopf did the prior year, bringing under Random House's purview a backlist of books of foreign origin as well as a diverse array of nonfiction titles.
All of these corporate actions, from going public to acquiring a diverse set of publishers, contributed to Random House's merger with RCA in 1966. The merger, effective May 19, 1966, resulted in Random House's becoming a wholly-owned subsidiary of RCA (PW, Mar. 14, 1966, at 38; PW, May 23, 1966, at 57).
Cult of the Colophon, PW, Aug. 6, 1927, at 384-389 (Random House's colophon is on page 387 along with the Modern Library's; Knopf's is on page 386).
PW, Nov. 12, 1927, at 1829 (announcing Candide as the first Random House book).
The Modern Library, PW, Feb. 9, 1929, at 657-658.
Random House Celebrates Its Twenty-Fifth Birthday, PW, Oct. 21, 1950, at 1844-1848.
Slogan for B. Cerf, 168 PW 1542 (Oct. 1, 1955):
The Pleasures of Publishing (Columbia) in its August-September issue makes a suggestion: "Moved by the lucrative success of the quality paperbacked books put out by more and more publishers, we have a suggestion for Bennett Cerf, which he can have in exchange for one copy of the Modern Library Edition of, say, Edward Bellamy’s ‘Looking Backward.’ Launch a vigorous new promotion campaign for the Modern Library series based on the slogan ‘Now! Quality paperbacks in hard covers.’”
Bloc of Random House Stock Placed on Public Sale, PW, Oct. 12, 1959, at 27.
Blaisdell Starts Textbook Firm With Random House, PW, Jan. 18, 1960, at 125.
Random House to Buy Knopf Through Exchange of Stock, PW, Apr. 25, 1960, at 54.
Random House to Buy Beginner Books, PW, Aug. 8, 1960, at 37-38.
Random House Buys L. W. Singer Company, PW, Oct. 10, 1960, at 25-26.
Random House Will Purchase Pantheon Books, PW, May 22, 1961, at 27.
RCA and Random House Agree to Merger Terms, PW, Jan. 17, 1966, at 100.
RCA and Random House Approve Deal for Merger, PW, Mar. 14, 1966, at 38.
Random House Stockholders Approve Merger with RCA, PW, May 23, 1966, at 57.
Hiram Haydn, WORDS & FACES (HBJ 1974), https://archive.org/details/wordsfaces00hayd/mode/2up.
John F. Baker, Fifty Years of Publishing at Random, PW, Aug. 4, 1975, at 25-31.
Bennett Cerf, AT RANDOM: THE REMINISCENCES OF BENNETT CERF (Random House 1977).
Thomas Whiteside, THE BLOCKBUSTER COMPLEX: CONGLOMERATES, SHOW BUSINESS, AND BOOK PUBLISHING (Wesleyan UP 1981), https://archive.org/details/blockbustercompl0000whit.
Bennett Cerf & Donald Klopfer, DEAR DONALD, DEAR BENNETT : THE WARTIME CORRESPONDENCE OF BENNETT CERF AND DONALD KLOPFER (Random House 2002), https://archive.org/details/deardonalddearbe00cerf.
Jay Satterfield, THE WORLD'S BEST BOOKS: TASTE, CULTURE, AND THE MODERN LIBRARY (U Mass 2002), https://archive.org/details/worldsbestbookst00satt.
Robert L. Bernstein, SPEAKING FREELY: MY LIFE IN PUBLISHING AND HUMAN RIGHTS (New Press 2016).
Andrew Albanese, PW Talks With Former Random House President Robert Bernstein, PW, May 16, 2016, at 8-9.